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The Difficulties of Success - Sarah Dusek

One of the most challenging aspects of Business as Mission (BAM) has to be the difficulty in ascertaining what constitutes a successful BAM company. BAM companies have the double-edged challenge of trying to create a thriving business that is economically viable and at the same time make an impact for the Kingdom of God. What indicators therefore, should be utilised to measure success? How should success be defined? If success is understood too narrowly BAM companies could be limited in their growth and development and similarly if too broadly, companies that achieve little for either the Kingdom or economically could be perpetuated that perhaps should cease.

Peter Shaukat, CEO of a global investment fund for BAM enterprise in the Arab world and Asia, shared his thoughts on the subject at this year’s Introduction to Business as Mission Course (IBAM). He outlined the need for a biblical perspective on success as a whole and explored some bottom-line success principles for BAM companies, together with guidelines for setting realistic goals and targets.

A Christian Understanding of Success

Aiming to understand success from a biblical perspective will go a long way in assisting BAM practitioners strive towards healthy and holistic goals. The pursuit of success must not be an end in itself, even though it may be a godly ambition. Shaukat reminds Christians that success is always fleeting and its appearance is variable. Ultimately he suggests that success in an individual’s life is due to a combination of faithfulness and fruitfulness and is about becoming Christ-like. With this premise as our basic understanding of success how does this translate into business terms? Shaukat suggests that as we practice business, attributes such as creativity, justice, mercy, humility, and redemption should all be evident. Imitating the qualities of God should be the Christian way of doing business. How does this understanding therefore impact upon how we measure success within BAM?

Bottom-Line Success Principles

Shaukat asserts that BAM requires a paradigm shift in our thinking about success. Success is so often aligned with positive statistics alone that it can be difficult to see beyond tangible, physical results that can be quantifiably measured. However, success in BAM cannot just be about measuring up to your own goals at the outset or quantifiable outcomes. Shaukat instead outlines that BAM must always be working towards biblical holistic transformation and that ultimately four bottom lines are significant. (Mats Tunehag first outlined these bottom lines as being: financial, social, environmental, and spiritual in his work ‘Business as Mission’.1) Significant progress should be being made towards each of these bottom lines; for example, measurable outcomes of commercial returns may take a long time to realise and the exact spiritual impact of a company may never be directly known. So it is not immediate quantifiable results that are important but obvious progress towards each of the bottom line principles. For example, with regards to business success in a commercial sense, BAM companies must have the potential to be sustainable so employment can be provided and poverty decreased. Similarly with social success the company must positively impact the social, humanitarian, or environmental framework of the community. Finally the BAM enterprise should specifically engage people in the appropriate demonstration and proclamation of the message of Jesus Christ. It is this intentional demonstration and proclamation of a biblical world-view that sets successful BAM enterprise apart from otherwise “successful” business in a purely “normal” sense.

Realistic Goal Setting

In attempting to set effective and realistic goals for a BAM company Shaukat suggests there are four ingredients that will assist BAM practitioners. He argues that an intimate walk with God, a multi-disciplinary skill set, cross-cultural preparation, and life in community with spiritual and commercial accountability, will all help ensure that appropriate and realistic targets are set. He reiterates that individual integrity, good stewardship, and a healthy sense of responsibility to contribute to the social and economic development of a community will all help towards a BAM company being successful. Of course none of these things can possibly guarantee success. Such characteristics, experience and accountability can only point towards a healthy direction.

There is no doubt that success in BAM will always be a huge challenge. With so many desired outcomes which often compete and impact on each other, the effective management of such tension will be a constant battle that must be engaged and wrestled with. Success in BAM may ultimately rest in balancing such tension, and in Shaukat’s words, lead to the most “optimal” outcome.

NEXT DATES: The iBAM Course will run in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from 24th January to 7th March 2009. For more information and an application pack please visit www.businessasmission.com/pages/thecourse or send an email to bamtraining@oval.com. The iBAM Course will be delivered by experienced BAM practitioners, seasoned business professionals, lecturers and training specialists. The vision for this training is to prepare and launch individuals and teams into successful business as mission initiatives. The training will be run in Chiang Mai, Thailand, due to its central location in proximity to established business as mission initiatives A key element of the course is a weeklong field trip, where participants visit business as mission companies working out the reality of building the Kingdom of God in business.

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posted by Justin Forman | 10.05.2008 - 1:40 PM

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