“He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” – Psalm 23:2-3
In an article by Andrew Yang of Venture for America entitled: “To restore the culture of achievement”, he pointed out that he and his colleagues drafted a mission statement with the following goals: To revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship; To enable our best and brightest to create new opportunities for themselves and others; and To restore the culture of achievement to include value-creation, risk and reward, and the common good. He thought that they are all appropriately ambitious, but that the third goal is perhaps the most far-reaching and profound and vital to achieving the others.
In my column my focus is usually on issues affecting the Barbadian landscape but I have often received feedback from friends and colleagues, sometimes from total strangers, that if I replaced Barbados by the name of their country my observations would be very valid and my solutions appropriate.
By the same token, in Andrew Yang’s observations, if we were to replace America by the name of any Caribbean country or indeed by any country on Earth, these observations would be equally valid and the goals of the mission equally appropriate.
How do we revitalize cities and communities through entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is now the hottest topic globally. Politicians are on to it, companies are adopting it and call it intrapreneurship, and individuals, especially those who have lost their traditional jobs, have now adopted entrepreneurship as a career. Others still in jobs have become “entrepreneurs in the making” and the entrepreneurs who have already taken the plunge are struggling so as not to become part of the “90% of start-up businesses which fail in the first four years of operation”.
I have been an entrepreneur for the past 37 years and for the past 13 years I have been shepherding entrepreneurs to help them from succumbing to this failure rate statistic. It is a challenging endeavour and is being gradually made easier as national policy makers facilitate the enabling environment to support entrepreneurs on their journey towards enterprise development. This is a very sensible initiative since it expedites the nation’s rate of economic growth, one successful enterprise after another. Trinidad and Tobago is a regional leader in this regard.
The Board meeting culture of “starting your business with a board meeting” is recognised as being essential in laying a sound corporate governance foundation for the business. In some cases businesses, now into the succession planning phase, are realising, hopefully not too late, the importance of this culture. The Board interprets shareholder policy, approves plans and monitors the performance of management against those plans, so that the profitability of the business can grow from strength to strength.
The customer satisfaction culture is really the driver of the business because – without this – the rate of growth of revenue is affected and we all know that without a sustained source of revenue the business is not defined.
Revenue is essential but if the profitability culture is not entrenched, in the sense of ensuring that our costs are less than our revenues, then we shall make losses and will soon be a client of the undertaker.
The Shepherding culture (life coaching for the entrepreneur and business mentoring for the enterprise) is gradually gaining currency and being recognised by the investor as a form of collateral which mitigates the risk of business failure. Shepherding helps to clear obstacles along the journey to profitability, including increasing productivity and containing costs and hence directly supports the objectives of the profitability culture.
The fifth business culture is the Return on Investment culture. If you do not have enough investment finance of your own and have to depend on investors, then you have to aim for high profitability so that you can achieve the return on investment to pay the investor attractive dividends.
To enable our best and brightest to create new opportunities for themselves and others, I have found that there is an advantage to adopting the ELF (Easy, Lucrative and Fun) culture. It will be “Easy” if you allow for the emergence from chaos to order (see last week’s column); It will be “Lucrative” if you adopt the CBET Shepherding Model where Shepherding mitigates the risk of failure; and it will be “Fun” because your passion and enjoyment will erode the drudgery of work which is indeed a fillip for the restoration of the soul.
We must restore the culture of achievement to include value-creation, risk and reward, and the common good. The culture of achievement includes “sales, sales, sales”, “hard work, hard work, hard work” along the value-chain in whatever sector; it recognises that one cannot get growth without risk and the need to take calculated risks supported by the Shepherding process; and it involves the development of an organisational culture where team building is paramount.
Incidentally, here is a response to last week’s column: “I just read your article ‘Emerging from Chaos to Order’ and I wanted to say thank you for writing and sharing it. I have not been feeling so hot lately and I have been struggling to regain my footing on what seems like a slippery slope. As an overall optimist, I committed to the cause in which there may not be a place for me anymore. I cannot see where my parallel stream of order might be but nevertheless, I know that time reveals all things. I want to say that your words have held me in a warm comforting embrace when I needed it the most”.
Let us forge ahead diligently to foster the culture of achievement.
Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.