Government Can Do More To Enable The Environment For Small Business Enterprises
Our precious four acres of Inch Marlow has felt more like the United Nations over the last week with guests from Lithuania, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, United States, Canada, United Kingdom and for the first time, Uruguay.
It’s a far cry from 1988, when we purchased a then derelict Arawak Inn and spent just about everything we had in the world, transforming seventeen separate buildings into a functional hotel. I graphically remember a prominent Barbadian hotelier telling me soon after we moved here, almost with glee, that ‘we were never going to make it with just 22 rooms’. While dejected at the time, I am really glad now that I didn’t take a blind bit of notice of him.
Also the lectures from bank managers telling us that we were undercapitalised or overtrading!
Two decades later, after many financial institutions around the world virtually self imploded, those same bastions of financial prudence are either out of a job or somewhat muted.
What kept us going against the perceived odds?
Largely it was our incredibly loyal guests, who in the initial stages put up with our less than luxurious surroundings. But they came back (and still do) year after year and their support enabled us to improve and enhance with every repeat visit.
Secondly, it was a small group of locals, and in particular, individuals like Sir Fred Gollop, Peter Marshall the late Sir Harold St. John and Peter Morgan. ‘Bree’ if I may respectfully refer to him, was often a daily visitor and gave us words of support and encouragement. There was no political agenda or voting mileage to be gained. He would kick off his shoes, enjoy a cup of tea and we would share our joint passion for tourism.
There have been several milestones along the way that have helped shape where we are today. I recall one period when with an empty hotel, our agreed overdraft limit had been reached and there was no money to purchase supplies. My wife and I spent the night sticking-in trading stamps from a leading supermarket and that gave us the means to fund a bar-b-q we operated on Sundays. 50 people turned up and that was one of the defining moments that enabled us to remain solvent.
What prompted these revelations at this time, was a statement by the Governor of the Central Bank that the ‘unemployment rate has risen to about 11 per cent of our workforce’.
I firmly believe, as many others do, that it will be primarily small businesses that lead us out of the global economic recession. Frankly, we could easily employ another two or three persons, but it is finding the right employees with the attitude to help us grow the business. Government must be the facilitator to ensure this happens with an enabling environment. Small businesses that do succeed should not be slowed down with bureaucratic red tape and I think its time that our policymakers take another close look at some of the so called ‘incentives’.
Let them start with the Barbados Small Business Development Act and ask these two questions: how many organisations have applied and what is the average approval time?