“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” – Isaiah 40:11

When the CBET Shepherding Model™, currently being formally rolled out in Barbados, was first articulated, it was envisioned that the shepherd would accompany the entrepreneur on the journey from business concept to sustainable business success. He/she would lay a sound foundation and complement the entrepreneur’s passion for enterprise with solid business advice, in the quest to grow rapidly into the global market and guide the entrepreneur as to how financial challenges could be overcome step by step along the way.

It was envisioned that the shepherd would, at the outset, work with the entrepreneur to establish a sound planning framework facilitated by a seed capital fund.  The shepherd would institute a smart partnership between the entrepreneur and a benevolent venture capital company to implement the plan.  The shepherd would help design a mutually beneficial exit strategy for the venture capital company from the business, thus gradually allowing the entrepreneur to recover ownership of the business which originated from the entrepreneur’s original idea and which was nurtured by the entrepreneur’s passion to succeed.

In other words, in much the same way as a shepherd would care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, hugging them as he carries them and leading the nursing ewes to good pasture, the business shepherd will care for the entrepreneur, develop a smart partnership with the entrepreneur and nurture the entrepreneur’s ideas from conception through birth to the “coming of age”.

What was not fully envisioned was the benefit to the shepherd of the richness of the synergies between the shepherd, as the business advisor, and the talented entrepreneur as they interacted in the business development process.  My own experience and the experience of the shepherds with whom I have partnered over the last six months in assisting in the development of emerging businesses have been awesome. Each of the shepherds in the process, in their own way, has reported really engaging and informative, although challenging, experiences enriching their stock of general knowledge, understanding, insight and wisdom.

These experiences have contributed significantly to the wider appreciation by the shepherds as to why failure rates of start-up or emerging business are as high as 80-90% within the first two years of operation.  It became very evident that the order of business has to be to apply the total quality concept of “zero defects” which means that there is no short cut but to engage in painstaking diligence in working closely with the entrepreneurs and paying attention to detail.  The upside potential is that, because of shepherding, the success rate of business will increase thus stimulating the growth of the Barbados economy, one successful enterprise after another.  My hypothesis is that this strategy will increase the growth rate by a factor of four.  Time will tell!

The shepherds also have an excellent opportunity to grow as they interact with different entrepreneurial personalities.  A full scale of services has been brought to bear on the developing enterprises even though in varying amounts and combinations depending on the entrepreneur. These include: mentoring, counseling, hand holding, facilitation, coordination, marketing, financing and productivity enhancement.

Entrepreneurs exhibit all types of characteristics: (1) unbridled passion for new ideas before we have advanced the initial idea – the shepherd has to rein then back; (2) the conservative type who does not understand that one cannot get growth without risk – it is sometimes a challenge to persuade the entrepreneur to partner with a venture capital company; (3) the  entrepreneur’s management skills do not match his passion for the business – the shepherd and business advisors have to be skillful at presenting an appropriate governance structure; (4) the business sophisticated entrepreneur – the  ideal situation; (5) a temptation by the entrepreneur to “sniff out” sources of money – the persuasion by the shepherd that venture capital company is not a donor agency; (6) the entrepreneur who has invested a lot of his time and money – agreeing on an effective valuation of his “goodwill” so as not to scare the venture capital company away with an exorbitant share price; (7)  the entrepreneur who recognizes the importance of succession planning – usually sends the shepherd in search for  a business partner; (8) the business which has a good concept but which has been in existence for sometime but is declining – an opportunity for business reengineering; (9) a business which is on the verge of penetrating an export market – guiding the entrepreneur through the maze of new experiences which go with enhanced trade; (10) an entrepreneur who recognises the benefit of training family members in diverse technical and business fields so that the money stays within the wider family unit – a challenge in designing suitable equity agreements; (11) businesses whose fortune lies mainly in the global market – how do we leapfrog without the learning experience of the local and regional markets; (12) the talented individual or consultant  entrepreneur who is in an intellectual capital driven business – how do we plan for the longevity of the business so that the country can benefit in perpetuity.