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After my organization hosted the first Small Business Summit in 2009, it was evident that The Bahamas needed a national strategic plan for the development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). However, our country for 38 years, has had a flaw for not developing a practical strategic national plan for anything (crime, economic development, immigration, etc.).
Industry leaders from the professional and medical services; manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries, wholesale merchandising and retail; construction, tourism, hospitality, commercial banks and government indicated during the 2009 Small Business Summit that an Act to developed the SME sector was far overdue.
As a result, a report was developed to identify how this SME could be formulated and implemented in an effective and efficient manner. This report, Act As One: The Importance of Stakeholders' Collaborative Efforts When Developing the Small Business Act of The Bahamas, can be viewed at http://www.markturnquestconsulting.com/Entrepreneurship.html. After consulting with the government, I applaud the Ministry of Finance team for creating the political will to develop the Bahamas SME Development Act and to create a new strategic framework to enhance the productivity level of the sector.
However, there were too many questionable decisions in 2010 on how to perform infrastructural development (mainly the road improvement works) and what formula of tax increases to apply on import duties. I hope that these two decisions will not reduce the effectiveness of the SME Development Act in the future. In 2010, the main focus to stimulate the SME sector should have been to provide incentives and concessions to mitigate the impact of the recession. There was a small window of opportunity to 'stop the bleeding' and it was not taken advantage of; hence, I witnessed hundreds of SME failures and the death of many entrepreneurial dreams. Governments must realize that sometimes negative effects of policy decisions without proper consultations are sometimes irreversible.
My main concern with the formulation process so far is that there has been limited participation by the Act's main stakeholders - SMEs. If this had occurred, then the $7,500 Jump Start Program (grant funding) would not have been given a green light. The grant is not enough and other sources of funding are required by local and international financial institutions to be pooled together to benefit new and existing SMEs.
Other concerns are as follows:
o There should be town meetings with the wider SME community in order to gather information about the major problems and opportunities facing the sector;
o In addition, there needs to be more industry-specific (construction, agriculture, merchandising, hospitality, manufacturing, technical services, tourism, hospitality, fashion design, etc.) discussions, so that local and international issues that affect individual industries could be addressed in the Act.
The formulation process of the SME Development Act needs to be evaluated and corrective measures should take place. I am aware that there were consultations with the Inter-American Development Bank, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation and a few others, but this is not an effective way to develop such an important Act. There needs to be 'inter-stakeholder synergy'; this means that more trade organizations, banks, industry leaders and especially SME owners should be involved in the formulation process before the Act is debated in Parliament.
This inter-stakeholder synergy between the government, NGOs, trade associations, financial institutions, industry leaders and SME owners would align resources and capabilities to craft a SME Act that is meaningful to the sector. Although this Act should not precede a strategic national plan for SME development, it is a good start because our SME sector is lagging behind in competitiveness, globally.
The main policies that must be adapted by key stakeholders when diligently transforming the Act from formulation to implementation are as follows:
I. Ensure that possible amalgamation of Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation (BAIC), Bahamas Development Bank and Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund focuses on leveraging the strengths and correcting the weaknesses of the organizations;
II. The new SME development framework that is being developed must be structured to eliminate financial and non-financial decision making based on political influences. This is the main reason why the Bahamas Development Bank is near bankruptcy;
III. Focus on Family Island development but keep the natural heritage and cultural resources of each island;
IV. Reduce the barriers that make it almost impossible for SMEs to access international funding;
V. Promote and encourage e-commerce activities and remove policies that make opening on-line merchant accounts very difficult;
VI. Adapt public policy tools to SME needs - especially facilitating SME participation in the public procurement process;
VII. Consider creating a Ministry or Department of Commerce to protect the SME sector from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and to develop strategies to improve on its five percent contribution to gross domestic product.
I. Partner with government and international leading institutions to develop comprehensive SME funding scheme (SFS) so that more financial support can be extended to SMEs;
II. The $7,500 grant that is currently being offered to a few SMEs by the government could be used as a down payment so that local and international banks, and private investors could give more meaningful funding in order to prevent business failure due to undercapitalization;
III. Focus on packaging loans extended to SMEs that have built-in accounting management, human resources and marketing support programs at an affordable cost for at least a year.
The Bahamas Chamber Of Commerce and Employers Confederation
I. Focus on providing new SMEs with more market information about various industries. The organization should partner with the College of The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank to perform more market research on the economy of The Bahamas;
II. Become more visible in the SME market (over-the-hill) and remove the perception that the organization only focuses on big businesses;
III. Encourage professional and trade associations and SMEs to become more knowledgeable about the pros and cons of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
I. SMEs must be committed to acting in a socially responsible manner (paying business licenses, NIB, correct custom duties, etc.);
II. SMEs must become knowledgeable about all aspects of their business model (operations, marketing, accounting/finance, human resources, etc.);
III. All SMEs must have sound marketing, management, human resource and accounting systems. SMEs must invest in the Quickbooks Accounting Software; it is an invaluable tool for businesses.
The Bahamian consumer
At the heart of the new Act, there should be the conviction that achieving the best possible framework conditions for SMEs depends first and foremost on society's recognition of entrepreneurs.
Bahamian consumers must support the implementation of the new Act and SME framework to buy authentic Bahamian made products and discourage criminal activities that would negatively affect local SMEs. The Bahamian consumers should understand that vibrant SMEs will make The Bahamas more robust to stand against the uncertainty of business cycles (especially recessions and depressions).
Finally, framers of the initial draft of the Act must consider the following important matters:
I. Ensure that presidents of trade and professionals associations clearly identify problems that their members are experiencing from local regulations and international competitors;
II. Build in major incentives in the Act for entrepreneurial ventures that create innovative products, delivery systems, operational structures and marketing strategies in filmmaking, fashion design, e-commerce, information technology, agriculture, manufacturing, education, software development, art and handicraft;
III. Create added concessions to protect 'socially responsible' SMEs that employ over 25 Bahamians during future recessions;
IV. Provide special assistance to local SMEs that focuses highly on exporting authentic Bahamian products and creative services;
V. Provide regulatory policies to protect the management consultancy sector from unfair and unethical practices that are performed by international service providers.
I hope that the initial draft of SME Development Act is brought to the business community. The government must host a series of town meetings and workshops so that all aspects of this Act could be diligently crafted. My advice to the government is not to dilute the process, but have adequate consultation with SME owners and not to force this Act down the throats of SME owners. The government must understand that this is an important Act and not to delay communicating the contents of it to SMEs throughout The Bahamas.
In addition, members of Parliament must become more involved in the formulation of the Act. They should immediately host meetings and obtain information about the challenges and other issues that SMEs are experiencing in their constituencies. This is important so that they (MPs) can have intellectual debates when discussing this Act in the House of Assembly.
I would like for SMEs to contact me so that we can ensure that this Act is diligently formulated and implemented. To contact me call 326-6748/427-3640 or log on to www.markturnquestconsulting.com.
- Mark A. Turnquest
The Minister of Tourism and Aviation says local carriers are "biting the hand that feeds them" by complaining about the lack of support from the government, insisting it is doing all it can to promote the industry.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told Guardian Business the only way to develop the Family Islands is for local airlines to focus on internal flights, lower their costs and provide a high-quality service - an endeavor he continues to support.
"They don't understand what we are doing on their behalf," he explained.
"They can yell and scream all they want. We believe strongly in developing our local carriers."
The comments follow an ongoing dispute between Skybahamas and Minister of Tourism.
Randy Butler, the CEO of Skybahamas, has been increasingly critical and vocal concerning what he feels is preferential treatment for foreign carriers now offering direct flights to a variety of destinations in the Family Islands.
Vision Air, for example, is now offering $1 direct flights from several U.S. locations, which have been made possible through partnerships with the government and private stakeholders on the islands.
Gulfstream International, which is also in the process of ramping up its flights ahead of the winter season, has also benefited from government collaboration.
Vanderpool-Wallace said one of the major stumbling blocks preventing local carriers from effectively providing direct service from the U.S. is the Global Distribution System (GDS).
Most local carriers, he said, are not on this database to facilitate easy travel between airports and locations.
Meanwhile, the government has supported various initiatives to promote domestic travel to the islands for local carriers, he pointed out, including the buy-one-get-one-free offers.
On the whole, Butler said the companion deal is not effective when promoting their business.
High hotel costs and food prevent many Bahamians from travelling to the family islands, making the promotion less appealing.
"There is a nearsightedness and a lack of strategic planning for the whole industry," he felt.
In regards to the GDS, "investment in that makes no sense", he added. With the proliferation of the internet, he said there was no excuse in terms of the visibility of the airline and the services it offers.
"Fact number two," he said, "is if you're promoting the foreign airlines to go directly to the Family Islands, there is no room for domestic carriers. Why would we invest in it? It would only make sense if they all came to Nassau and then we distributed them to the Family Islands."
With this in mind, Butler argued that focusing on domestic service to the Family Islands was not a practical or lucrative piece of the aviation pie.
Another bone of contention is the licensing of foreign carriers.
Last week, Guardian Business revealed two foreign carriers lacked the proper certification to advertise their fares ahead of the winter season - a fact that was confirmed by the Department of Aviation.
Ormond Russell, the operations officer, said airlines should have this licensing before advertising fares.
Responding to the apparently discrepancy, Vanderpool-Wallace said it's "normal" for the carriers to advertise ahead of certification and an "asterisk was missed somewhere".
Since the report, the minister said one airline had received its certification and the other had signed a promotional agreement.
As Routes Americas 2012 comes to an end, the Minister of Tourism and Aviation has identified more than a dozen airlines with great potential for The Bahamas.
The major event at Atlantis was the first time the country has played host, and only the second time it has ever been held in the Caribbean.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told Guardian Business the hope is to aggressively pursue the hundreds of millions of prospective tourists right in the country's back door - Latin America. While some stakeholders might have daily direct service on their lips from Panama, the minister is thinking bigger.
He believes twice daily service could soon become a reality.
"Panama is a wonderful hub," he said.
"So many countries in South America can connect through there. So I believe we are still only scratching the surface, in terms of cultivating centers such as Brazil or Columbia. We want to see them become non-stop service, or perhaps go through Panama."
Of the 60 airlines in attendance at Routes Americas 2012, TAM Airlines, the national carrier of Brazil, was indeed in attendance.
"There are at least 15 airlines we want to arrange service with to The Bahamas," he added.
"The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation has been putting packages together for these airlines, as we did with Copa Airlines, in an effort to create public/private partnerships. We all go at this together. It's our hallmark."
Vanderpool-Wallace reported strong support from the hundreds of delegates for the redevelopment of Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA). In that sense, he felt Routes Americas couldn't be better timed.
The minister said he was encouraged by the steady presence of U.S. carriers, and new faces such as Allegiant Air and Alaska Airlines. He told Guardian Business the U.S. market seems to be recovering, and in particular, the country needs to consider unconventional routes as well. JetBlue, for example, started flying out of a domestic airport in Westchester late last year.
He envisioned Allegiant and Alaska Airlines could follow a similar pattern.
"Preclearance brings up an incredible competitive advantage. We'll look at those markets that are quite affluent and provide non-stop service," Vanderpool-Wallace said. "So we potentially have more non-stop markets of this nature than anywhere else in the region."
For starters, the minister is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Delta Airlines, which will be restarting its direct flights from New York on March 2.
The Bahamas should see more than 50,000 additional visitors this year, as Delta Airlines has reinstated its daily direct flight from LaGuardia Airport into Nassau.
The decision by Delta marks the return of an essential artery for tourism, according to Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.
During Friday's inaugural flight, Vanderpool-Wallace pointed out that the Greater New York area is the single most important market for The Bahamas.
It was in March 2010 when Delta Airlines discontinued its service to Nassau from LaGuardia.
He reflected on the airline's past successes in the country and welcomed it back to The Bahamas.
"In the last full year which Delta flew directly to Nassau from LaGuardia, 189,911 passengers landed in The Bahamas from New York, making it the number one North American city from which visitors came to The Bahamas," Vanderpool-Wallace explained.
He added: "New York remains The Bahamas' top producer and certainly for Nassau and Paradise Island as most of those 190,000 passengers flew to Nassau/Paradise Island."
The new service into Nassau is expected to bring 1,000 additional seats on a weekly basis.
Delta's Specialty Sales General Manager Norma Dean told Guardian Business that based on the inaugural flights and early bookings,
this service is already looking strong and is on par with the airline's Atlanta service.
The flight can accommodate 155 passengers, 14 in first class and 141 in coach. Dean said the airline expects an 80 percent load factor, on average.
"Nassau lies within the 1,500 mile perimeter of New York. We are able to offer New Yorkers the paradise of an international destination and conversely offer Bahamian passengers the convenience of connecting to over 60 cities in the United States," she shared.
"In New York, you will see plans for major expansion underway. Delta is investing over $100 million in major infrastructure upgrade to that airport. By summer, we will have over 100 new flights and we are pleased to start the ball rolling with the Nassau, Bahamas flight."
Kerzner International (Bahamas) President and Managing Director George Markantonis noted this service is a win-win situation for all.
"For us, LaGuardia is huge. This brings in the section of the country that is 90 percent of the traffic into our businesses because the country's survival is based on the opportunities that are available for those people to get to Nassau and by extension the Family Islands," Markantonis said.
Baha Mar's President Don Robinson believes that airlift is a critical component to the success of the multi-billion-dollar project.
"I think in a few short years, when Baha Mar starts opening up and you start to see the brands of the Grand Hyatt, the Rosewood and the Morgan's, and the additional several thousand hotel rooms that will be coming online, airlift will be a critical component of that project," Robinson said.
The non-stop flight from LaGuardia into Nassau operates daily and began on March 2.
The new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium has impressed International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) officials so far. Press liaison for the organization, Anna Legniani, as well as Stefan Phies, who is the director of event media services for the Local Organizing Committee, recently toured the new stadium and are pleased with the media set up as well as the overall development of the stadium.
Phies also traveled all the way from Germany to work with Olympic gold medalist Tonique Williams-Darling who will serve as the event media services director for the upcoming relays.
"They were here for a press site visit, looking at all of the facilities that we have set up for them and to review the procedures to take when the press comes to town. They expressed that they were very pleased with the way we have progressed, seeing how the IAAF has such high standards and we are meeting those standards," said Bahamas World Relays Communications Director Earl Thompson.
The IAAF is one of the largest governing bodies of track and field in the world, and building up the stadium to meet its tough standards now could also prove to be helpful down the line, in terms of attracting big events to the country.
"They make sure that the press tribune is of a high quality, they also look to make sure that the mix zone is properly constructed and that the press can easily gain access to it and that it has all the amenities that they need," Thompson said.
Some of the other things that they looked for were Wi-Fi Internet access, copier access as well as properly constructed camera placement areas that are of high quality.
Not only is the press tribune being built up to standard, but also the rest of the renovations to the stadium and surrounding areas are coming along swiftly. Everything looks to be falling in line with the time frame that was given.
"The overall stadium development is going quite well, the track repaving is going well and they are doing renovations to the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium now. Also renovations to the pool area of the Betty Kelly Kenning National Swimming Complex have commenced and are going quite well," said Thompson.
"Everything that needs to be done is being done on a timely basis. The drive up to the warm up track is being redone. We are coming along nicely and everything looks like it will be completed in time for the World Relays."
The refurbished stadium will be judged not only by the IAAF next month, but also by thousands from all over the world.
Tickets sales have been going well so far, the ticketing office has been busy since the passes went on sale, and that does not include those who purchased tickets online.
"Sales have gone exceptionally well, especially if you consider the standards by which Bahamians buy tickets, this is unprecedented. Bahamians have always waited until the last minute to buy tickets; we have sold well over 6,000 tickets," said Thompson.
"All of the gold tickets are now sold out, most of the silver tickets are gone and a considerable amount of the bronze tickets are gone. So this is amazing seeing the way that things were done in the past."
THE proposed construction of a therapeutic swimming pool for persons with disabilities by the Pilot Club of Nassau and a facility for post school-aged persons with special needs by the government on nearby sites on Gladstone Road should provide opportunities for mutual activities, Social Services and Community Affairs Minister Melanie Griffin said last week.
Branding was the conference theme that drew business principals
and owners from the Christie’s Great Estates network to Toronto this week. Affiliates, such as the affiliate for the Bahamas John Christie of HG Christie Ltd., previewed the network’s global expansion strategy, viewed the company’s new Web site to be rolled out publically by year’s end, and learned how to better utilize the resources of the parent company, Christie’s, to build business through art and real estate introductions.
Employment opportunities for Bahamian seafarers abound, a maritime industry expert said yesterday, with healthy growth in that industry dependent on conscious efforts to improve training, development and forge better linkages with key industries.
Chandler Sands cruised into the 2011 Nassau Conference at the British Colonial Hilton to talk to financial services industry professionals about the financial opportunities in the maritime industry yesterday. The managing director of shipping technical management company Campbell Shipping listed many of the natural advantages The Bahamas has in the maritime industry, but said that more effort needs to go into other ways to improve The Bahamas' value proposition.
"Sometimes the advantages that we have that are not man-made are not investigated significantly enough," according to Sands. "Today Denmark remains one of the few countries where maritime education has been readily available and the institutions in Denmark have become models for institutions around the world. Can The Bahamas do this? Can The Bahamas produce a similar framework?
"Sure we can."
The training and development of Bahamians is a key area to grow the benefits that accrue to the broader economy and society from the maritime industry, according to Sands. He envisioned an additional 1,500 good-paying jobs created for Bahamians over the next 15 years. Most of those would be for seafarers -- Bahamians who would work on ships flying a Bahamian flag, either in the engineering or deck and navigation area.
"There are increasing numbers of opportunities for qualified Bahamian seafarers," Sands said. "The challenge is qualifying seafarers."
Beginning in September, acquiring the requisite Bachelor's degree to get started will be more accessible for Bahamians. The College of The Bahamas (COB) will be offering three joint Bachelor's degree programs with the State University of New York (SUNY), Sands said. Under the program, students would complete 3 semesters at COB, four at SUNY, and the final semester back at COB. Graduates typically can start out making around $3,800 per month, he said.
Illustrating the employment opportunities, Sands gave some statistics relevant to Campbell Shipping, which he said employed 25 persons in Nassau, 12 in India, 40 Bahamian seafarers, and accessed a pool of 70 Filipino and 650 Indian seafarers. Bahamians could fill positions presently going to the international seafarer pools the company uses.
The COB/SUNY partnership should make securing the seafarer training more affordable, according to Sands, who said his company is working to help recruit 25 students for enrolment in the September program.
Sands, who has extensive experience in the financial services industry, said that more 'clustering' among the maritime, financial services and tourism industries would serve them all well. He cited an example of two significant shipowners in Nassau, one of whom he said was the number one shipowner in the world, but had never had a ship dry-dock at the Grand Bahama shipping facilities.
"There is something wrong with the way we do business," Sands said. "We do not think cluster."
Existing and developed skills in the financial services industry for developing a regulatory framework, policies, procedures and contingency plans, for example, could also be harnessed, according to Sands. While the maritime industry may currently be deficient in these areas, he said the requisite skills sets are readily available in the financial services industry. Institutions could market such services to the industry, Sands said.
Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius. - Fulton J. Sheen.
Irrespective of industry, organization or sector you talk to managers and staff and the cry is the same: Mediocre performers have been allowed to remain in positions year after year, stagnating organizational growth and suffocating genius. Complaints are levied at employees and customers voice their frustration, yet nothing changes. Why? Because no one wants to be the "bad guy" . Nobody wants to pull the trigger. Nobody wants to have the tough conversation, sadly no one has the guts to give the mediocre employee a simple ultimatum - grow or go!
But why not? Why are managers afraid to give the ultimatum? Could it be that they have somehow contributed to this madness? Absolutely! Many managers have become enablers, and if you want your organization to grow these managers need to be arrested.
How do managers contribute to mediocrity in organizations?
1. They hire warm bodies verses the right individual for the job. Sadly this is a dilemma recruitment managers face everyday.
Door number one: Quickly hire someone, anyone, as long as he/she is breathing to fill the position before the board, or senior managers decide to freeze or worst eliminate the position all together. Or door number two: Take the time to search for, train and let's not forget appropriately compensate the right individual to fill the position. Most hiring managers seem to opt for door number one and in their desperation for a quick hire find themselves stuck with one of three types of warm bodies:
The monkey - often referred to as "the ideal person for you" by the manager of the department trying to "pass the monkey". This individual is introduced to the hiring manager as a "gift", with no regard as to whether or not the monkey possesses the right skills and competencies to function in the new role.
The cruiser - this individual possesses the right skills and competencies to fill the position, but has no interest or passion for the role. Their main objective is to "cruise" in an easier role, wait for retirement, escape from his or her current manager/team members or to take advantage of some new freedom/incentive that this position may offer.
The directionless - this individual starts out as the right person for the job. He/she possesses the right skills and competencies, but soon becomes derailed since the organization has no clear infrastructure or strategy to help this individual succeed. The right individual may be on the bus, but after the first thirty days without basic office supplies (a computer, telephone, business cards etc.) do you really expect this individual to succeed?
Wouldn't it be better to opt for door number two and begin the recruitment process with a clearly defined strategy for the position, a strategy that begins with an actionable and accountable job description that allows you to hire for talent and train for skill?
2. Only hiring people they "can manage". Managers claim to want a self-directed, empowered team when what they really want is people who will not rock the boat, people who will not shake the organizational power structure, people who don't know how to think, ultimately people they can control. This is the breeding ground for mediocrity since under these conditions "A level" employees soon jump ship.
3. Lie on employees' performance appraisals - managers who hate confrontation, who want to be everyone's friend, or who may have already blinked out themselves and can't be bothered, grade everyone as fabulous! Four out of four, excellent, excellent. Obviously employees cannot fix a problem that doesn't exist!
4. Failing to set high performance standards in their department - if you've read Jim Collins' book "Good To Great" you know that "good is the enemy of great". If you want your team members to be superstars then you will have to push off the bench! Set high standards of excellence, build in accountability and ensure that every employee knows that there is a consequence for failing to perform at the expected standard. Don't accept excuses for mediocrity. Let's say that a particular job requires an advanced proficiency of Excel, however, the person in the position only has a basic understanding of Excel. They can add columns and texts but cannot create formulas. They promise to enroll in a course but they never do. In the meantime you continuously make excuses for the employee and find ways to work around the deficiency instead of having the "you need to enroll in a course or I will transfer you out of this department" conversation. That employee will always be the weak link and a burden to others in the department, and because there is no consequence for non-performance he/she will never strive to be a continuous learner.
5. When managers themselves do nothing to grow, they "lead" by example - managers lead by example whether good or bad. If you are a manager and you have done absolutely nothing to perfect or enhance your skills within the last 6 months, you're not growing. If you're not growing you have nothing new to bring to the table. Your lack of growth stagnates your team, kills your creativity, and sends a clear message to your staff that mediocrity is acceptable.
A word to the highly skilled, forever operating in excellence, but suffocating in a pool of mediocrity
I saw a quote the other day that read, "In the republic of mediocrity, genius is dangerous". This is so true! If you're an "A" employee asking "but Stacia, how long will it take for these managers/organizations to realize that when they refuse to give the 'grow or go' ultimatum, they are really doing a disservice to their employees and killing the organization?" I say don't hurt your head for the answer; you'll be long gone by then!
Stacia Williams offers keynotes, workshops and personal coaching on a wide range of: Personal Branding, Image Management, Customer Service, Leadership, Business Etiquette & International Protocol Topics. You can contact Stacia Williams at 325-5992 or email Stacia@totalimagemanagement.com or visit staciawilliamsblog.com.