“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” – 1 Peter 3:9

Last week was Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009. The launch of the Barbados Entrepreneurs’ Quick Response Venture Capital Fund took place just before the week began. There were three other associated events in which I participated which were held within the week itself.

The first was a panel discussion on “Quo Vadis – the Barbadian Entrepreneurial Spirit”  mounted by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Barbados Youth Business Trust (BYBT) at the Cave Hill School of Business . The second was the launch of www.BusinessBarbados.com – a comprehensive website about doing business in Barbados, including a section on entrepreneurship at the Crane Hotel. The third was the second national seminar on Developing Young Entrepreneurs staged by the Barbados Youth Business Trust in their conference room. These four events were all interconnected and all supportive of entrepreneurship.

The presence of the Prime Minister at two of these four events was indicative of the importance which his government places on entrepreneurship development in Barbados. I think the government is absolutely right in identifying entrepreneurship as a key factor as we embrace change towards the end of the first decade of the twenty first century.

Whether we are feeling the effects of a financial crisis or not, there is no denying the fact that: without the entrepreneur there will be no business enterprise; without one successful business enterprise after another there will be no economic development; without sustainable economic development, our socio-economic well being is at risk. We therefore need to do everything in our power to manage the factors that ultimately put us at risk.

I had the honour to be moderator of the panel discussion.  The panel consisted of three vintage entrepreneurs in Barbados – Rawle Brancker of Brancker’s; Ralph “Bizzy” Williams of Williams Industries Inc.; Dereck Foster of Automotive Art International; and a, BYBT supported, young entrepreneur Kirk Mason of capital KOJM Enterprises. Many entrepreneurs were present.   We had an interesting two hour interactive dialogue where the panellists spoke from their hearts, the audience posed some insightful questions and an inspiring evening was experienced by all.

The discussion began with the definition of “an entrepreneur”.  The consensus was a person who is : (1) constantly on the lookout for new business opportunities with a propensity to think outside of the box; (2) passionate about the chosen idea; (3) continually persisting in the face of adversity (a high Adversity Quotient); and (4) never satisfied to end up in the “also ran” category.  Do you possess the characteristics of an entrepreneur?

In my attempt, as moderator, to summarise the evening’s discussion the following three pointers were offered to the entrepreneurs: (1) it is important to nurture ideas with  a  unique selling proposition rather than to attempt to rehash what is already being done; (2) even though the entrepreneur might be possessed with creative talent or the ability to ferret out new opportunities, the element of shepherding, mentoring or hand-holding, especially in the business management context, is often lacking and results in  high failure rate experienced globally for new enterprises; and (3) that the lack of timely access to appropriate finance is a major inhibitor to growth and in many cases may even inhibit start-up enterprises getting off the ground.

More detailed recommendations coming from the panel were: (1) put a good corporate structure in place, choose the right business partner, pursue the 50/50 partnership model but recognise the principle that it is better to be “a small fish in a big pond than a big fish in a small pond”; (2) aim for excellence, satisfy customers to achieve high levels of repeat business and referrals though word of mouth advertising, always strive to keep the business growing and practise creative pricing to boost the cash flow of the business; and (3) put the right systems in place, increase productivity by using the latest in technology, adapt existing ideas to meet the needs of the consumer.

Other recommendations were: (4) develop our people – our most important asset – to the fullest, seek shepherds who complement the skills of the entrepreneur in the business context, find professional managers who are experienced in business management thus freeing up the entrepreneur to do what he/she best in the creative sense, always learn from the best in the world, beware of partners who may take the business away from you before you are ready to part with it, encourage a culture of persistency, encourage workers to take a general interest in all functions of the business, and above all have fun; (5) involve family and friends who would like to support your passion for the idea, try to find angel investors who may be interested in the economic sector of your business and who may wish to help capitalise the business initially, seek seed and venture capital finance, offer equity and stock options to your staff and get professional advice through your shepherd on how best to package the optimal financial mix for your company (grants, loans, angel investment, equity, venture capital).

We must work in harmony as a nation. We must be agreeable, sympathetic loving compassionate, humble and patient. That goes for all of us without exception. There must be no retaliation, no sharp tongued sarcasm. Instead we need to encourage an atmosphere “to bless and to be blessed”.