“…We have learnt one lesson and one lesson alone, that is how not to live together in unity. We have evolved a formula for living together, but not having any strengthâ€¦The soul of this community has to be laid bare, and there is no better time to do that than when we are preparing for independence” – Errol Walton Barrow, January 04 1966.
On the outside back cover of the book ‘Speeches by Errol Barrow’ edited by Yussuff Haniff, it is stated that ‘Errol Barrow re-shaped the economic relationships among the English-speaking Caribbean countries…’. Nearly two decades have elapsed since this book was first published and next year Barbadians will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Independence. What progress have we made in the interim?
I believe that we have acknowledged the reality that ‘Unity is Strength’, but are still grappling with the challenge of converting this Vision into Action. We have evolved from CARIFTA to CARICOM and then CSM(E)?
As is her wont, Aunt Sybil Barrow, the only surviving sibling of the right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, last week celebrated Errol Barrow Day (January 21) with a magnificent culinary experience for the extended family and close friends. In the post-prandial period a cross-section of relatively young professionals engaged me in a discussion initially about opportunities for investment. This, however, ultimately evolved into a comprehensive exchange on ‘the right mix for economic growth’.
The group first of all accepted that, in the interest of posterity, we should not only focus on what is good for each of our families today in the foreseeable future, but that we should also determine what we have to do today to protect the future for our children and grandchildren. It was agreed that sustainable economic growth would be a necessary component to enhance the chances of a successful protection strategy.
As is my wont, I take advantage of every opportunity to promote the CBET ‘Drivers of Business Success’ as a preferred economic development strategy and this occasion was no exception. I presented three components as being essential to business success. These are entrepreneurship, management and money. If we have an idea, new or re-engineered, with the ‘DNA of an elephant’, if we can put the right management team together, if we can then access appropriate financial instruments, then we have the ingredients of a smart partnership which can be nurtured to sustainable success.
The group was already aware of CBET initiatives already in the pipeline and they also had ideas, with the appropriate DNA, of their own. I pointed out that CBET promotes a strategy for generating new ideas from a ‘blank sheet’ as well as a strategy for re-engineering dormant concepts or businesses. I also gave them examples of business concepts that were currently part of the CBET family and in the process of being turned into successful commercial realities.
In response to some of the many searching questions that were posed, I assured the gathering that CBET was a Caribbean Trust owned by the people of the Caribbean. I am merely the architect coordinating its development and that my responsibility was to establish CBET so that it could serve others in perpetuity. However, in the initial stages I pointed out that, of necessity, I must be regularly seen on the site. The ultimately beneficiary of the success of CBET will be the region. If the region is successful we will have an enhanced opportunity to succeed.
The group was then interested in the management component, whereupon I responded that CBET itself is a lean organization with a minimum overhead but that CBET would partner with the entrepreneur and the required management functions would be outsourced. They warmed to the realisation that this ‘outsourcing’ strategy could indeed create business opportunities for a number of professionals, like themselves, in marketing, human resource development, multi sector operations, IT, accounting & administration, finance and legal & corporate services. At this stage, it was indeed gratifying to see the mood of the group shift from cynicism to optimism.
They then reminded me of the original mandate to advise on attractive opportunities for investment. This is where I introduced ‘money’, the third component of the mix. Money was needed by these businesses from potential investors like themselves. The group confirmed that, whereas they had no fear in investing their funds with mature financial institutions or businesses, they were unhappy about the prospect of investing in fledgling enterprises, where there is no track record and no collateral offered.
This is where I then pointed out that it is unrealistic to expect to achieve significant personal investment returns without taking risks. I hastened to add that the real concern should not be the institution’s track record or the collateral offered, but rather what strategies have been employed to mitigate the risk. CBET partners with the entrepreneur, coordinates the management resources and facilitates the sourcing of the capital. It is this management coordination that will mitigate the risk of failure and be the effective ‘collateral’ for prospective investors.
The final mandate from the group was ‘present the prospectus for our consideration’. The challenge is for CBET to respond.