Denise Bentinck: Advising small business owners of the virtues of record-keeping

Owners of small businesses in Guyana frown on record-keeping mostly because many don’t pay taxes even though they understand the importance of having their records up to date, according to University of Guyana part-time lecturer and business trainer Denise Bentinck

“In Guyana people involved in small business have a practice of not wanting to keep records and instead they commit information to their heads,” Bentinck told Sunday Stabroek in a recent interview.

Bentinck, who has had many years in business administration and helped in capacity building with small farmers,

Denise Bentinck
Denise Bentinck

said that it is not a case of the business owners not understanding the importance of keeping records, because when they get into trouble they would indicate that they were aware that they should have done proper record-keeping.

She also pointed out that many of them do not pay taxes and this is why they are sometimes hesitant to keep records, but she noted that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is attempting to address that problem through other means.

Some are also hesitant to write a receipt because as Bentinck said, that receipt is a record that could “filter somewhere, as you might want to use it as a means of rebate somewhere and so it just filters into the system.”

“Or they would tell you if you want a receipt then you have to pay the VAT, but we know you collect VAT when your revenue is ten million and more per year…” Bentinck said, adding that consumers not wanting to pay the additional money would opt not to receive a receipt.

But she said more persons are now moving into record-keeping and contributing to this is the fact that there are more university graduates moving into the small business field and they are aware of the importance of record-keeping.

Asked what needs to be done to have more small business owners keep records Bentinck responded that there needs to be more sensitization, adding that the owners would not want to pay for this so it is left up to government projects to lead the way. She said the training should be  in a simplified format to ensure that the small business owners understand what needs to be done.

She also cautioned that the training cannot be a one-off event because when persons interact with others they learn more than just by listening to the facilitators.

The business owners are also now realizing the importance of record-keeping when they attempt to get a loan from the bank or apply for a visa to another country.

Agriculture

For many years Bentinck has worked with small farmers in capacity building and training both here and in Botswana.

She last worked at the Canadian Organisation Partners in Rural Development which had some agricultural focus. Through that project they helped small 1200 farmers in capacity building. She also worked with another Canadian funded project which dealt with helping famers prepare for disasters, the focus being mainly on flooding, and some of them benefited from civil works such as empoldering. She said since the famers also had to deal with extreme dry weather as well during the empoldering process, catchment areas were created so as to retain some of the water.

While most of the famers in Guyana are men Bentinck said that the projects had women components as they worked with community based organisations in various regions.

While she had worked in Guyana prior to 1999 Bentinck said she landed her first “real”  development job in Botswana that same year where she had gone with her husband who had a tourism contract with that country’s government. She described herself as being in the “right place at the right time” since shortly after she arrived she noticed a vacancy advertisement in the newspapers for a financial officer with an American organisation.

She applied and eventually got the job, finding that the programme involved many women including groups like women against rape and groups in agriculture. Unlike Guyana, Bentinck explained, most of the farmers were women. She spent eight years in that country working with the same programme, although in the latter years it was managed by a local organisation which she was a part of. And while she was the financial officer her job more entailed development and training.

Upon her return to Guyana she got another job with a SME Agribusiness Market Study survey for the International Finance Corporation – CHF Partners in Rural Development which also saw her in the development and training area and being part of a project which had a women component. While at times they did not deal directly with women Bentinck said that it required them to report on the impact the project has on women. She stayed with that organisation up until last year.

“So even though the persons who would have come to the fore in many of the engagements were men, ultimately it was the women who benefited because they managed the budget and kept the records…” she said.

Bentinck also lectures at the University of Guyana where she has been since 1991 when she started teaching the financial accounting course after successfully reading for a degree in Finance at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. From 2006 she started to lecture in the project management course and when the Masters in Business Administration Programme was launched she also did part-time lectures on operation management. Currently she is still a part-time lecturer at the university, but only in project management.  Saying she loves lecturing at the university and will be doing so for as long as possible, Bentinck went on to remark that she likes the fact that there are more and more older persons with experience who are studying project management, as it is a programme which calls for experience.

Whenever she applies for a job Bentinck said she always indicates that she lectures at the university and therefore would require time off to continue this.

“I like capacity building, that is why I have kept going on at a part-time basis at UG, and if I go to any of the employers I tell them I teach at UG part-time and I love it,” Bentinck said.

While what she is paid is nothing to write home about, Bentinck said it is still very rewarding, and she sees her lectures as a learning process as new ideas are always being generated by her students as they come up with different ways to deal with issues. While she likes UG, her best teaching experience, she said, was at the Business School where she lectured part-time some years back.

Initially Bentinck wanted to study accountancy but when she left school she received a scholarship, but accountancy was not on offer, and as such she opted for management. Looking back she is happy about that disappointment since she now feels she could not have chosen a better career path. Bentinck has also interacted with persons in small businesses through her voluntary work with various organisations.  She also does pro bono work at the Uncle Eddies Home which started out as a one-time request for assistance, but now she sits on the board of the home.

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