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Off-Shore Programming Company Living for Christ

Rising costs abroad and decreasing wages at home have made off-shoring more difficult in today's struggling economy. So how do you start an off-shoring business and glorify God?

The purpose of this post is to continue sharing observations, reflections and lessons learned as we visit and interact with different Business as Mission practitioners. We hope this sharing will spark you to get involved.

The Business as Mission (BAM) Journey is a program of immersion and observation. Participants are language and culture students. We then meet weekly to go through foundational Book passages and recent and relevant books on BAM. We discuss the theory in the books and then bi-weekly go out and visit BAM practitioners and businesses. We get to see, ask questions, observe and get a taste of the real challenge of making it work in this world - and then come back and discuss what we've seen. This note then relfects the case studies we write up after our visits. Our vision is that through this process our Father might raise up the next generation of entrepreneurs to set up profitable, sustaianbly and transformational businesses among the least-reached.

Sector: Off-shore programming; sophisticated web-based applications.

Market: Predominantly western clientele, though have had some local contracts

Structure: LLC registered in the US; wholly foreign owned enterprise overseas. Main office in large eastern city with two expat partners and four local full-time and one part-time staff; branch office in western city with one expat partner; office in the US with fourth partner. All partners are project managers and technicians. No dedicated marketing resources.

Champion: Original founder from SE Asia, set up computer business with no formal computer or business background. Once in-country providentially connected with four other expats (from two different countries) all of whom had a range of abundant computer skills and background. Presently have four partners (three from among the original five).

Business formation: Founder set up wholly owned foreign enterprise (WOFE) in ‘97, then found other participants and together they sought how to make it work. From ’97 to ’01 they struggled trying to find their niche, identity and market. Went into debt. For a brief season had local marketing sales staff but only developed one local contract. In ’02 had their first breakthrough as one of the members wrote the code for a comprehensive school program and they implemented it in an international school. Then, through a relationship with a North American Christian businessman, this technology was then applied to similar customers in North America. Initial venture proved unprofitable, so North American businessman started up another venture connected o a larger user network that was of such size that it proved to be sustainably profitable. From ’02 to ’07 the enjoyed a season of steady growth supporting 75-80 users of their system, able to pay off all debts, close off original business and register a new business and purchase their office. However, in ’07 the US side needed to sell of the business and the new owners did not want to use offshore programmers. Now trying to refocus and find new business. In ’07 opened up their first branch office in another city to expand their ministry efforts.

Vision: Access. Providing a means for these people to be in-country so that they can do heart work.

Story: All participants came over for heart reasons, not sure how our Father would use their computer skills. All sensed how the Father’s hand guided them together and used their complementary computer skills to develop product. Over the 10-years the core group has mostly remained (3 of the original 5). Since finding sustainable project work, all expats have received a housing subsidy through the company (remainder of support from donors).

Lessons learned:

  • All their business contacts and projects have been developed through relationships – all connecting to Christian businesspeople in North America who then were willing to be their marketing arm and even form companies to market the product.
  • Business is tough! Start-up and operation capital, ever-changing tax and labor laws, competition in the marketplace.
  • Encourage people to think twice before starting, consider other options based on what your vision and hope is Part of their witness is being above reproach in how they run the business. This includes clean accounting books, no cutting corners and understanding and complying with government rules and regulations.
  • Software development is very expensive, most is done off-shore. Most off-shore operations very large.
  • Software usefulness can have a very short shelf-life! Need to have some dedicated marketing/sales resources to maintain sustainable business.

Future plans: Looking to still be functioning, sustaining project work, stay legal, stay in good graces, provide for 5 or so employees, not stressed out managing business and balancing ministry.

Results:

  • Steady presence in a least-reached city for 4-6 expats for 10-years; now access into another city
  • Steady high-tech jobs for 3-4 nationals
  • One national staff transformed
  • Developed a product that effectively served 75-80 small schools

Observations: Operations partner admits that this is not BAM. Though they desire to impart Truth to their local staff, they do not have any intentional, integrated plans or efforts. They are very low-key in the workplace, but all seek to be very active outside the workplace. They say they’ve been able to balance their work load with ministry efforts. As partners they have freedom to make their hours to balance outreach efforts with project demands. No desire to grow this effort. In part based on the vision, they do not desire to be busier, nor desire more employees because that is not the ministry focus. Without dedicated marketing resources, they have a hard time gaining sustainability.

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posted by Justin Forman | 1.17.2009 - 8:44 PM

2 Comments:

Do they have a website? Or a name?
commented by Blogger Compassioninpolitics, 7:29 AM  

Appreciate your interest. Unfortunately the case studies cannot share some of their names or locations. Its a series of articles done by a partner ministyr who is unable to share some of the information. However, I can assure you that they are legitimate, business as mission companies and hopefully the principles driving them can be a good example and inspiration for others looking to get involved.
commented by Blogger Justin Forman, 1:04 PM  

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