“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” – Psalm 33:22

The experience that I have gained in Trinidad, shepherding Entrepreneurs in the Making, Start-Ups and Existing Businesses has been very gratifying.

I have interacted with businesses at BizBooster, which is the business incubator at the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business. I am shepherding businesses at the National Integrated Business Incubator System (IBIS), which is a programme of the Ministry of Labour and SME development. I also privately shepherd other businesses.

The full value of the shepherding/business relationship on the sustainable success of a business, even though there is much lip service paid to it, is not fully recognized by incubator designers. There is no question that shepherding is seen to be a good thing but the organization of the shepherding component of the human resource development business system leaves much to be desired.

The shepherding process gives guidance to the business in the management of business systems, and in every shepherding/business relationship – in my experience – the entrepreneur is fully appreciative of the shepherding input. Even though every business can be treated with the same generic shepherding tool, the demands of the business idea differ from business to business. This means that there needs to be a fair degree of flexibility in the design of the shepherding/business relationship.

There are four areas on which I would like to focus as we shepherd each business on the journey to sustainable business success: (1) The relationship between the planning and execution functions of management; (2) The need to adopt a systematic evolutionary approach; (3) The early focus on generating revenue; and (4) The need to manage time.

(1) Damian McKinney is the CEO of McKinney Rogers (www.mckinneyrogers.com), a global firm of business execution experts, which takes its inspiration from a military strategy with a series of steps to ensure execution of the business mission effectively. He recently sent me an article entitled “What Commandos Can Teach Strategy Consultants”.

It reads: “The most important lesson is that strategic success demands a simultaneous view of planning and doing. The easiest way to achieve this is to insist that plans are designed by the same people responsible for executing them.

“As explained by University of Pennsylvania Professor Lawrence G. Hrebiniak, Ph.D, successful strategic outcomes are best achieved when those responsible for execution are also part of the planning or formulation process. The greater the interaction between ‘doers’ and ‘planners’ or the greater the overlap of the two processes or tasks, the higher the probability of execution success.”

The Shepherding process must be involved at the outset.

(2) The final paragraph of Damian’s article subtitled the “The Future of Business Consulting” follows: “Strategy consulting, as we know it, will soon be a thing of the past. There are too many economic factors demanding the immediate generation of results through a nearly simultaneous delivery of strategy formulation and business execution. It is inevitable that strategy development and the execution of that strategy be intertwined with a stronger emphasis on execution-able strategies. The stakes are too high to stick with the old way of doing things and the days of expensive plans collecting dust in board rooms are numbered.”

I could not agree with this more. I have become convinced based on my daily interaction with businesses that whereas the planning exercise helps to delineate the business model the only thing can we can say for certain about the business projections is that they will be wrong because of the changing economic environment which we continually experience and because, especially for start-ups, there is no history on which to base these projections.

So as Skip Weitzen, the author of “Hypergrowth”, with whom I worked in the Caribbean 15 years ago, has advocated: “Start small, do it right, make a profit and then expand”.

(3) Profitability is a necessary condition for a sustainable business. Profitability is rooted in revenue generation. Revenue generation is a derivative from aggressive and persistent sales activity. A late colleague of mine used to say: “Give me a business with revenue and leave it to me to generate profits – give me a business with no revenue and I shall not be able to perform magic.” All of the businesses to which I have been assigned as a shepherd have nice thick well dressed business plans because that is the culture.

They all project great profitability and attractive returns on investment. However, when one interacts with the businesses the major constraint is generating revenue. The sales strategy even if planned has not been organized for effective execution. As we have said earlier, no revenue, no profit. I am currently conceptualizing an innovative solution to address this sales problem.

(4) Very early in my shepherding interventions, I advised clients that the stories of successful businesses are replete with stories of a positive correlation between sustainable success and hard work. I also point out that each of us is given 24 hours per day to be effectively managed. As human beings we need to sleep, we need to exercise, we need time for personal activities whatever they might be, we need to engage in community service and we need to work productively if we want to be successful in our business endeavours. Formal time management recording is therefore introduced. Those who follow it tend to have more successful businesses than others.

We must now plan and execute in tandem so that our hope for sustainable success is realised.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)