I attended a talk this week called Courageous Conversations, at which Trinidadian Author and Social Entrepreneur Akosua Edwards shared some of her story on transitioning from being an accountant and a Chief Financial Officer to moving to Uganda to help a group of women start an agricultural business after their 27-year civil war. Apart from the Uganda experience, I was amazed at how similar our stories were in terms of moving from the corporate life and being accountants to pursuing the things we are passionate about such as empowering women entrepreneurs and for me, writing.
A lot was said in the short time that we had, but I will share two things that really stood out for me. The first was the plan that Akosua had for what she considered a successful life which included being a chartered accountant, getting a job in a firm in England, returning to Trinidad after seven years and living in a particular kind of house. It was only in Uganda, after everything in her world came crashing down, that she began to redefine what success really was and she was forced to ask herself “Who am I?”. It is important that we define our own success, both in life and business and not allow others to define success for us.
The other thing that made us all laugh but was quite a shift in perspective was a story Akosua told where she was stressing about paying the mortgage on her house in Trinidad while she was in Uganda. In fact, the bank had threatened to foreclose on her house. When she told one of the ladies that she was concerned about the possible foreclosure, the lady couldn’t understand how that was possible. She said if it was her house how could the bank threaten to sell it. Akosua explained that she owed the bank money because she had taken out a mortgage to buy the house. This was a foreign concept to the African way of thinking and she made it clear to Akosua that if she had borrowed money to buy the house, it wasn’t her house, it belonged to the bank. That shifted her perspective and helped her to release the house and tell the bank that they could have it if they wanted it.
How freeing it would be if we did not saddle ourselves with mortgages. I’m sure that the thoughts of many workers who are feeling threatened by the possibility of job losses, in both the private and public sectors, are consumed with “How will I pay my mortgage?” I am not saying that this is not a valid concern but perhaps we need to look at things with a different perspective when we consider taking out mortgages.
I remember when I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad years ago, the author opened my eyes to the fact that our house (or anything else) is only an asset if it is generating revenue, otherwise it is a liability. Granted, you may have more equity in your house than debt but if all you are doing is paying a mortgage and it is not providing any income, it is not an asset. If I remember my accounting correctly, the definition of an asset is an item that generates revenue.
Many Barbadians are beginning to get this concept and there has been an increase in the number of properties becoming a part of Airbnb. Hotels are protesting that the room stock is becoming undervalued and cheapened because of these Airbnb operators. That may be true on one hand but who can fault people, in these hard times, for trying to turn their liabilities into assets and earn some foreign exchange at the same time?
I personally believe that the two can coexist because not everyone will want an Airbnb experience. Those who can afford a luxury villa or a luxury hotel will continue to do so and the hotels which feel that they are competing with the homeowners will be forced to become more competitive by innovating their offerings in some way beyond just a room.
I have tried an Airbnb equivalent at a Bed & Breakfast farm in England and while it was a quaint farm and the concept of eating an English breakfast was great for the first few days, it is not an experience that I care to repeat. I prefer a hotel for the conveniences it offers, and I am sure that many people feel the same way, even if it costs more.
As we brace ourselves for harder times to come in Barbados, it is imperative that we have different perspectives about many things. That may mean looking at the way we live and what we really need, it may mean we need to look at our definition of success and whether it is giving us the best quality of life. We may need to consider if our houses and cars are assets and if they are not, how we can earn revenue from them. How can we use our assets (our gifts, skills and abilities) to earn revenue? It’s time to adopt different perspectives.
Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She was the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014-2016) and is the Barbados Facilitator for the WINC Acceleration Program. She has just released her eleventh book, Vaucluse, which is available on all Amazon stores or contact her to order your copy.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org