24 January 2012
Bridget Adams - Entrepreneur
Bridget Adams started her working life as a physicist in university and government laboratories before moving into the high-tech business sector where she worked in sales, marketing, management, and consultancy. Bridget now works to help start, develop and network Christian-run businesses, and runs WorkPlace Inspired. Business as Mission is one of her passions.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a nun! I loved our local convent and the feeling in the place; I think now that I sensed God there. When I got older I wanted to be a scientist, but never an astronaut because I am claustrophobic.
How did you end up in business?
After I'd worked in scientific research for a few years, I realised I liked people too much to be locked away in a laboratory. I was offered a job in sales and marketing with a world leading laser company; it was headquartered in California but I worked in Cambridge, UK. And I worked my way up, so I learned my business skills in a US company, which has probably made me more entrepreneurial.
How do your theological studies link in with your entrepreneurial skills?
Following my ordination for ministry in the Church of England I realised that God was not calling me into parish work but into priesthood in the business world.
God is the entrepreneur, the great risk-taker. The whole creation project is an entrepreneurial enterprise. He calls us to be risk-takers too. The Bible is full of business people: God gave Jacob a very entrepreneurial plan, and Jacob's hard work made Laban rich. So the two men struck a deal but crafty Laban had the speckled and spotted animals removed before Jacob could take them. And so God gave Jacob a plan, which made him wealthy enough to take his family back home, and to give some to his brother Esau. Given all that had gone before he certainly owed him.
And then there's the wife in Proverbs 31, St Paul, and Lydia...Acts is full of business people. Jesus as the proprietor of a woodworking business tells business stories. My favourite is in Matthew 25, the parable of the bags of gold. And then there's the outrageous parable at the beginning of Luke 16: shrewdness is called for!
What is your vision for business?
My vision is always to try to find God's vision. I believe that He has a plan to build the Kingdom through business. So it's not about setting up a business through human wisdom and then inviting the Lord in to bless it. It's about finding His plan, then implementing it and growing it with Him.
Business shapes the world we live in so the Church working in and through business can shape the world for good and for God - bringing wealth creation in communities, with greater justice and relief from poverty for the world's poor, with the dignity of useful labour. Shaping it for God brings "life in its fullness", a life reconnected with the One who made us and loves us, bringing hope and meaning and purpose.
What is the most important lesson you've learned so far in life?
That no matter how hard I try I cannot control things, even my own life. It's such a relief to learn this and to stop trying and just rely on God.
Jesus didn't say "blessed are the cautious", so I…
....gave up everything and followed Him! I was very ill a couple of years ago (with cancer) and all I wanted to do was to get better and then retire. I'm of an age where I could do that with some justification. But it seems that that wasn't His plan. So now I'm better I seem to be busier than ever, although I have to keep an eye on my stress levels. I sift everything and only do the things He is really calling me to do. One recent example of risk-taking is setting up a new publishing venture with Manoj Raithatha. The idea for Instant Apostle was a complete download from God.
What biblical text or personality inspires your work?
Matthew 25 - How are we using what God has given us to grow the Kingdom for when He comes back? Because He will want an account and I want to have something positive to say. Also St Paul - He was a businessman, and he really understood the cost as well as the overwhelming joy of discipleship.
What is 'business incubation' all about?
In Business as Mission we encourage entrepreneurs that business is a genuine vocation. It can be hard starting a business on your own, especially if you have no prior experience. So we will walk alongside people as they set up the business, coaching them, answering questions, helping them to make the right contacts. But perhaps most importantly we can gather them into a community of Kingdom business people so we can support each other.
Can micro-finance be as significant in the UK as it is in the developing world?
Hard question. Most of the businesses we are involved with don't need major start up funding. Those that do have found it one way or another. Micro-finance works well in the developing world because what for us Westerners is a relatively small sum of money can be world-changing for someone in, for example, Bangladesh. There is not that leverage here, but nonetheless finding small sums for start ups can still bring a disproportionate advantage. Banks like micro-finance because it is very profitable for them. In the UK "impact investment" may prove to be a fruitful avenue - investments to generate positive social and/or environmental impact beyond a financial profit. They specifically target transformation of individuals, communities and society as a whole. The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (aiming to make the UK more innovative) and two impact investment product providers are currently funding a research programme on impact investment.
How do you turn a crisis into an opportunity?
Well, in my experience it's only when we run out of human strength/plans/money that we really start relying on God. And it's when we hit crisis point that we have very little to lose, and so become more risk-taking and opportunities open up. The problem most of the time is that we think we have too much to lose.