“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” – 1 Corinthians 3:6
Hard work, hard work, hard work! It’s a reference to the fact that in order to achieve anything worthwhile in life, one has to diligently apply oneself to the tasks with which we are faced. Without hard work, nothing grows but “weeds”. Location, location, location! It’s a reference to the fact that a business needs to be in the right place geographically to be successful. Without the right location growth of a business could be slow.
Sales, sales, sales! It’s a reference to the fact that business success cannot be achieved without a persistent sales strategy. Without sales the rate of revenue growth will be stymied. Growth, Growth, Growth! It’s a reference to the fact that we need our economies to become larger, more complex and more competitive. Without growth it takes longer to increase our gross national happiness. It is worth noting that it does not matter who plants and who waters, growth will not take place without the grace of God.
Last week’s column focused on initiatives to grow the economy of a nation. We need vision and action. We need leadership and implementation. Last week end I watched the movie Invictus which tells the inspiring true story of Nelson Mandela, as South Africa’s newly elected president, uniting the post-apartheid nation as it prepares to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The movie held my interest throughout and it was a revealing example of how those in positions of power, with vision, can mobilise the divergent forces within a nation and assemble them in a unifying force to foster growth from depths of despair. It is a wonderful motivational film from which Caribbean leaders could well learn as they face the challenge of growing the region’s economy.
Belize, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago of the 14 independent CARICOM States – the four commodity exporting ones – are the only members of the community which may not have to follow the measures recently announced by the Barbados Minister of Finance to retrench staff in the civil service and statutory boards as well as to make selected salary reductions in order to reduce the budget significantly.
Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) has presented a challenge to the country to become the #1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020. An interpretation of this could be that the country’s GDP could be doubled or increased by some significant amount by 2020. One way of doing this would be to attract international businesses to locate their global HQ in Barbados. We boast of our high international standings in terms of the UN Human Development index, we boast of our high levels of education, we boast of our National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE), we boast of our Public Private partnership and generally we boast about our high standard of living which is reflected in our high cost of living. Why has the Government then not led the thrust, in collaboration with the social partners, to create the right enabling environment to invite these international businesses to locate their global HQ in Barbados?
Another way of leading Barbados to become the #1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020 is in the field of enterprise development. It is such a glaring opportunity but again lip service only and no coordinated creative leadership at the Government level, in collaboration with the private sector and social partners, to make it happen.
The BEF has for the third year running staged the $20 Challenge which is an entrepreneurial competition for 4th and 5th formers to spark the interest of young people in becoming an entrepreneur. This year’s competition has been reported as being the best one yet. Students who decide to participate in the competition are loaned $20 and given one month to use the money to create a profitable, innovative and/or community minded business. They must think creatively when choosing their best option for a business idea and then show that they can make it a reality.
The students all had fun developing and running the business and also have the opportunity to actually experience what being an ‘enterprising person’ really means. The competition encourages the entrants to ‘give back’ – to give back the original $20 loan, so that other young people can benefit in the future, and to give back to their community by creating a business that is socially responsible.
Over the last two years the competition has been highly successful and the youth of Barbados have risen to the challenge and produced a wide variety of clever and productive business ideas. The competition hinges on the work of the Ambassadors who are a group of volunteer business people who act as advisors and coaches for the students. Each Ambassador is assigned a school and they work closely with the students for the weeks leading up to the judging by providing tips and advice.
At least one of the contestants has decided to register his business in the New Year which is what is needed across the community. Research has shown that there is no shortage of business ideas, there is no shortage of money in the private sector only the problem of accessing it, and that Shepherding mitigates the risk of business failure. Given this background the Government, in collaboration with the private sector, in each Caribbean country needs to create the right environment for enterprise development to make a significant contribution to growth in the Caribbean. The retrenched staff in Barbados will then be able to access an enabling environment to foster their interest in becoming entrepreneurs.