Barbados is at a critical stage of it development and given the current world economic climate, we must be careful and strategic about how we address change with a view to growth. We are a creative people, loaded with talent and ideas. This creativity should not just be limited to the witty double-entendre in our calypsos, but also used in every facet of our plight to move our nation forward.
We mustÂ fast trackÂ entrepreneurial development and economic growth in Barbados. An excellent way to achieve that is by strategically inviting entrepreneurs to relocate to Barbados with their business or at least an element of it.
This will bring skills and knowledge transfers as well as access to global business and markets. We should focus especially on the UK and Canada in the early stages with the help of the Diaspora. It will create many new jobs in strategic export focussed sectors. Joint ventures with Bajan entrepreneurs will be helped tremendously with this idea. It has explosive potential for the economy. Keith Miller and Peter Boos are forming just such a joint venture with a group of young Canadian SEO/SEM experts. They plan to develop Barbados as a Centre for Global Multi-Media Companies. The idea is similar to the one about the partnering with Berklee College of Music in the development in Barbados as a Centre of Excellence in Music and the Arts. The model can be replicated in so any other export sectors.
It is his recommendation that Government immediately develop a policy for attracting Global Entrepreneurial talent into our strategically identified indigenous sectors targeted for global growth-all the services area including Arts & Culture, Sports, Health & Welllness, Multi-media, ICTs, Education. Legal,Construction, management consulting etc.
The vision would be to position Barbados as a global centre of excellence for Entrepreneurship Enterprises.Â The Entrepreneurs’ Island.
We will address the following three areas with a view to highlighting the key issues that we believe would need to be addressed if we, as a nation, are to bring this idea to fruition.
- Evaluating our strengths as a country and the quality of life we have to offer.
- Understanding the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur.
- Identifying the policies we need to address or implement to facilitate this forward thinking initiative.
It is not until you have spent time living in a big city (more so during winter) that you truly appreciate the beauty and quality of life that living in Barbados affords. Our beaches are clean and beautiful, the weather is great and at any given point on the island you are only a few miles away from a perfect relaxing spot. Whether that for you is a cool spot under a tree by the beach in Bathsheba, or one of the many rum shops which serve local dishes between the Banks beer and Mount Gay shots. In addition to this (which alone is enough for many), is our stable economy and political system, great telecommunications, excellent educational system, good health care, good road infrastructure, low crime rate and all round generally good service sector. These are our strengths and we need to use them to our advantage. Porter’s generic strategies would suggest that we naturally fit a differentiation strategy. We have the right mix. A number of other countries can offer better in some areas, but in others lack sadly. I think of Barbados as “Functional Paradise”. Take Holetown for example, a first class medical facility on one side of the road and on the other side a beautiful beach and Zagat rated restaurants. Drive five minutes north and you are in a fishing village and beside the famous John Moore rum shop. Who would not want to live here?
Entrepreneurs by nature are creative, risk takers (albeit calculated) and generally have an eye out for an opportunity to capitalize on. As suggested earlier, we need to be selective about the entrepreneurs we seek to attract. Therefore we need focus on successful ones who are looking to outsource aspects of their business or are looking to set up an office to work from and enjoy the fruits of their labours by living in paradise while staying in contact with the world. This kind of person is highly driven and comes from a results-based environment. Expedience is very important to them while red tape and bureaucracy is a major deterrent. Those coming from the UK and Canada will be accustomed to working with very efficient systems that are designed to facilitate progress. Therefore, although they may not necessarily expect the same level of efficiency coming from a developing country, they will be looking for standards that are as close as possible to those they have become familiar with.
Barbadian government agencies therefore need to modify the ways in which they do business in order to attract this new business. Government agencies can no longer continue to adopt the culture of “The way we do things around here” (Marvin Bower). Rather, it should be more like “The way we need to do things around here, if we are to get over there”.
Government agencies apart from being less than expedient, are also not sufficiently interconnected. This in itself poses several problems when a given department relies on information from other departments in order to execute its tasks. Recently I dissolved a company comprising of three directors. Apart from having to deal with three other government departments (VAT, NIS & IRS) to receive clearances, I dealt with an officer from Corporate Affairs who gave me one set of instructions which I followed. On returning with the necessary documents, I dealt with another officer who informed me what I did was wrong and I needed to fill out the forms again, which meant having them typed. It took me three attempts to get this process completed, each time following the instructions that I was give by the officer. Would it be too drastic to explore the use of management information systems to link these four departments? I agree these options may be expensive in the initial stages, but with the saving through efficiency and the value they would add to the marketability of our country into the future, would they really cost that much when compared to what we could be potentially losing?
Our immigration department will also need addressing. The processing time and procedures are too long to adequately facilitate this kind of initiative. We are not suggesting that we know the problems of the various departments, or that we have the solutions. Rather, we are humbly offering suggestions to be considered as an alternative approach to these issues. Would it be feasible for the government in an instance like this to assign special officers to deal with the handling of these special cases of relocating entrepreneurs and give them priority in all government departments? This is not a new concept. The private sector has adopted this strategy for years – “one stop shop”. When you buy a car from a dealership you can drive it off the lot with insurance, road tax, licence plates etc. all neatly wrapped in one package.
We need to get everyone on board, especially those in the areas that can effect change. Public workers must understand that the role they play is directly pegged to the future of our nation. Imagine if we could get our public sector to think entrepreneurial. Â Recently on the BBC News, British Chancellor Alistair Darling spoke about the need for the NHS to be more efficient and the need for a review of the government’s public wastage. If this is the view of a developed country, where do we stand as a small island state? It is no longer “business as usual”. It is time to for us to take creative approaches to the issues we face and also create opportunities based on our strengths.
It is widely believed that “Firms will grow and manage activities internally until it is cheaper to outsource that activity” (R. Coase, 1937). When entrepreneurs reach this stage with their businesses, we need to ensure that we make Barbados the relocation destination of choice because we have the natural, as well as the human resources necessary for best business practices and great quality of life. Change is a difficult process, but we must see this not as an option, but rather, a necessity if Barbados is to at least maintain the current standard of living that the average Barbadian enjoys. Government needs to address some of the policies that inhibit growth and development in this kind of business approach and lead the charge toward the entrepreneurial progress. Â Successful Brazilian entrepreneur Ricardo Semler (CEO, SEMCO) in his book “Maverick” stated that “A turtle may live for hundreds of years because it is well protected by its shell, but it only moves forward when it sticks out its head”. We in Barbados have been protected for many years in many ways, but we now have to honestly ask ourselves this question. At this juncture, can we afford not to stick out our heads?
- Chris Harper is currently pursuing an MBA at the Greenwich School of Management in London.