Hans Hamoen is a hope trader


“When I look back, I realize I was a true entrepreneur, who preferred to do everything on his own. In the last twenty years, I’ve shifted more towards collaboration. Often, I used to forge ahead too fast, leaving others unable to keep up. My wife said, ‘Take it easy and walk together.’ Now, I feel like I’m moving much slower, but definitely more together,” says Business As Mission (BAM) ambassador Hans Hamoen. Despite being 78 years old, he is soon taking a group of people to Tajikistan to share his knowledge, experiences, and the beauty of the people and the country.

Conscious about chaos

“I can handle a lot because I can function on very little sleep. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot, through trial and error. I can easily let go and don’t immediately intervene when things go wrong. My motto is ‘management by acception’. When you have multiple businesses, you can’t oversee or prevent everything. Sometimes, I intentionally let things go wrong. Over the years, I’ve established or helped establish 35 companies, from a tiny house factory in Moldova to an agricultural business in a Stan country. I’ve become more lenient and forgiving over the years.

Too big

As a founding father, I established World Partners in 1995. This came about because I received questions about business cases from all over the world. ‘Hans, could you help with our company or project in Haiti, the Philippines, Vietnam, or Ukraine?’ I couldn’t keep up with the growing amount of requests all on my own. It became too much. So, I discussed the chaos with some friends and we looked into how we could consolidate our efforts. Through the foundation, I started working more collaboratively instead of doing the majority alone. During that time, with my then company, I smuggled over 1 million Bibles behind the Iron Curtain.*

Understanding the culture

Before visiting a country, I study the culture and history. What are the people like? How do they live? With our businesses, we mainly operate in honor and shame cultures, which are warm cultures. The Netherlands is more of a cold culture. Understanding the differences in culture makes business easier. Many cultures want to please you, so people say ‘yes’ even if they don’t actually want to. Some languages have no word for ‘no’. This requires asking the right questions so that the answers make sense to you.

3 examples of miscommunication

For example, in China, if we place an order with a deadline of May 30th. If you call on May 30th to ask if it’s ready, it could be still ‘in process’. When you ask the Chinese business leader when it will be ready, they prefer not to give a date. Such things drive many Dutch people crazy because in our cold culture, ‘yes’ means yes. Another difference is that in Central Asia, there’s a culture of borrowing. If you want your loan back after a year, often you can’t. Because the loan was used to pay off another debt or has been lent out again. Money that gets lost, does not feel fair to us… In Kenya, €20,000 was donated for building a new school. A year later, the Western donor decided to check on the construction progress. But there was no school. Because at the moment of donation, the director’s mother passed away. All the money was spent on her honorable funeral, as that’s priority one according to the culture.

Dutch culture

Everyone has to experience these challenges; someone isn’t lying, but rather acting according to their culture. Do you know the book The Undutchables? Don’t show up at a Dutch person’s house at 5:00 PM, because they’re getting ready for dinner. If you still come in, they’ll try to usher you out because there’s only food for the residents. How cold can a culture get…

Doing International Business

Collaboration can be complex, but doing business together is certainly possible. We have many companies with local people. We invest in equipment, buildings, or goods so that the businesses can operate well. When doing business, you shouldn’t be naive. Experience helps with that.

1-on-1 Conversations

During conferences and trade fairs, they often ask me to speak. Lately, I’ve been on a panel with four or five others. Monologues are outdated, but a panel, on the other hand, is interactive, diverse, and interesting. Particularly conferences with the theme ‘Business as Mission in closed countries’ are close to my heart because I believe in the message of hope through the gospel. Several times a year, I get to contribute with a seminar, panel, or speech. After my lecture, I’m open to 1-on-1 conversations with local Christian entrepreneurs. More than half of the listeners want to have a conversation. I listen, give advice, or pass on questions about their business plan. Reflecting and sharing my experience helps them, so that they’re inspired again and continue with hope.

Hans is also a driving force behind the BAM movement in the Netherlands, which started in 2017. The foundation holds an annual congress, usually in November, with over a hundred attendees. In September, I organize a symposium in a closed country.

Plenty of Ambitions

I still have plenty of ambitions, but I can’t pursue them all anymore. I promised my wife not to start a new business. I try to take it easy on Mondays and Fridays. However, I still enjoy helping people get started within my network. According to the calendar, I’m 78, but I don’t feel like it. World Partners is sustainable because multiple people will carry on if I can’t anymore.

Passing on Hope

If you summarize my life, it’s about giving people hope. So that they can pass on that hope to others and thus support their own families and spread the gospel. Not just abroad, but also in the Netherlands. It’s terrible to see people who have no vision for the future, are in depression, and/or are taking pills. Hope brings life. Money isn’t the most important thing in life. Hope in God and living with Him. That’s what life is about. My motto is in the last verses of Psalm 67. *God blesses us so that all the ends of the earth will know Him.* The joy in knowing and praising Him is my drive to keep going.

*Hans Hamoen delves deeper into the BAM principle and his personal history with the book ‘Doing Business with God’. This book is now available in seven languages: Dutch, English, Chinese, German, Ukrainian, Romanian, and Russian.