“There’s a lot of daylight still left; it isn’t time to round up the sheep yet, is it? So why not water the flocks and go back to grazing?” – Genesis 29:7
Recently, CBET has been promoting its Shepherding Model and currently has 19 ‘lambs’ in its ‘flock’. The majority of them are the Barbados variety, but we have also made exploratory forays in Belize, Nigeria, Grenada, New Jersey, New York, Washington DC and Iran. The model is promoted as necessary and sufficient for sustainable business success and has seven phases: (1) Existing idea to business opportunity profile; (2) Business opportunity profile to business plan; (3) Business plan to business start up; (4) Business start up to business implementation; (5) Business implementation to business stability; (6) Business stability to business growth. The seventh phase is a lobbying service for timely public sector support to provide a user-friendly enabling environment, indeed a smart partnership philosophy between the public and private sectors.
Nine of these projects are at phase 1; seven are at phase 2; one is at phase 3, where the business start up activities are engaging our attention; one project is at phase 4 which is actively being implemented. The basic elements of the shepherding model relate to the interactivity between the entrepreneur, money and management. CBET’s shepherding activities provide facilitation services to ensure that these elements are optimally bonded at every point of the journey from business idea to business success.
In Barbados, we found the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation to be a smart partner in providing appropriate funding for phases 1 to 3. Commercial banks and other private sector institutions are considering our request to participate through our for-profit subsidiary Caribbean Venture and Integrated Services Inc.(CVIS), in phases 3 to 5. When this works in Barbados, we would have a story to tell which would give confidence to other countries to invoke the interest of the corresponding local institutions to provide the necessary support. In phase 6, where we are looking at the transition from business stability to business growth, there should be enough evidence in the marketplace to elicit good responses from private offerings or public equity calls.
Indeed, at that stage, commercial banks may begin to observe the increase in deal-flow as the businesses position themselves for growth. After phase 6, the businesses will then begin to show levels of profitability that will provide attractive dividends to their shareholders and put them in a position to be players in the investment arena to make more money from their money thus stimulating national growth. The business plans, all of which have been developed after careful research, all look very attractive in the context of rapid growth, as measured by gross revenue, in the size of the businesses. All have attractive returns on investment. So much for the money component of the shepherding model.
We have found no shortage of entrepreneurs, as is clear from the number of projects in our portfolio, all of which, by the way, have the ‘DNA of an elephant’ characteristic. However, we are now faced with is a management challenge to address the third component of the model. This management challenge manifests itself in two ways. On the one hand, we need shepherds who will coordinate the growth of these businesses initially on a consulting basis, and we have had several expressions of interest in this regard but we will need more. We have been operating in a virtual environment, which cuts the overhead costs down but also provides a measure of flexibility in the use of resources to address the specific problems that these businesses have at any given time.
On the other hand, full time management resources are needed to ensure that the assumptions underlying the projections are upheld. This challenge can be met by using ‘paunch-corps’ resources where experienced retired persons in good health are willing to give of their advice and experience in continued gainful employment. But, there is also an opportunity for young, bright, energetic minds to hitch their wagon to a star and pursue a management career. As we all know, when a business fails, it is because at least one aspect of management is weak and there are several aspects of management which must perform efficiently, in tandem. These include marketing, production, human resources, finance, administration, accounting and information technology. These management resources can come from local sources, regional sources or international sources.
Notwithstanding the recent news from Singapore, which has evoked an aggressive response from the Australian Government, Singapore is still my favourite example of an emerging nation, and we must try and learn as much as we can from their system. Singapore, in addressing its management challenge, sought to appoint people to management positions who were among the best in the world. They could be either man or woman, either Singaporean or non-Singaporean. The rationale was that once you get the best then they can train their colleagues and create a management force that contributes to a sustainable economy. Singapore has done it and is an economic success. Why can we not follow? We must remember, too, that economic success is necessary even though not sufficient for sustainable development. Management must be a primary focus.