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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - is it BAM?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Recently I watched a “60 Minutes”1 documentary describing the phenomenal rise of Chobani Yogurt to become the top selling yogurt brand in the United States. Founded in upstate New York in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya without outside investors, Chobani is a charming feel-good story of entrepreneurship.

The story seems to have all the components of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which is a corporation's initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on environmental and social well-being as well as the economic financial outcomes. The term generally applies to efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups.

Despite examples of abuse and attempts to deceive the public, generally CSR is a good thing, based in part in the philosophy of the Triple Bottom Line, a term coined by John Elkington in 1994. A CSR-responsible company develops its policies, programs, standards and principles in accordance with:

People – what is good for the human capital and the social good. Such is true at Chobani. “From the beginning I tried to treat everybody right,” Ulukaya said in a speech last month. “We paid everyone well above minimum wage. Everybody in our plant gets the same holidays as everybody in the office. Our entire company — hourly or salaried — would get full health care, retirement plans.”

Not long ago Ulukaya offered 10% of the company ownership to his 2,000 employees. But perhaps the most interesting decision was to hire legal refugees in his New York and Twin Falls, Idaho plants. Today more than 600 refugees have jobs. Says Ulukaya, “The No. 1 thing that you can do is provide them jobs. The minute they get a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

Profit – without question Chobani is a profitable company, and is valued at over $1 billion today. The owner understands the customer and creates value for all stakeholders. Such value-creation has been translated into profitability and sustainability.

Planet – the third bottom line is concern for the environment and the health of people. The mission of Chobani to have “better food for more people” translates into the use of natural ingredients, more protein, less sugar and ultimately a healthier lifestyle, illustrated in this partnership with McDonalds: http://www.chobani.com/nutritioncenter.

Cows are not treated with rBST and animal welfare is an ethical and moral imperative. All of creation is important to Mr. Ulukaya and Chobani.

This certainly is good. It is good CSR; it is a good business model. But is it BAM?

Business as Mission (BAM)

BAM often talks of the Quadruple Bottom Line, with the 4th item being the all-important commitment to be a Kingdom Company and ultimately a Great Commission Company. All of the above-mentioned components of CSR are great and important but a Business as Mission company requires the owner and management to operate the company with Biblical principles and for the glory of God.

Rundle and Steffen in Great Commission Companies define such as “…a socially responsible, income producing business managed by Kingdom professionals and created for the specific purpose of glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least evangelized and least developed parts of the world.”2

BAM company leaders “…make it known in their personal and professional daily speech, actions, lifestyles, management styles, decisions and testimonies that they are ardent followers of Jesus and are doing their best to conduct all aspects of the business in a manner worthy of the gospel.”3 Thus BAM companies incarnate the life of Jesus and proclaim the gospel verbally when there is opportunity.

The result – more and more people become followers of Jesus; lives (and ultimately communities) are transformed. This is a 4th “bottom line” and an essential one.
IBEC believes in CSR and we love stories like Chobani. But our work is in the direction of Business as Mission; Kingdom companies producing Jesus followers.

1 CBS 60 Minutes, April 6, 2017,  Chobani founder stands by hiring refugees. 
2 Rundle, Steve & Steffen, Tom. Great Commission Companies, InterVarsity Press (2011), p. 45.
3 Johnson, C. Neal.  Business as Mission, InterVarsity Press (2009), p. 280.

Sight for Souls – medicine as a business

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Not long ago, I was talking with Ken Leahy, former IBEC Director and board member. He was giving me an update on the for-profit Discovery Eye Institute (DEI) in Ethiopia (owned by Sight for Souls in the USA). Ken is the treasurer of DEI and along with Gwen Rapp provided IBEC consulting services for DEI.

Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide, affecting 41 million people, most of them in the world's poorest countries. Children are the most frequently infected by trachoma which, if untreated, causes a painful and irreversible blindness by age 30-40.

Ethiopia is particularly severely affected, making up 30% of trachoma cases in all of Africa. In fact, trachoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the country.

Trachoma is a completely preventable and treatable cause of blindness. Blindness and severe pain can be prevented through a safe, affordable surgical procedure that costs only $40 per patient.

Founder John Kempen provided an update a few months ago and he refers to “…so many years of planning and work.” Ken provided much of the financial planning and work for what now is a clinic with 9 staff plus doctors - and with doors open for about six months. Read this from Dr. Kempen:

It was a great start to the day. Seeing an old man sitting in a wheelchair with an eye patch on reminded me that my partner, Dr. Emebet, had been doing surgery yesterday, only the second surgery since we had started the full scale Discovery Eye Center after so many years of planning and work. As I took his patch off, there was a slight pause, and then a startled look came into the man’s face followed by a big smile and he started looking around the room. “God’s blessings be upon you!” he proclaimed. It is traditional for a “shee-mah-gee-lay” (an elderly, respected man) to bless the young, especially when he is happy. The blessings rained down this time.

He began to talk. He was a Korean war veteran, apparently one of not so many who had survived battles back in the 1950s, and he showed me a picture of himself as a well-dressed young man exploring Tokyo ten days after leaving the war zone. Since we are working in partnership with the Korean Myung Sung Christian Medical Center, which was inspired by the thankfulness the Koreans have toward those who saved them from falling under the dictatorship of the Kim family in North Korea, it was especially poignant to begin our launch with this particular gentleman. Yesterday, he had been blind—like about 500,000 other people in Ethiopia, limited to the ability to tell whether the light in the room was on or off. Today, before we even put any eyedrops in to wash the mucous away, he was already seeing 20/40. What a change! And not uncommon with cataract surgery, especially among those whose eyes have been neglected as with so many here who have little access to care, even in Addis Ababa.

I was heartily encouraged, since it meant both that our hard-won equipment for planning the surgery was working well, and our new staff members were using it properly. I wasn’t surprised by that, but it is exciting to see the fruit of that labor and the promise of more to come!

This little incident, one among many patients, was God’s blessing to remind me and all of our team (now four ophthalmologists, two optometrists, and four nurses) a little bit about why we had come to Addis Ababa and given up alternatives that the world might see as better. It is such a blessing to work in a time when much can be done for so many using the skills and equipment God has provided through his people.

Please pray for us now, as we make the welcome transition from the new foundation of a clinic with a great deal of capacity to employing that capacity to bless people and to shine the light of God’s saving grace in this land, which has for more than 1,400 years been a front line against the aggressive expansion of our neighboring religion. In particular, we would like to begin doing outreaches to the poor around the city, and gradually expanding outward into the nether regions of Ethiopia, which provide a lot of opportunity to partner with churches in bringing physical and spiritual sight to the blind.

There remain all kinds of challenges and stresses with the work, expectations, and of our family living in a very different situation. Most of these are great opportunities that we have sought for years and for which we praise God. Nonetheless, they still require strength, grace, and wisdom along with a healthy dose of elbow grease.

Please pray with us:
  • That the project can be adequately funded during the startup period of operating at a deficit
  • That we can successfully wade through the bureaucratic jello to bring in all the remaining equipment (some progress there recently, praise God)
  • That we can build partnerships and strategies to make the most of the spiritual opportunities that come with the dramatic physical benefit we can provide to many, as the parallel between restoring physical sight and being opened to the light of the gospel was one of the main reasons I chose this profession in the first place!
John Kempen

DEI is inspired by the self-sustaining Aravind Eye Care model, developed in India. Here are a couple of videos one of which shows some of the beneficiaries of the surgeries and the other video is provided by Mrs. Kempen showing the heart of this social business enterprise.

10 Ben Franklin quotes for business owners

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Historian Richard Morris suggests that there are seven key Founding Fathers.  Predictably they are John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner, you may identify most with Benjamin Franklin. Arguably he may have been the most successful inventor, entrepreneur and business person of the group.

On this Independence Day weekend, reflect on these ten quotes of Ben Franklin and apply them to your business initiative (or personal life). And thank God for the republic.

1. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

2. Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.

3. He that rises late must trot all day.

4. Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.

5. The US constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.  You have to catch up with it yourself.

6. A penny saved is a penny earned.

7. I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.

8. To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.

9. Never confuse motion with action.

10.  Work as if you were to live a hundred years.  Pray as if you were to die tomorrow. 

5 entrepreneurship lessons from Wilbur and Orville Wright

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I recently traveled to Brazil which required a total of 48 hours in airports and on airplanes, so I bought David McCullough’s recent book The Wright Brothers and loaded it on my kindle. I thought I needed an old-fashioned story closer to my generational understanding. I had just designed curriculum for a West Coast university on Kingdom entrepreneurship and all the case studies I used were of high tech companies – Google, Groupon, Adroll, and ICPBio. I wanted to relax a bit.

I found it amazing to read details of the life of these two brothers, sons of a Brethren minister with values and insights easily comparable to modern Kingdom inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. Five principles are worth highlighting.

1. They valued and demonstrated diligent, persistent, hard work.

John T. Daniels was one of the few who watched that first controlled flight in December 1903. Daniels, who took the famed photo of the event, reported, “It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense. They put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into an idea.” McCullough states of Wilbur, “…he was driven by a will of iron which drove him in his work.”

It took four years before that day at Kitty Hawk – years of failed inventions, delays, accidents, disappointments, constant study, and ridicule, just to fly a few feet on a sandy beach.

The Dayton newspaper reported the success to be because of “…their grit, their persistence, because of their loyalty to conviction, and because of their indefatigable industry…”
The same can be said today in a world so different from 1903. Entrepreneurs still need the qualities of persistence, diligence, hard work and conviction.

2. They believed in study, research, learning and taking their time.

The parents of Wilbur and Orville encouraged curiosity and made sure there were plenty of books around so the boys learned to value learning. They read incessantly the works of Leonardo da Vinci, George Cayley, Octave Chanute, Otto Lilienthal and Samuel Langley, trying to determine the value of what other pioneers had learned and to improve on former discoveries. It was amazing how they studied the flight of birds for years.

The brothers took their time with experiment after experiment resulting in chaos, accidents or defeat, as they labored on - reminding me of Edison’s oft-quoted statement, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” When they could not find a gasoline engine which met their specifications, they built their own and then carved their own wooden propellers.

After Flyer I at Kitty Hawk, it took another two years to develop Flyer III which flew 852 feet and was the first useable airplane – powered, sustainable and controllable. McCullough quotes a local source in reference to Wilbur, “…the devotion of this preacher’s son to his calling was very like that of a gifted man dedicating his life to a religious mission.”

3. They used their own money and believed in being frugal.

While the brothers used their experience and profits from the bicycle business, and lived simply, the Smithsonian and Samuel P. Langley was spending $50,000 of government funds in an unsuccessful attempt to develop powered aircraft. In contrast the Wright brothers accomplished the flight of Flyer I on Dec 17, 1903 at a cost of one thousand dollars.

Entrepreneurs often are better off using a bootstrap method which means using their own resources. According to a Wells Fargo/Gallup study1 most new ventures today are started with less than $10,000.

This perspective is not only valid from an entrepreneurial perspective but from a Kingdom viewpoint. Alan Barnhart explains how he and his family learned to live simply so excess profits could be used for Kingdom purposes. How he developed safeguards is an interesting and useful argument. His 17-minute talk is well worth the time:Alan Barnhart - God Owns Our Business.

4. The brothers were humble and character driven.

After a few initial successful inventions, older brother Wilbur learned the value of teamwork and the equal partnership with his brother Orville. Though he remained the leader of the two, he began to write with a “we”. He included Orville in letters from France while preparing to demonstrate to the French how the airplane worked; he valued the opinion of Orville and others.

For years, and even after the first flight, nobody really seemed to care. There was little public interest in their efforts; with the first to show such was the French when military officers came to Dayton to see what was going on. The US public and the US government showed little interest, for more than five years after Kitty Hawk. While disappointing, the brothers labored on to improve on the airplane, all the while living simply and humbly.

After a demonstration at Le Mans, France in August 1908 they became celebrities. People would ask them how to succeed in life and Wilbur once responded, “Pick a good mother and father and grow up in Ohio.” Their lives were dominated by modesty, virtue and selfless efforts. They maintained childhood values such as remembering the Sabbath, keeping reporters and officials often waiting for Monday while the brothers refused to work on Sunday.

5. They changed with the times.

They did not stop with the French demonstrations in 1908 and the fame and fortune which ensued at that time. They continued to improve upon their inventions, to start an aviation company and to lean hard into the legal and financial world of patents, contracts, lawsuits and corporate growth. They continued to set new records for height and duration and provided demonstrations for high government officials in the USA and Europe, flying before the kings of Britain, Spain and Italy.

They established the Wright Company in 1909 and developed a training school and a test flight program near Dayton. Many of the students of Orville became famous Americans such as Hap Arnold and Eddie Stinson. While Wilbur died in 1912 at a young age of 45, Orville lived until 1948 and was an ambassador for aviation his entire life, serving on many boards and government agencies. He also restored the Wright Flyer I, which today is on display in the Smithsonian.

Inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs in the 21st century look very different from Wilbur and Orville but some principles remain such as hard work, life-long learning, frugality, character and keeping up with the changing times.

1. Siriwardane, V, (September 20, 2010). “How to Build a Bootstrapping Culture.” Inc., www.inc.com/guides/2010/09.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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12 daily habits of an exceptional leader

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Everyone wins when a leader gets better" - Bill Hybels

Have you every read a blog or an article and you say, "I wish I had written that!" Well, this is one for me. I immediately thought I would pass it on, even in a world where it seems everyone has something to say about leadership. Travis Bradberry truly writes worthwhile stuff and this is no exception and with amazing quotes.

Even though we have all read good stuff on leadership, some things we need to be reminded of, because certainly a Kingdom business needs the best of leaders.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

12 Daily Habits of an Exceptional Leader

Dr. Travis Bradberry
TalentSmart, President and ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0,’ Coauthor
05/14/2017 07:44 pm ET | Updated May 31, 2017

One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective.

Great leaders change us for the better. They see more in us than we see in ourselves, and they help us learn to see it too. They dream big and show us all the great things we can accomplish.

Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole. Great leadership is also founded in good habits. What follows are the essential habits that exceptional leaders rely on every day. Give them a try and see where they take your leadership skills.

1. Effective Communication

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” —Joseph Priestley

Communication is the real work of leadership. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each and every day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator.

Great communicators inspire people. They listen. They create a connection with their followers that is real, emotional, and personal, regardless of any physical distance between them. Great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs.

2. Courage

“Courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible.” —Aristotle

People will wait to see if a leader is courageous before they’re willing to follow his or her lead. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.

For the courageous leader adversity is a welcome test. Like a blacksmith’s molding of a red-hot iron, adversity is a trial by fire that refines leaders and sharpens their game. Adversity emboldens courageous leaders and leaves them more committed to their strategic direction.

Leaders who lack courage simply toe the company line. They follow the safest path—the path of least resistance—because they’d rather cover their backside than lead.

3. Adherence to the Golden Rule +1

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” —Jon Wolfgang von Goethe

The Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated – assumes that all people are the same. It assumes that, if you treat your followers the way you would want a leader to treat you, they’ll be happy. It ignores that people are motivated by vastly different things. One person loves public recognition, while another loathes being the center of attention.

Great leaders don’t treat people how they themselves want to be treated. Instead, they take the Golden Rule a step further and treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Great leaders learn what makes people tick, recognize their needs in the moment, and adapt their leadership style accordingly.

4. Self-Awareness

“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” —Latin Proverb

Contrary to what Dilbert might have us believe, leaders’ gaps in self-awareness are rarely due to deceitful, Machiavellian motives, or severe character deficits. In most cases, leaders—like everyone else—view themselves in a more favorable light than other people do.

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, a skill that 90% of top performing leaders possess in abundance. Great leaders’ high self-awareness means they have a clear and accurate image not just of their leadership style, but also of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know where they shine and where they’re weak, and they have effective strategies for leaning into their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses.

5. Passion

“If you just work on stuff that you like and are passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” —Mark Zuckerberg

Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. So are boredom and apathy. No one wants to work for a boss that’s unexcited about his or her job, or even one who’s just going through the motions. Great leaders are passionate about what they do, and they strive to share that passion with everyone around them.

6. Humility

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” —C.S. Lewis

Great leaders are humble. They don’t allow their position of authority to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won’t ask their followers to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

7. Generosity

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” —John Maxwell

Great leaders are generous. They share credit and offer enthusiastic praise. They’re as committed to their followers’ success as they are to their own. They want to inspire all of their employees to achieve their personal best – not just because it will make the team more successful, but because they care about each person as an individual.

8. Infectiousness

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.

9. Authenticity

“Just be who you are and speak from your guts and heart – it’s all a man has.” —Hubert Humphrey

Authenticity refers to being honest in all things – not just what you say and do, but who you are. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives. Any time they spend doing so erodes their confidence in you and in their ability to execute.

Leaders who are authentic are transparent and forthcoming. They aren’t perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.

10. Approachability

“Management is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it, not hard enough and it flies away.” —Tommy Lasorda

Great leaders make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insight, and ask good questions is destined for failure. By ensuring that they are approachable, great leaders facilitate the flow of great ideas throughout the organization.

11. Accountability

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.” —Michael Armstrong

Great leaders have their followers’ backs. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up.

12. A Sense Of Purpose

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” —Ken Kesey

Whereas vision is a clear idea of where you’re going, a sense of purpose refers to an understanding of why you’re going there. People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders give people that feeling.

Bringing It All Together

Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these traits at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act” some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become, and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.

Want to learn more from me? Check out my book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

A tale of two poultry farms

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trivia Question:

What do these countries have in common: Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, South Sudan and East Timor?

All are new countries since 2000!

And the newest of them is South Sudan which is also the poorest. Imagine this landlocked country with 12.2 million people (and 60 major ethnic groups), newly independent in 2011, as arguably the poorest in the world and...
  • …was too broke last year to celebrate its 5th year of independence.
  • …has only 130 miles of paved roads and 154 miles of railroad.
  • …the GDP is $1700 per annual capita (#213 in the world).
  • …has a subsistence economy with 78% of the population in low productive or unpaid agriculture.
  • …40% of the entire population is urgently in need of food.
  • …with the highest maternal mortality in the world.
  • …with only 27% over the age of 15 able to read or write.
  • …38% of the population must walk 30 minutes one way or more for drinking water while 80% have no access to toilet facilities.
  • ...a civil war displaced over 2 million people between 2013 and 2015.
Where would you start?
Countries like this start at the bottom of the ladder – agriculture. People cannot develop when they are starving. So along comes an evangelical church in South Sudan with a vision to meet human need in the name of Jesus with Bright Hope Animal Farms of South Sudan.

The goal is to produce high quality eggs and whole chickens as a source of protein; to generate a revenue stream thus reducing dependence on Western aid; create jobs and allow pastors a source of income so they can continue to be a spiritual ray of light in a very dark place.

This is Business as Mission (and the Quadruple Bottom Line of disciple-making, job creation, profitability and stewardship of resources). This is the kind of business that IBEC consultants love to help.

What will it take?
Challenges like this need capital, expertise and prototypes. They need IBEC coaches to provide financial projections, a capitalization plan and management consulting. Bright Hope Animal Farms is off and running with its first building. They await funding for 2000 layers and 1000 broilers. The need: $93,000.

And a prototype has been developed and is operating in Kenya, Place of the Wind Poultry Farm. They began operation in April 2015 and now two years later they are finally breaking even. Initial losses are typical of startup operations so IBEC consultants who have developed a case statement, business plan and financial projections are pleased with progress. The business is very close to meeting objectives.

Startup needs
It is an amazing feat in North America to be nearing financial profitability and bottom line objectives by the third year. It takes capital; it takes vision and takes the right people. It takes good modeling and a great business plan; and it takes good expertise and counsel.

IBEC considers it a privilege to participate as consultants with these projects. You too can help by praying, helping with funds which are still needed, or offering to coach this or another project like this.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Bill Gates' advice to graduates: 3 fields and 3 important things

Sunday, June 04, 2017

It is graduation time in America – first college and then high school. In an age where it is all too common to tell grads that they can do whatever they set out to do, and other “sweet nothings”, Bill Gates recently tweeted some no-nonsense advice to new graduates (May, 15 on his Twitter page: twitter.com/BillGates).

I find his thoughts useful and uplifting but at the same time I think it is important to add to them elements of what constitutes a life lived for God, serving him and others, bringing to our businesses the opportunity to help all our stakeholders to see how one can follow Jesus. Bill Gates refers to “making a difference in other people’s lives” and he has done that through job creation and through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, there is one other component which truly brings transformation – a new life in Christ!

Excerpts from @BillGates, May 15,2015:

New college graduates often ask me for career advice. I was lucky to be in my early 20s when the digital revolution was just getting under way, and Paul Allen and I had the chance to help shape it. (Which explains my lack of a college degree—I left school because we were afraid the revolution would happen without us.) If I were starting out today and looking for the same kind of opportunity to make a big impact in the world, I would consider three fields.

One is artificial intelligence. We have only begun to tap into all the ways it will make people’s lives more productive and creative. The second is energy, because making it clean, affordable, and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change. The third is the biosciences, which are ripe with opportunities to help people live longer, healthier lives.

But some things in life are true no matter what career you choose. I wish I had understood these things better when I left school. For one thing, intelligence is not quite as important as I thought it was, and it takes many different forms. In the early days of Microsoft, I believed that if you could write great code, you could also manage people well or run a marketing team or take on any other task. I was wrong about that. I had to learn to recognize and appreciate people’s different talents. The sooner you can do this, if you don’t already, the richer your life will be.

Another thing I wish I had understood much earlier is what true inequity looks like. I did not see it up close until my late 30s, when Melinda and I took our first trip to Africa. We were shocked by what we saw. When we came back, we began learning more. It blew our minds that millions of children there were dying from diseases that no one in rich countries even worried about. We thought it was the most unjust thing in the world. We realized we couldn’t wait to get involved—we had to start giving back right away.

You know much more than I did when I was your age. Technology lets you see problems in ways my friends and I never could, and it empowers you to help in ways we never could. You can start fighting inequity sooner, whether it is in your own community or in a country halfway around the world.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. Melinda does that for me, and I am a better person for it. Like our good friend Warren Buffett, I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me, and by the difference I make in other people’s lives.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Founders Imports: moving from the sideline to the goal line

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bob Bush is the Managing Director of IBEC and writes about one of the projects where he serves as a consultant. We continually thank God not only for clients like Founders Imports but the coaches and consultants who serve them.

Founders Imports (foundersimports.com) is a perfect example of what can happen when a family comes together as a team, listens to the Word of God regarding how they can make a difference, and then has the tenacity and perseverance to put their dreams into action. Putting words and thoughts into action is what we all want to do, but many times it takes a "nudge" from the Holy Spirit to push us forward. As evidenced by the work being done by Founders Imports, that little "nudge" can have a huge impact for God's Kingdom and change lives in the process.

Andy and Heather Jones felt God's calling to make a difference in Guatemala and began Founders Imports to help create jobs for women in the area.  They brought their incredible family together (Emily Close, Meagan and Nate Taverner, and Evangeline Jones), and the impact in the area was life-changing for all involved. Women who needed an opportunity were given one through the compassion, love, and hard work exemplified by this amazing family. The members of the Founders Imports Team are not missionaries by “calling” but their desire to utilize the gifts that God has given them has truly made a difference in this area of the world. Simply put, they put their thoughts into action and through God's grace, lives have been changed.

IBEC Ventures (ibecventures.com) was brought in to help partner with Founders Imports, and the team has flourished together for the Glory of God.  Founders Imports has been able to implement their incredible strategic vision for the organization, with IBEC providing tactical support and coaching along the way. As a result, God is touching the lives of
many in the area. Andy and Heather found themselves looking for an opportunity to make a difference for God's Kingdom, and the team quickly moved from the sideline to the goal line. Their next move will be to take Founders Imports into the heart of Asia, as they feel God's calling to this area of the world as well.

We at IBEC Ventures are here to provide consultative support for Business as Mission endeavors throughout the world. Andy, Heather, and the entire Founders Imports Team are making a huge difference for God's Kingdom, and this is just the beginning! If you are interested in putting your dreams into action as well, then a call or email to IBEC Ventures to inquire about possible next steps may be your next move.

Remember...God has given each of us unique gifts for His Kingdom. Let's make sure we put these gifts to use for Him. We simply cannot let these gifts go to waste.

What's your gold thread?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

This week I received an update phone call from the Director of IBEC, Robert Bush. Among the various topics, he made reference to a conversation he had with a "friendly competitor". I knew the individual and considered him certainly friendly, but I had not given the notion of competition much thought. As I reflected on the nuances of competition I ran across this LinkedIn Influencer article by Katya Andresen entitled, The Best Way to Compete Is Looking Beyond the Competition. (Published April 9, 2017).

This is a great reminder that it is not about us and it is not about the competition - it is about the customer! "Discover what is missing in the world" she says. In short:
  1. Know your strength.
  2. Be different in a way that matters to the customer.
  3. Make your differentiation clear.
She writes:

"I wrote a book on marketing a few years back, and it included a section on competition. In that chapter, I told the story of Gold Toe socks. As the name would suggest, those are the pairs with the distinctive gold thread at the toe. The reason for that signature look is a great lesson in how to think about competition.

"The company gained its toehold in the sock market during the depression, when it began weaving strong Irish linen into the tips of its socks so they would last longer during hard times. In the 1930s, a department-store buyer told one of the company's founders that the durable toes were great, but customers couldn't tell which brand had them. In a stroke of genius, the company decided to wrap gold acetate thread around the linen so its strong toe—now a Gold Toe—would be immediately visible to consumers. The company made its competitive advantage recognizable and unmistakable. That decision has helped make Gold Toe Brands a top sock manufacturer for decades.

"This is a rich illustration of how to think about competition. First, we have to know our strength. Second, we have to be different in some important way that matters to the market. And then we need to make the differentiation as clear as if were adorned in gold thread.

"Notice that in this story, Gold Toe didn't obsess about how to be as good as others. They spent a lot more time thinking about how to stand out in both form and substance.

"Maybe this sounds like obvious business strategy. Yet when it comes to competition, it's easy to forget. We sometimes start studying our competition as if it offers the roadmap to where we need to be instead of realizing it represents a path already taken. The more we worry about keeping up, the more we fall behind the more important race to define our unique gifts and put them to work on a problem that needs solving in our own special way.

"I think the pitfalls of competition extend not just to business strategy but also to professional identity. Whether defining a product strategy or distinguishing ourselves in a job market, we can waste time worrying about being as good as everyone else. But competitive strategy should focus on who we're trying to benefit while taking into account the competition, not the other way around. We don't win solely by reacting to our competitors but rather outperforming them in meeting our audience's needs and wants.

"Let me put it more spiritually: We win by being the best version of ourselves in order to uniquely matter to someone else.

"We can't achieve that aim if we're endlessly keeping score in relationship to the others who seek to matter. If there's a full accounting to be done, it should be within ourselves. And we have to be unafraid to find what is wonderfully different and put it out there, on full display, gold thread or not. That can feel uncomfortably daring. And if it does, we are probably on the right track.

"If you are struggling to compete, don't look to what others have done. Discover what is missing in the world or incomplete within yourself and apply all your energy to the worthy endeavor of filling that unclaimed space better than anyone else ever could. Find your difference, and you will make a difference."

God put unique qualities in each of us and asks us to use them for His purposes and for His glory. In your life, in your business, what need is He asking you to fill? What unique gifts, talents, position, and authority has He give you to fulfill that? What are you doing to share with the world? What is your gold thread?

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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BAM startup wisdom: go with a guide

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Because of my penchant for hiking I was intrigued to read recently about the hiking couple who spent 47 days stranded in a canyon in the Himalayas. The 20-year old Taiwanese man was rescued, surviving on salt and water after his food ran out 5 weeks earlier; he had lost 66 pounds. However, his unfortunate friend died three days before the rescue.

Apparently when they realized they were lost they followed a water source downhill looking for a village but became trapped at the top of a waterfall and found they were unable to hike back uphill again due to steep cliffs all around. All of this took place in a time of heavy snowfall. They had been hiking above the 9,000 foot level without a guide.1

It is estimated that about 30% of the 100,000 Nepal trekkers each year travel without guides. There are casualties every year and efforts are being made to make it illegal to travel without guides.

I clicked on this story while watching some of the NHL playoffs. I love it when the TV camera zooms in on the coaches and remind us of their successes, challenges and risks. No team is without a coach.

This week I took one of my granddaughters first to her swimming lesson and then to her piano lesson. In both classes skilled teachers and coaches patiently help Mia to mature in swimming and at the piano. Neither she, nor any of the other students, would go very far without a coach.

A guide as life insurance

I got to thinking, why would business startups try to grow their business without a coach; or without consultants? Maybe it is the same reason why people take high risks trying to hike high in the Himalayas without a guide.

After the article about the Taiwanese trekker, a comment read: Experience in such trekking conditions is a must & a guide is your "life insurance." Imagine the hassle, cost & worries to the authorities, family & key stakeholders. Another with less diplomacy stated, So unfortunate and so stupid. Going without a guide on unfamiliar ground. Neglecting the Golden Rules and forgetting "Into The Wild".

A guide as “life insurance” – an interesting way to look at it! This week I read a statistic which stated that 90% of Kingdom (Business as Mission / BAM) freedom businesses do not survive. I wonder if it is really that high, but whatever it is, it is too high. Much can be gained if business owners would humble themselves and link up with coaches, Subject Matter Experts and consultants to guide them through the milieu of starting and growing a business (hard enough in itself) in a foreign culture.

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

1. Read more at Tributes for Taiwanese trekker lost in Nepal tragedy, ChannelNews Asia. April 27, 2017.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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