Posts

Showing posts from February, 2009

Sightseeing

Bob and I took a short journey across town to visit a competitor yesterday. This is one way of measuring our performance. This particular store didn’t even exist when Bud’s started so it’s great to now have a competitor by which to compare our organization.

Going in the front door, I joked with Bob about how long it would take until we saw one of our customers. We opened the door and we were greeted by one of our customers walking out. We saw another customer sitting on a couch messing with his blackberry. Bob and I sat down on opposite sides next to him.

“This is a shakedown,” I said. He looked up shocked like he was a child who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and then laughed.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. And then he explained how he was just at our store like he needed to justify what was going on. We are going to invite him to a future focus group to learn more about our business.

When this particular store opened, we worried about its impact on our sales.…

Measuring

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. In the for-profit business world, measurement is about the bottom-line. Businesses seek to measure quantifiable factors that lead to increased profits. But in traditional non-profits, performance is not measured by income and expenses, but by the accomplishment of the charity’s mission—a more difficult undertaking than a for-profit’s straightforward measurement of profits and losses. When you add the double bottom line of a faith venture that seeks both profits and mission, measuring becomes even more challenging. Most non-profit faith ventures must measure performance for its donors and foundations. The for-profit faith venture has to diligently commit itself to measuring the mission side of its performance in order to overcome the natural inertia of focusing solely on the business side of the mission.

And what about faith? How do you measure the spiritual? For Belay Enterprises, it comes down to one basic question: How best do you quantify li…

Why?

Suffering. The world seems filled with it right now. Neighbors. Co-workers. People at church. Individuals panhandling on the side of the road. Folks dealing with illnesses. Men and women struggling with addictions. The question inevitably comes: Why?

When I was younger, I gamely tried to answer…to fix. But now, it’s better to listen and to journey alongside. Sometimes we remind that we have a Savior that also suffered. But still the question arises: Why?

Maybe singer songwriter David Wilcox has some insight in his song “Show the Way” from his 1994 Big Horizonalbum:

Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify
What's stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late he's almost in defeat
It's looking like the Evil side will win, so on the Edge
Of every seat, from the moment that the whole thing begins

It is…Love who makes the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we&#…

Fragrance

My eyes were drawn to the late model refrigerator recently donated to Bud’s Warehouse and now displayed on the showroom floor. I opened the door to see if the inside matched the attractive exterior. An unpleasant aroma assaulted my nose and changed my opinion. There are few smells worse than a donated refrigerator gone bad. Indeed, we spend much time attempting to avoid nasal abuse by scrubbing newly arrived refrigerators with high-powered cleaning agents. But occasionally one sneaks by or it is coated with some odor-causing agent that is impervious to our efforts. As they say, one bad smelling refrigerator can spoil the whole bunch.

But in the opposite way, a pleasant aroma attracts interest like the warm smell of hot chocolate on a cold winter day. Or hot burritos and tacos ready for a surprise birthday luncheon for one of our employees. Some smells invite while others repel.

Similarly, there are people that naturally attract others and there are individuals that make people want to …

Is Solar an Opportunity for Faith Ventures?

I am a big fan of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles as I explained in a recent post. This past weekend, the Wall Street Journal detailed a new solar industry-training program started by Homeboy in the past year. I smiled when I read this because I have been brainstorming new job training opportunities over the last few months. One of the concepts that I am exploring is solar energy installation.

We are always looking for opportunities to create businesses that employ individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness or felony convictions. The perfect opportunity provides a skilled labor-intensive position in a sustainable industry with the possibility of living wages. The burgeoning solar industry seems like it may offer such a mix of opportunity over the next few years in Colorado.

I blogged last year about how the sustainable energy industry is growing in Colorado because of its proximity to the National Renewable Entergy Labs in Golden. The Wired grant provides funds to train…

Job Market Realities

We have seen a large increase in the number of individuals applying for jobs at Bud's Warehouse over the last few weeks. The recession seems to finally be impacting the availability of warehouse and construction jobs in our community. This is happening at the same time that Bud’s Warehouse has several individuals ready to transition from our job-training program into employment in the community. We are now wrestling with the same dilemma that we experienced after 9/11. We have large numbers of people that want into our program while it is becoming more difficult to transition individuals out into better paying “real world” positions.

So, unfortunately, the fear factor starts to rise in our program employees. We’ve always had to walk a fine line between encouraging our staff to actively search for jobs as they near the end of our program while assuring them that we will not graduate them until they have a new opportunity.

But the reality is that most of our program participants reall…

Open Source Stimulus

I like a good idea. And today I discovered at least two great ones.

My entrepreneurial friend Scott Yates, who sold his start up a few years ago to Traffic.com, detailed his close encounters with Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban. It seems that Mark wants to create an economic stimulus plan that actually creates new businesses. He has invited aspiring entrepreneurs to post their ideas open source style to his blog. He will commit to funding the best ones.

Scott took the challenge and posted an idea called Second Saturday Science. Mark liked the concept and has been communicating with Scott throughout the day.

By the way, Scott was a valued participant during our second Faithventure Focus Event this past fall. I wonder if Mark Cuban would have any interest in a venture idea that would use a sustainable business to create opportunity for individuals rebuilding lives? If you have such an idea, maybe it is time to share.

Obama's Faith-Based Rhetoric Dialed Back

It appears that President Obama plans to take a more nuanced position on faith-based hiring provisions than he declared on the campaign trail this past fall. In a recent post, I shared how removing President Bush's allowance for limiting management hires to a particular religion would in many ways take the faith out of faith-based initiatives. Now, Obama seems to agree and is poised to announce a willingness to evaluate such issues on a case-by-case basis. This is a wise decision and extends what may be President Bush's biggest legacy. As we develop new faith venture businesses that employ individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness and prison, this allows us to continue seeking government investment for start-up funds.

"Mr. Obama's goal, much like President George W. Bush's, is to harness the
power of churches and other religious groups to solve some of the nation's
toughest social problems. But almost from the start, the Bush plan was ensnared
by c…

Blue Shirt and Khakis

One day, a few years ago, a co-worker and I stopped at Office Max to pick up some labels for a mailer. From the moment we walked in the door the staff was all over us trying to help. A woman greeted me from across the printer desk 500 feet away asking if she could point me to what I needed. Everywhere we walked someone was ready to help. I was handed flyers. I was offered shopping carts. A manager hovered in the background following us around the store. I found myself becoming annoyed.

I mentioned to my co-worker that they must have been expecting a secret shopper evaluation. As we waited to check out, I noticed a delegation of five corporate looking managers entering the store. My co-worker laughed because they were all dressed in the exact same outfit that I was wearing: a blue shirt and khakis. Now, no one seemed very interested in showing us the love.

This experience reminded me of the great reversal Jesus talks about at several points throughout Matthew and Mark in the Bible. Those…