Adequate financing, forward planning, strong relationships, humility, tenacity, courage, personal sacrifice and the importance of giving back, emerged as some of the recurring themes at the EXIM Bank’s Secrets to Business Success workshop and luncheon held on Tuesday, February 15 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
Hosted in partnership with the Jamaica Bankers Association and the Mona School of Business; successful Jamaican entrepreneurs and Digicel Chairman, Denis O’Brien shared candidly with SME and other business leaders, about their experience of surviving in business.
Mr. O’Brien who responded to questions fed from the audience, via by Mr. Milton Samuda, President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce gave a number of recommendations for business success including: the importance of adequate financing and having in place a financial structure that supports growth; maintaining a close relationship with bankers and the company’s financial controller; the importance of trustworthy feedback; the need for operations to be reviewed and reorganized as needed, every three or four years; speed in pursuing opportunities and getting ahead of the competition; and, being prepared to take risks.
Participating panelists were Omar Azan – CEO, BOSS Furniture; Stafford Burrowes – President & Chairman , Dolphin Cove; Claudette Crooks – President, Money Masters Ltd; William Mahfood – Managing Director, WISYNCO; John “Jakie” Minott – Managing Director, Jamaica Standard Products; Stephen Spence – Chief Executive Officer, SMS Communication and Don Wehby – Chief Operating Officer, Grace Kennedy Ltd.
Explaining the raison d’être of the workshop, Mrs. Lisa Bell, Managing Director of EXIM Bank said:“In addition to providing funds at low interest rates, we are supporting the national commitment to assisting entrepreneurs and promoting entrepreneurship by offering other forms of technical assistance to SME’s. This information was designed to exchange provided a stimulus to Jamaican SME’s as they seek to build and grow their business within the realities of our local and global economic contexts,” Mrs. Bell said.
And stimulating it was; with questions channeled to moderator, Professor Alvin Wint Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of International Business at the University of the West Indies, via lap tops and text messaging powered by Digicel 4G technology.
On sharing his experience, Mr. Azan, who is also the President of the Jamaica Manufacturing Association, said it was important to grow businesses in stages and to manage those stages well.
L-R; Stafford Burrowes, CEO Dolphin Cove Group, and Omar Azan, CEO of BOSS Furniture
“A business can be compared to a child. You must creep before you walk and invest the time and energy required to make your business grow,” Mr. Azan said.
He also added that careful research was essential, as it can help avoid costly errors such as buying inadequate equipment.
Mr. Minott, spoke to the value of succession planning and advised that persons be nurtured and groomed to lead. He pointed out that even for family owned businesses, it was important to cultivate in family members an interest in the operations; while also being willing to identify persons outside of the family for leadership.
The youngest business person, on the panel, Mr. Spence, pointed to the importance of copyrighting as well as maintaining the careful balance between business and personal relationships. Mr. Burrowes, who recently listed on the Junior Stock Exchange, highly recommended the route of financing through equity as an effective way to fund growth of the business.
Ms Crooks said entrepreneurs should not look for a big payback immediately, but to be tenacious and manage growth carefully so that it does not overwhelm operational capacity and result in negative effects such as low quality of service and a poor customer experience. She added that strong linkages within and outside of your industry were critical.
Audley Shaw, Minister of Finance and the Public Service commended the EXIM Bank on hosting the forum and restated the Government’s support of entrepreneurship and business proliferation. He pointed to a number of macroeconomic improvements which made Jamaica more favorable for business, including the downward trend in interest rates.
Mrs. Bell challenged the audience to incorporate the learning from today’s session into their operations.
“The new global dispensation, post recession, demands that companies operating in developing economies like ours shift to a new paradigm that looks beyond the obstacles and presses through adversity to find and create new areas of opportunity for growth and prosperity. We need a courageous group who will take the risks required to reap the rewards after all “only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go,” Mrs Bell said, citing poet T.S. Elliot.