Local business operators are being told to stop complaining and start trying to figure out how to improve their business ideas when they are not able to get a loan from a financial institution.
Internationally known Caribbean innovator Dr Nicholas Brathwaite dished out this piece of advice this evening as he took part in the Central Bank’s Billion Dollar Dreams Forum at the Frank Collymore Hall.
Responding to questions during an interactive session, the entrepreneur, who is the co-founder of private equity investment firm Riverwood Capital, said one of the “big mistakes” that some entrepreneurs made was not focusing on one idea.
“Thinking big in a start-up has some risks. You have to think big and you have to aim big, but you have to realize that you can’t just get there overnight,” said Brathwaite.
“You dominate in one thing, then you go dominate in another thing, and you dominate in another thing. Then you become a billion dollar business by building that way,” he said.
Brathwaite said the region had a number of business and societal issues that needed to be addressed given suggestions that many people were too risk averse and when it came to financial institutions investing in businesses that were deemed risky.
However, he warned that “we are not going to fix that by me coming and talking about it and by people complaining about it. This is the environment we live in, you have two choices. You can leave this environment and go to another environment or you are going to have to try and figure out how to work in this environment.
“I have never met a whining entrepreneur. Not a successful one. If you spend all your time whining and complaining then it is less time you spend trying to prove that what you can do you can actually do,” he further cautioned.
Acknowledging that all entrepreneurs had challenges but many of them were successful because they focused and committed, Brathwaite said speaking to one or two banks and then complaining about not getting funding was not good enough.
“Until you talk to every single bank don’t come and tell me that you can’t get a loan. Because you talk to two banks and then you give up,” he said.
“So it is hard work. It is hard work not just here in Barbados. It may be harder here but it hard work everywhere . . . So don’t go out there thinking that because you believe in your idea everybody else is going to believe. You have to keep telling your story, keep refining your story, start developing things, write quotes and show people, get examples and keep working on them and eventually you can get somebody [to invest],” he advised, adding that no idea “have the right to be funded” because the owner thought it was “a great idea”.
“Sometimes we have to realize that maybe the time is not right or the idea is not right,” he said.
Brathwaite also advised that it was critical that entrepreneurs, local and regional investors help to “create the right environment” that would attract international investors.
“Create examples of some companies that people will say, ‘wow, look at what is coming out of the Caribbean, maybe we need to pay attention’. In order to get that we are going to have to focus initially on trying to get friends of the Caribbean and Caribbean people to invest,” he said.
“There is work to be done. I don’t think anybody should think there is an easy fix by giving speeches and talking crap. There is real work that has to be done to fix this problem,” he said.