April 7, 2006

Edward Harris At Large:


Sometimes I wonder why life has to be so hectic. Just when I am supposed to be slowing down and getting out of the fast lane, I find myself in the midst of things that test my physical and mental abilities. Is it the 80/20 rule or the 4% rule that is at work? It appears that a few of us who find ourselves in the 20% or the 4% will have to keep on the highway continuously driving at 100 kilometers per hour. Life in the fast lane is real, especially when it comes to doing business in the 21st century.

It can no longer be business as usual, today it is business unusual where you don’t sit and wait for things to happen you make it happen. To be a player and score boundaries you have step out of your crease and venture out. How does one prepare for the game of business? Today, more than any other time, the role of associations in informing and educating their membership is vital. I just cannot stand idly by and do not get involved in associations even though involvement in such activities could be demanding and take strong commitment. More of us need to think this way and commit to assist the leadership of organizations to give quality leadership and representation, not only to their membership but the community at large.

Management committees need to be expanded by co-opting additional members so that there will always be persons available to help with the work load. Associations are under pressure to find committed members, everyone is busy. This situation exposes a serious problem that needs to be fixed. Most business people have expanded beyond there physical/financial capacity and are stretched out. Most businesspersons have multiple businesses so that they can balance off their financial commitment. In many instances in trying to do more, their returns are less and time management becomes a problem. They find themselves outing one fire after the other and become busier than the fire service which is very active these days.

The private sector associations need to help business persons to be able to be selective in their business ventures. Rather than keep adding non viable businesses ventures to their companies, rationalize existing businesses and don’t be afraid to quit and move on. There are many new areas of business to be found. I cannot emphasise enough, the need for businesspeople to attend trade fairs as a means of getting new ideas, internet searches for new ideas can be a starting point but going and seeing what’s new on the market is a serious motivating factor.

I was in Trinidad for a day this week and a young man took me and my associate around for the entire day. He is in the Electronic Security Business which he boasts to be the best in the world. He has an impressive list of clients in Trinidad and Tobago and is now expanding throughout the region. He successfully negotiated the distributorship for the entire region. A few weeks ago a big businessman in Trinidad offered the manufacturer of the products a substantial amount of money to take over the Distributorship but the young man has his deal all sealed up in writing. During our conversations, at one stage, over lunch I was moved to ask him the question, how did you put this deal together? His answer was, he walked into it. I said how? His explanation was that he is the Manager for his brother, who is involved in a popular sport which originated in Asia and while attending a tournament in Taiwan, he walked into a building where a demonstration of the product was taking place and it attracted his interest and the rest is history. He walked into a deal of a lifetime. At the tender age of 30, he is on his way to making a fortune and at least 15 other persons will share in his success as he appoints distributors throughout the region. Our young people are the future. In business this is very true. Technology is key. Those who are exposed to technology and are serious could be big winners. However, this success calls for a mind set and here is where private sector associations have a role to play if only to sensitise potential and existing Entrepreneurs about the opportunities that are available. Stop being copy cats. Go out there and create your own space.

I had the privilege of being involved with the Management Committee of the St. Lucia Industrial and Small Business Association last weekend as we prepared the Association’s Strategic Plan for the next 5 years. It was two days of going back to school as the Consultant wanted to ensure that the Association takes ownership of the document. At the end of it all, I was very impressed with the young lady’s approach to her assignment and feel that SLISBA when presented with the document will be firmly on a part to fulfilling the needs I referred to earlier in this article and much more.

On Tuesday, 4/4/06 at the invitation of the Ministry of Commerce, Tourism, Investment and Consumer Affairs I attended a meeting at the Cara Suites Hotel in Castries that was convened to discuss the strengthening of linkages between the Tourism sector and those of Agriculture and Manufacturing. For several years now there has been an ongoing battle to get the tourism sector to engage the other productive sectors of the economy. Apart from Sandals which has demonstrated its seriousness in establishing a relationship with farmers to the point of employing a full time Agriculture Specialist to ensure that a group of farmers provide their hotels with agricultural produce on a consistent basis, much has not been achieved.

However, things are about to change. It was heartening to note the remarks made by the President of the newly launched St. Lucia Chamber of Agriculture and the St. Lucia Agriculturists Association, and Executive Member of the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association where the SLHTA now has a committee headed by him to look into the needs of hotels for locally produced products. A scientific approach is now being undertaken to match hotel needs with production. I believe that the real issue is prices paid for locally produced goods, especially agricultural crops. An industry can only be sustained if it is viable. So price will be the deciding factor. I feel confident that with Mr. Cuthbert Phillips driving the process and the renewed commitment by the facilitators, better days are ahead.

Here is some special news for those who have an interest in their health and are concerned about the deadly HIV-AIDS. You no longer have to worry about confidentiality with regards to getting tested, you can now in three (3) minutes test yourself in the privacy of your own space. It is as simple as a blood sugar test. This product is now available in the Caribbean and soon in St. Lucia.

After a hectic week, it is time to relax and if you missed the Gala Opening of the one man play “The Last of the Redmen” by Dr. Michael Gilkes on Friday 7/4/06, you can join me on Saturday or Sunday evening at 7.00pm at the Folk Research Centre at Mount Pleasant in Castries. The play is hosted jointly by the Guyana St. Lucia Association and the Jubilee Trust Fund. Tickets EC$40.00.

Keep the Faith. God is in charge!!!

Ed Harris

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