“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” – Proverbs 13:22.
Alex Pratt OBE is a serial entrepreneur, who started trading bankrupt stock at age 16, and is able to reach and inspire others. He has launched and led businesses in areas as diverse as the map reading lamps aboard spaceships and the world’s first Learning Gym…He is perhaps best known for his monthly column in Director Magazine in which he discusses business issues from the perspective of the owner manager. Alex was invited to speak to a group of BBEL – CBET (Barbados) – entrepreneurs, their shepherds and other invited guests two Fridays ago. What a treat it was! Alex left behind many powerful themes, not the least of which are: (1) Only wealth creators can get us out of a hole – “Blessed are the wealth creators for they shall pay the bills”; and (2) Barbados – The Entrepreneurial Centre of the Caribbean. In the context of the first of these themes, he promoted wealth creation as an important policy decision for the politicians. In times of financial crisis wealth creation is the only way to get out of any holes in which we inevitably find ourselves. The greater the wealth created then the greater the jobs, the net foreign exchange earnings, the savings, the investment and the assessable taxation. The more viable the country; the more secure the generations to come. He gave us a number of ideas which may be fashioned into strategies for the growth of emerging economies, like Barbados. These include: (1) cultivate a mood of passion to make the most of ourselves; (2) recognise the importance of networking; (3) live with a social and financial conscience and encourage a change in the way in which government works to help entrepreneurs; (4) set up a Learning and Skills Council to improve the skills of everyone over 16; (5) encourage the powers that be to understand that economic growth is important and necessary for sustainable economies; (6) introduce in schools that entrepreneurship is as important as working in the foreign service, for example; (7) give young people the experience that rides on the idea that entrepreneurship is a sexy thing to do, not just something you do if you can’t find a job; (8) expose school children to successful entrepreneurs and introduce entrepreneurship as a valid choice of career; (10) set a target of a number of jobs created by entrepreneurs each year and monitor it; (10) recognise the importance of “broad band” to the next generation of entrepreneurs; (11) share information by creating effective partnerships between the public and private sectors and within the private sector; (12) adjust the alignment between how Barbados presents itself and what it thinks of itself – diversify the tourist markets targeted and diversify the foreign exchange sectors to include the services sector. In the context of the second of these themes, Barbados – The Entrepreneurial Centre of the Caribbean, he gave the distinct impression that the Local/Diaspora bond was not sufficiently developed and hence Barbados has hitherto not taken advantage of the opportunity which rests in the Diaspora including wealth, expertise, experience and a desire to contribute to the development of their country of birth. He posed the rhetorical question “Why are the people in the Diaspora not in Barbados?” He alluded to the fact that they left in search of opportunities perceived in greener pastures from as long ago as the 1950s. It may have been because of the reality of race issues which inhibited their progress at that time, tertiary educational or the job opportunities which were offered abroad. Whatever the reason the Diaspora is a reality and indeed is a significant force on which to build the entrepreneurship culture in the Caribbean. Alex made some other general comments: (1) show your core values of being sincere, friendly and efficient, as early as at immigration when you enter the country. (2) advise entrepreneurs to mix with ambitious people and to mix among themselves to help them to grow to another level; (3) promote Barbados as a Business, increase the vision; (4) recognise the relative roles of the private and public sectors; (5) make the best use of the primary resource – the people; (6) recognise that businesses pay for everything we hold dear; (7) change national image from “Yes, we did that” to “Now, we are doing this” – recognising that the one thing that is constant in life is change; and (8) put somebody in charge of building and managing the Brand Barbados. The discussion period was dynamic and it was video streamed on the Internet, with two cameras, by one of the BBEL entrepreneurs. One of our business advisors was in Amsterdam and was able to participate live on the Net and via Skype. The edited recorded version will be made available to the public on the Net. Some of the suggestions made by Alex Pratt were already alive and well in Barbados but the general feeling was that we had a long way to go to reach the status of the county of Buckinghamshire in England which is known not only for its wealth but as the county with the largest rate of growth of entrepreneurs. In order to leave an inheritance, not just to our own children, but to our children’s children requires work, discipline, investing, planning and saving up our money! Wealth creation is the name of the game.