“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” – Psalm 23:1

Ten years ago, the changing international environment and its impact on traditional trading and business patterns in the Caribbean region forced policy makers to examine those traditional patterns. The change also forced regional economies towards diversification of their export base to the services export sector, including renewable energy, music, technology, recreation, media, financial services, consulting, health, education and film.

Over the last decade, following an initial mandate by the Caribbean Development Bank to facilitate the development of the emerging services export industry, I have focussed on entrepreneurial development and in particular developing an institutional framework to reflect the theme “To be a Caribbean Catalyst Turning Concepts into Commercial Realities”.

Out of this work has emerged the CBET Shepherding Model™, owned by CBET, which speaks of business facilitation and partnership with entrepreneurs whose enterprises have the potential for exponential growth. It shepherds the entrepreneur on the journey from “business concept” to “sustainable business success” ensuring that the companions of business systems and financial capital are optimal at every step of the entrepreneurs’ journey. The shepherding (business advisory, mentoring or hand-holding) element of the model, a management process, is introduced as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of failure; hence the concept ‘Management as Collateral’ was coined.

In addition, since the major implementation constraint is the “lack of timely access to appropriate finance”, CBET has proposed that each sovereign emerging country in the Caribbean, and indeed elsewhere, should introduce and establish twin funds namely: (1) a Quick Response Revolving Seed Capital Fund and (2) a Quick Response Venture Capital Fund.

Each national set of twin funds will be a creative public/private sector partnership, private sector managed with government support, in an attempt to successfully expedite the conversion of business concepts to commercial realities.

In July 2008, in his Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, the Hon. David Thompson, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Barbados, announced under the heading “Innovation” that: “A national imperative is to grow the size of Barbados’ economic cake and increase the net growth rate in order to: (1) induce sustainable economic growth; (2) boost energy and food security; (3) increase foreign exchange earnings/savings; (4) generate employment; (5) reduce poverty; and (6) enhance returns to individuals, commercial banks, private sector businesses, trade unions and Barbadians of the Diaspora. This can be achieved through a national focus on developing a family of successful high performance enterprises, one enterprise after another”.

“Government therefore proposes to establish the Barbados Quick Response Revolving Seed Capital Fund and the Barbados Quick Response Venture Capital Fund. These funds are designed to meet the needs of clients that have potentially profitable and sustainable high growth business ideas but find it difficult, on a timely basis, to access all the seed and venture capital finance required to meet their needs, from traditional Venture Capital or other Private Equity financial institutions in Barbados.”

The first initiative by me to establish a quick response seed and venture capital facility was 22 years ago. I am pleased to say that this has at last been consummated in the Barbados 2008 budget.

This national focus on developing a family of successful high performance enterprises, one enterprise after another, when coupled with an emphasis on youth where talent abounds, is necessary for sustainable success i.e. a process to secure the future of the nation. However, the “raw talent” of the youth must itself be coupled with business experience if the dreams of the youth are to be fulfilled.

I was therefore heartened to read an article in the Barbados Advocate last week by the Executive Director of the Barbados Youth Business Trust (BYBT) Marcia Brandon, entitled “Business mentoring: The unique ingredient in creating a new breed of regional entrepreneurs”. I was further heartened when I attended the opening session of the First National Seminar hosted by BYBT, last Friday, under the IADB’s Regional Mentoring Project for Developing Young entrepreneurs.  The aim of this seminar is to encourage the creation and strengthen the local networks of BYBT’s supported young entrepreneurs.

The IADB representative spoke of their mandate to encourage innovation and to partner with organizations promoting entrepreneurship. IADB offered to bring to the table technical assistance, information and financial resources to stimulate the national and regional programmes in the Caribbean.

Mr. Rawle Brancker, a local entrepreneur with over 50 years’ experience, was the feature speaker. He gave a very warm address and straight from the heart. The theme he left behind was “using common skills uncommonly well”. He gave many examples showing how effective the use of the simple words “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” can be.

He also gave an example of how he had inadvertently dialed a wrong number and when he admitted this to the person answering the phone (it was a travel representative), the response was “No Sir, this is not a wrong number this is the right number if you are seeking travel services. Why don’t you make a note of the number so that you will have it handy in the future”? I am sure we can think of other responses which Mr. Brancker may have received had the receptionist not have been shepherded “to use common skills uncommonly well.”

The Lord can be your shepherd, through the BYBT business mentoring programme or the CBET Shepherding model; you shall not want.