Small businesses must grab support openings
There are several developments in the business sector that could impact positively on local small and medium-sized enterprises. Some of these include the recent announcements regarding the kick-starting of the Small Business Bureau and the planned completion of a draft White Paper on the creation of a development bank.
There is also the announcement by the George-town Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) that small business enterprises are now free to join the organization. Then there was the recent allocation of grants to local businesses by the regional business support institution, Caribbean Export. In addition, there has been a heightening of the small business lending profile of local commercial banks and a surfeit of workshops and seminars that have to do with preparing business proposals, accessing finance, marketing, training, labelling and other issues surrounding small business development.
These are all positive, though it has to be said that some of them are attended by uncertainties which cannot be ignored. Apart from the imponderables associated with the realisation of small business support through the Small Business Bureau and the timeframe associated with the emergence of a development bank, there are also issues that have to do with the extent to which small business ventures have been responsive to opportunities that have come their way.
We know, for example, that a recent Scotiabank competition dealing with the preparation of business proposals was all but ignored by the small business sector which it targeted. This development concerns us if only because we are aware that small local enterprises continue to miss opportunities to secure grants largely on account of an absence of acumen in the preparation of business proposals. On the whole, local small businesses often appear indifferent to institutionalized initiatives to engage them in issues of banking, business and finance, investment and how to manage a business. This is a matter on which Chamber President Clinton Urling commented to this newspaper recently and he did not sound particularly enthusiastic about the attitude of small businesses.
One of the points which Mr Urling made during his recent conversation with this newspaper had to do with what he believed to be the limitation of some business owners as far as some of the orthodoxies of being in business is concerned. “I suppose you can survive at a certain level if you are in that state but if you seriously want to grow that’s an entirely different matter,” he had said.
If, as would appear to be the case, new and varied opportunities are emerging that allow for the growth of the small business sector then there is every reason for emerging entrepreneurs to take advantage of them. If some people who have embarked on small business ventures are simply not equipped to take those ventures forward, then they should take advantage of the training and other opportunities being offered by both local umbrella business organisations, commercial banks and other local and regional support organisations. It would appear that the level of interest at this time is modest, to say the least, and this might well be an indication that many small businesses simply do not see the value in what is being put before them.
We believe that it is for the private sector umbrella organisations, commercial banks and other support agencies to keep at it, as far as educating the small business sector and encouraging small businesses to embrace what is on offer. And at the risk of repeating ourselves, it has to be said that government continues to be far too dilatory in the pursuit of its own responsibility to create a more convivial environment in which small businesses can grow and prosper.