“For by grace have ye been saved … it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8
The grace of God has prepared for me a way of life that is altogether very fulfilling. The learning experience ranged from Montessori, primary and secondary schooling. Then at the tertiary level I engaged in a further range of Bachelor, Master and Doctorate degrees. Not everyone is blessed with the opportunity to pursue this range of formal education but learning is such that, whatever the extent of the exposure, I am sure that one can claim a fulfilling learning experience.
Then, we may have the opportunity to impart our knowledge by teaching at a school, university or other training institute. As we do this, whether as a school teacher, graduate assistant, facilitator, tutor, university lecturer or shepherd (life coach and mentor), we continue to learn from the feedback from our students and to be fulfilled throughout the changing scenes of life. Hence the concept that we learn at all stages of our lives – from cradle-to-grave.
My plan for the final leg of the journey is to prolong this learning experience phase for as long as the genes will permit by developing relationships that will nourish the body, mind and soul.
I was blessed to have been tasked, in the penultimate phase in my life, with exploring the challenges of building enterprises from inception to sustainable business success which in turn collectively contributes to sustainable economic success. I can therefore pose the hypothesis that shepherding of enterprises, which is my primary interest, is one of the most fulfilling experiences, after parenting, that there is.
These days, week after week, I am inundated with requests from entrepreneurs in the making and existing entrepreneurs for assistance with their enterprises. More often than not they want to get their hands on money which they think will solve all their problems. My experience is that whereas money is necessary for the solution of their problems it is not sufficient. It is the dissemination of this concept to these budding entrepreneurs that is one of the most rewarding experiences that one can encounter. It is truly a learning experience and what one learns from one business can be generically and synergistically transmitted to another.
As I shepherd enterprises I am often faced with the challenge of what is the better form of engaging the entrepreneur in the learning experience – formal training or shepherding? For some the jury is still out but, as I engage in more and more experiences shepherding entrepreneurs, I am leaning more and more heavily on the side of shepherding from the perspective of the immediate impact on the entrepreneur and the greater cost benefit impact on the enterprise.
Of course, there will always be something to benefit someone in a training course, but here is my argument in terms of my preference for shepherding rather than formal training:
Training often takes place in a classroom environment where a given curriculum is systematically imparted over a set time frame. This model may be lecturing or interactive in style or a combination of the two. All students in the class are invited to follow the set sequence of the dissemination of the material and may not have any idea as to how they might apply it to their enterprise in the future. This is an educational experience which we all experienced to a greater or less extent.
Shepherding, on the other hand, is a one-on-one experience where the shepherd or business advisor is focussed on the individual need or the entrepreneur or enterprise and addresses immediate prospects to grow the enterprise. I am reminded of the maxim: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” which is attributed to Confucius, a Chinese philosopher and reformer (551 BC – 479 BC).
In training there is the chance that you will hear and forget, see and remember but in shepherding one attempts to address the particular challenge at hand – one “does and understands”.
The entrepreneur has to focus on driving his revenue. If the entrepreneur’s knowledge is deficient in how to effect sales this can most effectively done through a shepherding process. Shepherding (through a shepherd and complementary business advisers) addresses the immediate needs of the entrepreneur. A training course is based on a curriculum and the entrepreneur may or may not be able to give priority to attending training sessions since he or she has to run a business.
In my experience, when seasoned successful entrepreneurs are asked what are the factors that are mostly responsible for their success, their answers are: (1) location, location, location! (2) Hard work, hard work, hard work! and (3) Sales, Sales, Sales! not necessarily in that order of importance for any given business.
In 2014, especially when faced with the high global failure rate of enterprises (90% in the first four years of operation), I would give priority to “Shepherding, Shepherding, Shepherding”, since shepherding mitigates the risk of business failure, rather than “Training, Training, Training” since, although beneficial, it is not likely to contribute in the same way to the return on investment of the enterprise.
Since the shepherding process, in its entirety, is a relatively new player in the field of business efficiency enhancement there are no “five year” quantitative statistical analyses that can be viewed.
The efficacy of shepherding is a hypothesis under experimental assessment and requires faith from the believers buttressed by the grace of God.
Have a productive and fulfilling week – and “with all thy getting, get understanding”.
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.