“Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” – Deuteronomy 32:1-2

The heavens are speaking for the earth to hear. Why don’t we all put our shoulders to the plough and herald 2010 as the year of the entrepreneur? Why don’t we bury the negative thoughts and nourish the entrepreneurial engine with teachings that fall like a gentle rain? The opportunties abound. On the one hand, entrepreneurs may be persuaded to expand their existing businesses with teachings which, like spring showers, nurture our fledgling gardens. On the other hand, entrepreneurs may be encouraged to engage in start-up businesses with teachings which arrive like the sprinkling rain or the morning dew.

By divine intervention, as I was composing this column, in comes a Skype text message from a Jamaican colleague who greets me with the accolade “Good morning Basil.  Only young boys are up at this early hour of the morning”. I returned the greeting by congratulating him on his perception and thanked him for including me in the “young boys” brigade.

He went on to say that he was in Panama where he just opened a marketing and management company, where over 60% his business will now be done.  He invited me to share the intricacies of the application of the CBET Shepherding Model at a conference in Panama on how to secure funding for your business during these tough economic times.

He punctuated his Skype message with emoticons which left me in no doubt that he empathised with the following concepts: (1) the smart partnership concept is fundamental to all that we do; (2) Whatever we do we must have fun while we do it; (3) the sun is shining on his parade; and (4) we must foster the development of tourism linkage services, in parallel with the tourism industry thrust, in order to expand the economies in the wider Caribbean region. We concluded that we both have learned how to mix business with pleasure which is the key to longevity and good health so that we can contribute to and enjoy the rest of the time left on this earth.

In his inspirational interlude, he shared the following: “I want to find a way to bridge the gap between the Caribbean and Latin America.  We are losing out on a lot of opportunities even though we are very close to each other.  That is why my new company name is PanaCarib – Panama and the Caribbean.  The Free Zone here is a powerful wholesale distribution centre.  I am now working on setting up a company to be able to be the link between the Free Zone and the Caribbean Islands.  We can do all your purchasing for you and ship it anywhere in the Caribbean for a small fee”.

I empathised with his concept and extended it to state: “The Caribbean can be the stepping stone which bridges the rest of the world with Latin America”. I recall that 10 years ago, while on a visit to Dublin, the Irish suggested that Barbados could be developed as a gateway for their emerging technologies to South America.  This opportunity is still there for the taking and can be nourished by teachings that fall like a gentle rain.

Talking about teachings, last week we had a wonderful and very informative BBEC team review meeting. Shepherds, business advisors and pilot project entrepreneurs joined me to recall and discuss what we learned over the past year and, in particular, what the “shepherding” experience was like with the six pilot project entrepreneurs.   We also discussed the respective characteristics of the entrepreneurs, shepherds and business advisors which are essential to the successful operation of the model.

There is an article by Sarah Pierce on February 28, 2008, entitled, Spirit of the Entrepreneur, which names the 5 characteristics which will be a useful underpinning for an entrepreneur who wants to start a business. These are passion (passion for business and an incredible passion for life); positivity (the power of positive thinking), adaptability (willingness to improve, refine and customize their services to continually give customers what they want); leadership (charisma, a sense of ethics and a desire to build integrity within an organization-someone who is enthusiastic, team oriented and a great teacher); and ambition (a great idea and a dream to share it with the world).  I would like to add a “high adversity quotient” (the ability to persist in the face of adversity).

We leaned from our retreat that the characteristics of a good shepherd include: reliability; provision of accurate feedback; commitment to the business’ success and economic development; knowledge about business; flexibility, openness to new ideas and objective criticism; dedication to the entrepreneur, particularly initially; understanding entrepreneurship and the nuances of entrepreneurs; responding well to challenges; patience; willingness to always learn and transfer knowledge; willingness to change; willingness to take calculated risks; spotting opportunities and networking capability; demonstrated management experience; knowledge of the sector; availability of time; complementary skills; innovative flair, verve and fervour; willingness to treat the entrepreneur’s business as if it were his/her own; empathy with the  vision of the entrepreneur; entrepreneurial flair.

May showers of blessings attend all entrepreneurs as we persevere to inspire economic growth in the Caribbean in 2010.