“When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people” – 1 Peter 5:4,5.
Last week I had the honour to deliver the feature address at the opening of the 12th annual continuing professional educational conference of the Barbados Association of Office Professionals. Indeed, in February 1992, I gave the feature address at a similar meeting of the Barbados Secretaries’ Association, the predecessor organisation, on the topic “The role of the Secretary in a Total Quality Environment”. Seventeen years, many feature addresses and many newspaper columns later, I regarded this occasion as an opportunity to share with the BAOP the cumulative impact of some of the activities with which I have been involved in the interim. This time I spoke in the context of the conference theme “Crossing Bridges of Success in a Culturally Diverse World” and in the hope that these experiences might have some positive bearing on the interactive dialogue at the conference. I was advised that the conference theme was chosen to provide participants with the opportunity to equip themselves with the tools necessary to meet the demand of the culturally diverse corporate environment and I chose as my topic “Entrepreneurship as a Hedge against Adverse Change”. I was quite intrigued with the theme which centred around the notion of “cultural diversity” and developed the concept of “the evolution of cultural diversity” as an important contributor to change. Change, due to the external environment is the one thing that is constant in life, we cannot escape it. Some changes are favourable and beneficial and make us happy, other changes lead to adverse conditions and induce stress. To be successful in life we must strive for the creation of happiness and the avoidance of pain. Our philosophy therefore must be to have a high Adversity Quotient, that is, we have to continually endeavour to persevere in the face of adversity. One way of persevering in the face of adversity is to take charge of your life – become an entrepreneur – a person who assumes possession of an enterprise or venture and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. This may not be very appealing for a person whose experience has been in a sheltered salaried environment where the risk is taken by the employer, whether public sector or private sector. I became an entrepreneur in 1977 and have survived for 32 years. I am not suggesting that it has been plain sailing but I have lived to tell the tale. My experience has shown that there are four elements which are important for success as an entrepreneur: (1) A potentially viable enterprise, a passionate persona and a high adversity quotient; (2) knowledge of the management of business systems (marketing, operations, human development and finance); (3) shepherding or mentoring or hand holding by a veteran in the field of enterprise development; and (4) access to adequate financial capital through appropriate financial instruments. I gave my audience the comfort that a model addressing these needs is currently being rolled out in Barbados as a smart partnership between CBET, the Government of Barbados and the private sector. The evolution of cultural diversity is an external factor which may contribute to adverse change, some favourable and some adverse. We need to manage it. Over 75 years ago, my father began his career as a civil servant and my parents’ cultural diversity was influenced mainly by interaction with colonial civil servants who were resident in Barbados, visits from friends and relatives from abroad and the occasional visit to North America and Europe. Tourism, financial services and freedom of movement of Caribbean nationals were not present in those days. Before that my grand parents and great-grand parents were exposed primarily to intra-Barbadian cultural diversity. I first left the shores of Barbados at age fifteen to attend the 8th World Boy Scout Jamboree in Canada – my first global cultural experience. Four years later I traveled to attend University in Jamaica – my first Caribbean cultural experience. Then Wales and England for five years – a cultural experience of a Caribbean citizen in a foreign country. Then there was a six year cultural immersion in Trinidad and Tobago, a unique experience. Since then wife, my sister and I have had several varied tastes of the global experience. My children and grand children are experiencing, all in different ways, greater cultural diversity, than we did through their immersion in and/or association with North and South American, Arab, Far Eastern and European cultures. Cultural diversity, therefore, has evolved in our family and there is no escaping it. Others will have different evolutionary experiences of cultural diversity and it is hoped that when God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. I concluded by proposing a smart entrepreneurially inspired partnership between our two organisations, based on the CBET Shepherding Model™, which would redound to the benefit of Barbados.