Bahamian Business Must Adapt To Survive

Tuesday 24th, July 2012 / 09:11 Published by

Bahamas Chamber Institute

There are any number of variables adversely affecting the success of businesses in the Bahamas. Perhaps chief among these is our inability to execute a thorough, strategic plan in the infancy stages that will, in a visionary way, chart the baby steps to steady growth and stability. The planning process begins with conducting necessary market research designed to open the eyes of the budding business person.

We often casually hear persons touting that if you want to hide something from a Bahamian, you should write it down or put it in a book. Historically, we relied heavily on the oral tradition and, save for a few brave souls, never thought to write and properly document the history, customs and culture of our people. Story-telling became revered as a form of Bahamian cultural expression because there was very little commitment to writing.

Somehow, we have transferred this fear of documentation into our work and corporate lives. Business persons throughout the Bahamas are comfortable ‘doing business’ without conducting the research and studying the marketplace to determine the feasibility of providing goods and services in any given locale. The evidence is that less than 40 per cent of businesses in the Bahamas have documented their vision, mission and core value statements.

Worse still, a significantly lower number of businesses have not thought to orientate their employees to these critical and foundational statements. More evidence…less than one quarter (25 per cent) of businesses in the Bahamas are conducting business without a business plan (formal or informal), or written standard operating procedures for crucial functions in the operation. Most argue that this is an unnecessary waste of paper and valuable ‘work’ time.

Our situation is perhaps even more dire than this. The average business person with some acumen might ask: “Where do I find this body of research that helps me understand the local economy, market trends, the industry sector, my competitors and customers?” There seems to be an absence of clear, quantitative and qualitative data anywhere to assist clear decision-making for the business person. How many organisations have seriously engaged in assisting businesses conduct relevant research that will lead to accelerated growth and business development?

Further to this, we are seemingly not making strides in adopting a culture where we value research and move our organisation in the direction it leads. We have become comfortable with happenstance. While this may have worked for many two generations ago, we see a clear enough trend in the drastic decline in the life cycle of the small and medium-sized business to indicate that a paradigm shift is necessary. Someone has to address the gaping wound. We cannot afford for 1,500-plus businesses to close their doors of operation every year in this country. Companies need to enter and remain in business equipped with information that keeps them viable, vibrant and competitive.

How do we get the message to the business community that we must do things differently if we are to survive the peril of recession, competition, shifting trends and market uncertainty? The holy writ warns that people perish for lack of knowledge. If we continue to reject the golden nuggets of knowledge we find in market research, then our fate is sealed.

During the months of July and August, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation is seeking to conduct necessary, groundbreaking research in Human Resources and Labour. Call 322-2145 to find out how you can participate and benefit from this initiative.

By Ian Ferguson
Chamber of Commerce

Ian R. Ferguson was educated locally, regionally and internationally, having earned a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Miami. During the course of his nearly 20 years in education, talent management and human resources, he has served both the public and private sector in senior management roles. He currently serves as manager of the Chamber Institute, and as a local consultant in the field, having assisted hundreds of local and regional businesses in improving business and service excellence through their human capital.

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