Sanka Price noted recently that “there seems very little good these days to cheer about in Barbados . . .”. I must say that I too am hard-pressed to find cheery topics amidst all the uncertainty, controversy and contradictions which surround us daily. However, I have to admit that the recent Caribbean Premier League cricket series and the current Bank On Me reality television show have provided a ray of sunshine amidst the dark clouds.
Both demonstrate the quality productions which we in the Caribbean, and Barbados in particular, are capable of. The cricket series was entertaining, even to those who aren’t normally excited by the game. Apart from the apparent hiccups with inter-island travel, everything seemed to have gone smoothly. Perhaps this has done more for marketing Barbados than most Barbados Tourism Authority marketing initiatives. Hopefully it also made a positive impression on our foreign exchange reserves.
Entrepreneurship is on everyone’s lips these days, but while many talk about it, there are a few who are “putting their money where their mouth is”. The most recent is Bluewater Productions, in cooperation with a number of sponsors, including the Bank of Nova Scotia. Banks have often been criticized for not understanding entrepreneurship and the feeling is that they need new financing ideas if entrepreneurship is to succeed. They need to ascribe value to and monetize ideas, rather than continuing their practice of demanding hard cash or property as collateral. Hopefully this bank’s involvement in the Bank On Me show will pave the way for these changes.
This year, two of our established entrepreneurs, Sir David Seale and Ralph Johnson, also provided hope for the future with new developments in their companies. In May, Foursquare Rum Distillery signed an agreement to distill, blend and bottle “10 Cane” rum which is expected to earn BDS$100 million in foreign exchange, while last week Harris Paints launched a new line of paint.
Of course, while entrepreneurship is being touted as essential to solving our problems, not everyone is entrepreneur material, so thought is needed before one takes the plunge. The Big Seven, an article by Canadian freelance journalist Erin Pooley, lists seven questions entrepreneurs must ask before launching a business.
(1) Why am I doing this? What’s most important is that you go to work every day feeling challenged, satisfied and well rewarded. The rest is gravy (Professor Bob Dorf, Columbia Business School).
(2) When should I take the leap? Personal and financial considerations are important, but the right time to pull the trigger is when the “sink the boat” risk is lowest and before the “miss the boat” risk becomes too high.
(3) Is my idea any good? An idea is actually worth very little and most entrepreneurs today aren’t doing anything remotely close to what they imagined. It’s the execution that’s worth everything and putting the business model around the product or service idea.
(4) Do I know what I’m doing and who do I call if I don’t? Build your board of directors of experienced people whom you trust and call on them regularly for advice. Here in Barbados you would be advised to “get a shepherd”.
(5) Where will the money come from? Nobody is going to give you a pile of money on a great smile and a terrific idea (Bob Dorf). Anything you can do to add credibility to yourself or the company you’re about to build will go a long way. There’ll be very little cash coming in the first few months; can you survive on the bare minimum while continuing to invest in sweat equity for your business? That’s the multimillion-dollar question.
(6) Can I hack it? There’s a big difference between “wantepreneurs” and entrepreneurs. You need to perform an honest self-assessment of whether you’re
cut out for the start-up grind. A large premium is put on someone who conveys determination even moreso than the business idea.
(7) Can I handle failure? If you’re afraid of failure, you might want to think twice. On the other hand, it’s felt that successful entreprenurs are those who don’t even view failure as an option. Entrepreneurs need to take an “all or nothing” approach. Either that or get a job.
So let’s hope that investors separate entrepreneurs from “wantepreneurs” and stand firmly behind those determined to succeed.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email [email protected]