How Are We Doing? Measuring the Impact and Performance of BAM Businesses
Business as mission is hard. Very hard! Missionaries with little business experience but plenty of vision start businesses and struggle. Experienced business people start businesses in new countries or cultures and struggle. Too many business as mission (BAM) companies wander in the desert aimlessly. They need a compass to guide them—something to remind them of their direction and tell them if they are on track. Well designed and implemented metrics can help.
Metrics are measures. They are like the control panel on a car—the gauges, lights and dials that tell you how fast you’re going, how much fuel is left and whether you’re headed for trouble. You can drive a car without a fuel gauge or a speedometer, but you will likely run into serious trouble before too much time has passed.
The same is true for metrics in business. Without some consistently applied metrics it is very hard to know if the business is on track to achieve what it set out to do. That is dangerous for any business. However, since BAM businesses set out to bring glory to God and to expand the Kingdom of Christ, the consequences of being off track have eternal significance!
The Measuring Impact Issue Group included a number of experienced BAM entrepreneurs from restricted countries and experienced executives and coaches from a variety of backgrounds: corporate, entrepreneurial, western and eastern. Together we grappled with questions of how and what to measure in a BAM business, as well as why to measure.
We believe it is not only possible, but highly valuable for a company to have practical, intentional goals for ministry and then to evaluate (measure) their performance against these goals. We also believe it is right and appropriate for outside agents, whether owners, investors, ministries or researchers, to have tools to evaluate and compare. Benchmarking and the development of best practice indicators are valuable for the entire BAM community.
There are many pitfalls in metrics and this report attempts to highlight these. A significant issue is of course that what we call good is not always what God calls good. Collecting data is one thing, analyzing and evaluating it is quite another. We need in our evaluations to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work and to guide. Not all issues lend themselves to hard, numeric evaluation. One of our members reported a regular story telling time that allows clients to share how they were impacted by encounters with the staff. The stories themselves are a type of metric. This metric can be made more useful, however, if the stories are categorized so that trends can be tracked. Discovering which way you are moving is a valuable input.
Possibly the most important aspect of metrics is their application—what do you do with the measure after you have prepared it? Metrics should not be about punishment. In fact the best use for measures is as feedback for secure and capable leaders who want to improve. Good metrics are a compass that enables good leaders to stay on track.