Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 18th 2013 Contents 7
Making the Case
So you have always had this "crack-shot" idea for a product that you know would
take the market by storm. Coupled with your warm and charming personality you
know that the Midas touch of your service would make you a winner.
You bring your idea to fruition and pretty soon you are on the market and you are
right. Your business is booming and you are unable to handle all the orders and do proper
servicing by yourself. You hire a couple of hands to assist with some aspects of the oper-
ation but you don't trust them enough to have them do some of the more important
tasks and you have not implemented any formal accounting procedures, so you must
handle all the transactions dealing with cash yourself as the system is in your head.
Pretty soon you have to work late into the nights to keep up with the paper work. With
the growth, you find yourself not able to keep up with the level of service and this causes
some customers to be unhappy. Furthermore, you do not have time to look at your cash
management situation so you are forced to resort to costly overdraft facilities to meet
your commitment and have some semblance of liquidity. Before long, you are losing rev-
enue and business as you forget to invoice some customers, increasingly dissatisfied
with lower than expected service quality and your inability to maintain product quality as
a result of growth. You are now feeling very frustrated and the people close to you are
the ones who are feeling the brunt of your frustrations.
The above scenario is not an uncommon situation for many entrepreneurs. They start
off very enthusiastic but run out of steam pretty quickly as the task of running the busi-
ness begins to take its toll. The common mistake that many people make is that they
equate the entrepreneurial spirit with administrating the business and indeed they are
not one and the same. Having a good product or service that is able to fill a value void in
the market is but the start of the process in having a successful business. The longevity
and growth of the business and you as a business operator is much more dependent on
skill level of the key persons in the business and where a business education comes in.
Business education allows for the training of the mind so that the entrepreneur is able to
conceive of the business as a whole and as an amalgamation of its constituent parts.
Moreover it allows the person to be able make more sense of their business experiences
so that they are able to extract more benefit from that experience. Just as budding
sports talent must hone their skills through rigourous coaching and practice, so too must
the budding entrepreneur undertake business coaching and training so that they are able
to know what tools, frameworks and methods are available for making and understand-
ing business decisions and how to apply them to making business decisions.
Acquiring the Skills
Now that you appreciate the need for a business education, you must
now be thinking about how you can acquire such training. The type and
level of training that you would require would be very much dependent on
where you are presently. For the young and upcoming entrepreneur who
has basic formal education and little business experience the best avenue
is to enroll in a business training programme, such as courses offered by
YTEPP or a business incubator programme with an upfront training com-
ponent such as the IBIS (Integrated Business Incubator System) pro-
gramme being offered by the Ministry of Labour, Small and Micro
Entreprise Development (http://www.molsmed.gov.tt/).
For persons who are more experienced and have been exposed to for-
mal education at least at the intermediate level (at a minimum O'levels
and beyond) an executive programme, such as those offered by the Lok
Jack GSB, that offers training in functional areas such as marketing, human
resources, accounting etc. might be the best option. These programmes
are predicated on an understanding of the business landscape and this is
usually made explicit in the introductory stage of the programme.
For persons who have at least a degree or intermediate certification
such as an associate degree with considerable business experience and
need the skills to take their business to the higher level, the best option
would be a Masters degree such as an MBA or other business- specific
Masters programme, such as a Masters related to SME management,
strategic leadership etc.
Like West Indies cricketers there is no doubt that Caribbean entrepre-
neurs have the natural and creative acumen to be world beaters. However
we need to recognise that it is the development of that raw talent through
training and the adoption of appropriate technology is what would make
us successful on the global stage. Business success is not just about ex-
ploiting natural ability and resources but about acquiring the skills and
tools through training to harness these resources in seizing opportunities
and overcoming challenges. This is the age where learning is a life long
process and it is no different for the entrepreneur.
What You Need to Know
The skills that a business education would provide to the entrepre-
neur can be seen as happening on separate but related levels. At the
foundational level the student would acquire an understanding of the
language of business and awareness of the business landscape. An
essential part of this would be an awareness of the impact of globali-
sation and internationalisation. Also important is being able to read,
understand and use accounting and other quantitative information to
make business decisions. The student would also be able to appreci-
ate the jargon of the subject area and its proper contextual meaning.
After the student has gained an understanding of the business
landscape and language he is then able to move on to the operational
level, where they would dissect the business into its various con-
stituent parts and gain an understanding of the importance of each
area and how they work together to create a successful business. It is
important here for the student to understand the inter-relationship
between the constituent parts and realise that they are various limbs
of the same organism working toward a common goal. For example,
he must see that marketing cannot work with finance and that serv-
ice quality is heavily dependent on the quality of human resources.
At the third or transformational level the student would be now
using the skill, knowledge and attitudes gained from the first and sec-
ond levels to fashion a path of strategic growth and development of
the business. This is where business experience would be most use-
ful and the entrepreneur-turn-student would now be seeing this ex-
perience through the "lens" of the business training. This is where the
understanding of the business landscape would foster the identifica-
tion of new opportunities within and beyond borders and an under-
standing of the operational requirement to make this opportunity
happen integrates to forge the strategic path of growth. Moreover
the entrepreneur is able to extract himself from the business and see
the business unit as an accumulation of value creating activities. In so
doing he is able to see himself as a manager of activities and be in a
position to know what he can hire others to do and to guide them as
to how to use their time more efficiently to do what they are good at.
By Balraj Kistow
Lecturer and Programme Director, Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business
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