“Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee” – Proverbs 4:5-9

In September 2000, in this column, I said that we are now in an information age where knowledge, including information, complements money, materials and manpower to become the fourth factor of production. In fact, we are forced to continually move along the discovery spectrum – data, information, knowledge, understanding, insight and wisdom – if we are to remain competitive. Even though, compared with our Caribbean neighbours, we have miraculously escaped the ravages of physical disasters for over 50 years, today we are faced with the threat of the fallout from a global economic disaster and we must embrace wisdom to prevail. Last Friday the Central Bank of Barbados issued a press release with the following outlook for the Barbados economy: “With recession deepening in the U.S and U.K and most economic indicators pointing to a further deterioration in world economic activity, there is a greater likelihood that the Barbados economy will decline in 2009… total output in the Barbadian economy is projected to decline by between zero and 2% in 2009”. A consequence of this is an increase in the unemployment rate. What are people going to do to support their families? On Thursday there was an email appeal which I received indirectly from a colleague in the US which went like this: “I know many of you have been eager to hear the news of my employment plight. I was informed today that I have been issued a furlough for up to three months. This means I am without pay for up to three months, but my benefits will still be covered except for the portion that it deducted from my pay each month (that I will be responsible for covering). If things pick up, I have been told I will be brought back earlier. If things do not pick up then I will be issued my severance pay and be officially laid off. I have been told that I am able to collect unemployment through this process and I am in the process of looking for part time employment as we speak. If any of you have any ideas or know of any opportunities, please do let me know”. My immediate advice to the person through whom the email was sent read like this: “She is risk averse and needs to focus on “opportunity” not “job security”. She is caught in a “risk averse” cocoon, she needs to evolve. She can give a more efficient (more cost-effective, more client focused, less bureaucratic) service as a stand alone consultant than in-house. If the in-house job is no more then she is faced with zero revenue. The stand alone consultancy may not yield much initially but it may give a greater yield than zero. The unemployment benefits and severance pay will provide a buffer in the initial stages while the consultancy is being established. It will then grow to be greater than what the in-house job has provided and with greater fulfillment. She will then be FREE!!!” This type of appeal will become more and more prevalent in 2009 and from persons in a much deeper plight than the example above. It is instructive to heed the words of William Shakespeare: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures”. It is also instructive to note the words of Alan Cohen passed on last week as a Brian Griffith “Jewel for Today”: “To grow, you must be willing to let your present and future be totally unlike your past. Your history is not your destiny”. This positive approach, this ability to spot opportunity, is part of the wisdom that shall give to thine head an ornament of grace that shall deliver to thee a crown of glory. Be brave, become an entrepreneur! Take this important step to beat the economic crunch. I did it over 30 years ago and have been the net beneficiary of the decision. The advent of the information age has made possible for us to seamlessly embrace the productivity concept of virtual working. It is a natural companion to entrepreneurship especially if you are in the field of services. Get real, be virtual! In the current climate virtual working is a smart choice. Operate from a home office – save the rent expense. Telecommute – save the inconvenience, local transportation and clothes expenses. Teleconference – save the travel expenses. Rent an office for a day – save the board room expense. Stay ahead of the game and gain your freedom and independence at the same time.