Saturday, November 8, 2014

What SMEs need...

There's a lot of talk about SMEs and entrepreneurship, and over the past 15 years it has intensified. Governments especially like to speak about it, since it's an avenue where they can speak about employment boosts. The thing is, they are so detached from the realities involved in setting up and running a business, they just don't get it!

What is needed is a thought process of what is needed to create an environment for SMEs. When entrepreneurs are undercapitalized and under resourced; how can they be facilitated to ensure that their business sees the light of day and has the opportunity to grow and thrive. It is not going to happen by the constant introduction of taxes, excessive regulations, and environments that are so expensive even foreign investors with their willingness to invest funds have to cringe at the costs of doing business.

There was some thought of introducing standards, but are they aiding or hampering creativity so necessary for business? Actually, when considering the various introduction of regulations, are they thought of by business people or technocrats who only have a theoretical understanding of business but are truly unfamiliar with the business environment? A pulse for the business environment is not going to happen by reading the newspaper or indeed many other articles since those in business seldom document as they are too busy trying to eke out a livelihood.

The bulk of businesses follow paradigms often touted but seldom tested. These cliches often result in the following:

  • Businesses being undercapitalized and yet still expected to guarantee the results of their business plans 
  • Miracles are expected with limited working capital
  • Breakdowns in systems due to shortcuts being taken due to inadequate funds leads to the business hemorrhaging financially as the necessary controls are then often lacking
  • Those responsible for directing the company then spend too much time putting out fires rather than directing the business to capitalize on opportunities within the markets
  • Though they make the sacrifice of obtaining uniforms for the staff, they see the provision of business cards as an expense thereby missing out on marketing opportunities that can never be offered by "the executives"
When will the business climate change to include a fighting chance for homegrown businesses? Opportunities for growth need to include:
  • Tax concessions for the generation of employment 
  • A supportive environment that encourages expansion outside of the local boundaries of the country
  • Incentives for bringing in foreign exchange and the ability to manage such in collaboration with your financial institutions 
  • The establishment of mentorship programs that extend beyond the youth as those who are older displaced workers have been getting into businesses to support themselves financially
  • The created environment needs to be such that businesses developed can succeed beyond the lifetime of their creators
  • There needs to be a push in intellectual property usage so that businesses can move into the realm of residual income rather than be totally reliant on active income 
  • Caribbean businesses need to not be ashamed of making profit rather than the subsistence levels that everyone seems to hover around
These are just a few, and there are more once you get your thought patterns mobilized. There are many good resource people who are more than willing to help the country realize these objectives. Of course, they will need to be adequate remunerated as well in a timely fashion. The taxes will come, but you have to create opportunities to make money so that they can in turn pay taxes without feeling sacrificial on all the occasions. 

Richard Blades is a business development specialist. He has helped businesses develop, grow, and thrive over the years. He lives in Barbados. 

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