My assignment from the Master the past 7 years has been to mentor and coach B4T workers in unreached areas.  Nearly every week I have the privilege of talking with all kinds of B4T workers from farmers to high-powered execs.  I also get numerous opportunities to speak on behalf of OPEN workers about the upcoming changes in missions, (which are less and less “upcoming”) and connecting workers with investors, interns, and business coaches.  BAM/B4T is no longer a side-line or a distraction for the real thing. It’s big. It’s getting bigger.

So I’d like to review the year that just passed. While a look back can’t show us what the future holds, it’s worth noting that some of the things that happened last year will surely have an effect on 2014.

Here are my 5 top trends from 2013 that will continue to impact the B4T world in 2014:

1.  Better B4T enterprises.

Many of the initial B4T businesses were a side line to get a visa to get on with the “real work.”  Those days are ending.  More and more university graduates are moving directly into B4T work.  They are committed to quality and are taking transparency and integrity to a level my generation never achieved.  Whereas 5 years ago barely a handful of agencies had a BAM staff person nearly all do.  Change is on the horizon and the view gets better and better every day. I see more talent showing up this year than ever before – we ARE getting better.

2.  B4T/BAM/Tentmaking/Entrepreneurship – each are “in”.

The bad news is there are too many people playing at business today. Just as everyone became an apostle 10 years ago, nowadays everyone wants to be an entrepreneur or B4Ter, but calling yourself an entrepreneur or B4Ter is very different than actually running a business that impacts the local community in the Masters name.  Building a product or meeting a market need is a milestone that’s measurable by others outside your company–namely, your customers.

3.  Redefining Team.  

Success in B4T is a team sport. I believe that with every fiber in my body. The majority of success stories have 2 common threads excellent language and coaching.  But note I said coaching, and not team members.  Do not underestimate the role that one or more coaches can play in getting started. These advisors may have been an investor or were operating their own company or simply serve as a coach to the B4Ter. With the popularity entrepreneurship quotient rocketing, so have the number of coaches willing to assist you in growing your business.  Find a coach or two and really evaluate what these guys can do for you. With the availability of outside expertise and the vast array of communication tools available, more and more teams will be made up of locals and foreign coaches, and less and less a bunch of expat workers struggling to figure things out together.

4.  Cash is scarce.

The fuel that powers most startups is cash. No gas = no go.  No dinero = no company. It’s a pretty scary proposition. With the growing sexiness of B4T/BAM/entrepreneurship, the high bar of what determines success, the increasing skills and talents of young people and the understanding that there are a small handful of experienced B4T coaches who can help propel your company forward, finding any gas (cash) is going to get harder. Don’t find false confidence by reading the stories of founders who have raised serious amounts of investment dollars. Be realistic. If you need investment monies then you better figure out how to separate yourself from the thousands of other up and coming workers. You don’t just have to be good – you must be better than them.

5.  Accountability front and center.

In the past we could talk the talk without having to walk the walk. No more. Communications and travel have become so convenient that you can expect investors to visit your business and ask the hard questions personally.  No more sympathy dollars for living and working in hardship areas overseas. No more generous donations because you are serving God.  Investors will be raising the bar on doing due diligence.  They’ve seen enough platforms (fake businesses) to know there’s a difference. Transparency is the new norm; no hiding anything – and I mean a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.  Be prepared to produce and be consistent in all areas of your life and work.

PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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