[quote_left]Prepared by: David Thomas for the 2010 Terra Red Book[/quote_left]
Barbados is well known as a centre from which to operate an international business. It possesses world class infrastructure, a highly educated workforce and a superb quality of life. The ability to establish, staff and maintain an operation that serves a global client base is a strong drawing card for this country. The substantial investment in our business and others like it are driven by the availability of key services, infrastructure and business enablers:
- Telecommunications and internet service
- IT support
- Highly educated and experienced workforce
- Real estate infrastructure
- Supportive and adaptive legislative environment
The availability of high speed internet and a modern telecommunications infrastructure has revolutionized the ability of international businesses to provide leading edge services anywhere in the world. In addition to providing web access and online services, the prevalence of this infrastructure has also led to improved resilience and redundancy for disaster recovery and business continuity not trivial considerations in a country that could experience a hurricane.
Key to making it work is a well trained information technology staff conversant with Web technologies, server and work station suppliers and support technologists. High quality personnel are available and the ability to import computer equipment duty free is an important factor in building cost competitive systems in Barbados.
Another factor is the availability of redundant business continuity sites on island that provide “hardened” physical locations for the storage of back up computer facilities. These facilities, complete with back up power supplies and telecommunications links and in some cases offering alternative workplaces in case the main office is unusable, are an important ingredient to supporting business investment and business continuity. Business continuity planning is an ever increasing consideration for businesses whether they are financial services such as ours or other types of business. A global client base will be unaffected by a local problem and will expect their service provider, bank or supplier to be ready to do business when they are.
Real estate choices for an operating business continue to grow in Barbados and choice will be driven by each business’ unique requirements. Equally important to real estate choices for business operations are those for residential occupation by local and non-national employees. In spite of its size, Barbados offers a diverse range of high quality residences dotted across the island. This goes a long way in ensuring that employees can be comfortably situated which by extension is good news for business managers interested in maintaining a happy staff. In addition, the combination of the island’s size together with the abundance of desirable residential areas reduces concerns about business site selection in relation to employee accessibility.
Whether the company establishes itself in the growing commercial centre of Warrens where many businesses are relocating or the many other office locations throughout the island, there aresome considerations that operating businesses should consider when selecting a site. I will mention a few that would not appear significant at the outset but can be significant to the well being of the operation. Barbados’ high standard of living and extensive middle class bring with it a common problem associated with affluence: traffic. This becomes very apparent during the school year as parents drive their children to school. This is exacerbated by a schooling system that is not always based on a catchment area meaning a child’s
school may not be in his or her neighbourhood. As such, our employees’ day often starts with a drop off at school and many times a midday pick up as school gets out. As a business operator this means that parking is a very important consideration when choosing an office site as well as convenience of access to major thoroughfares.
In addition to parking, the health and wellbeing of our workforce is often dominated by the condition of another element of the work environment that we often take for granted: the HVAC system. Barbados is a tropical country with high levels of humidity. Molds and other allergens can pose a health risk to employees and become a major contributor to sick leave. It is not uncommon to have employees with asthma or allergic sensitivities and ensuring a clean and safe cooling system is a vital work place concern. Luckily, there are a number of highly qualified environmental firms that can do detailed analysis and remediation for a building. This work includes spore cultures to determine the amount and nature of any molds present, air quality testing and the provision of a detailed work plan to solve any detected problems. An annual review is highly recommended.
The largest and most significant investment that an international business makes in Barbados is in its workforce. Payroll is by far the largest element of our budget and our investment in our employees goes beyond just pay. The professional work force in Barbados is quite mobile and, similar to other knowledge industry centres such as Silicon Valley, our employees have often worked at several other companies before joining us. This not only creates an experienced and well trained work force, it also means that professional designations and continuing education are pursued by the majority of our workforce to enhance their skills and advance their careers. This can take the form of participation in professional associations such as accounting or legal groups or educational designations such as the Chartered Financial Analyst or Trust and Estate Practitioner designations. Employers also encourage staff to enroll in job related programmes that are offered by local institutions including the Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity (BIMAP) and the University of West Indies – Cave Hill (UWI). UWI also has programmes such as the Bachelor of Science in Banking and Finance and, recognizing the importance of the offshore business sector to the overall economy, they continue to introduce programmes that are investment and offshore banking related.
Of course none of these advantages work in the absence of the positive role that the government plays in providing a supportive environment and in direct support to the industry. New initiatives, such as the impending Financial Services Commission and ongoing support from government agencies such as Invest Barbados provide significant help in the establishment of an international business. The recently announced initiative by Invest Barbados to simplify immigration and work permitting applications for incoming business investors further signals the government’s support for business investment and growth in Barbados.