Feature: Business Centre Model To Bring Positive Changes To Local SMEs Sector

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Designed to provide a vast array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, the Small Business Development Centre Model (SBDC), which supports business growth as well as the enhancement of new business entities is set to transform the local Small and Medium-Sized enterprise(SMEs) sector.

Currently, with renewed focus being placed on SMEs as a means of combatting the global recession, the Small Business Development Unit (SBDU), which falls under the aegis of the Division of Commerce and Small Business Development, will soon roll out the SBDC Model, which, when it comes to fruition, it is hoped will revolutionise the local SMEs sector to become one of the main drivers of economic recovery, especially in the areas of employment and social development.

After exploring and looking at the way how services were delivered to the small business sector, the Unit???s personnel sought to under study how Americans have been providing services to their own sector, hence, the adoption of the SBDC Model, which the Unit believes will help move Barbados??? SMEs sector to a different level.

Chief Business Development Advisor at the SBDU, Francine Blackman, stated that Barbados, one of six Caribbean countries to adopt the Model, would benefit significantly as they believe some of the rewards reaped by their North American counterparts could be transferred ???to our way of doing things.???

She said: ???Small businesses or persons need to be very clear in terms of who to go to, to access services and the systems that are in place that allow for continuous measurements and continuous assessment of what they are doing in an??effort to make sure they provide their services or the greatest impact to the constituents that they serve, which are small business people??? It was also important that we had a central place that captures information on the small business sector that we don???t currently have.

??????It is through what they are doing and through what we are hoping to use/borrow from them (the Americans) and implement in Barbados to help us improve the viability of our small businesses [and] the sustainability and profitability of these businesses when they go in, because the services then that we do will be more targetted, [and] more specific??? We would be allowing them to get better access to information as we inculcate this culture of doing business to what we do here.???

While noting that a few years ago the Unit would have checked a number of places to find a model that was suitable, the Chief Business Development Advisor also pointed out that they were approached by staff of the US Embassy to review their Model and see if it was something they (the Unit) could utilise.

???We were approached by the US Embassy to look and see what the US was doing because they have a fairly good system over there, hence, why not explore it and see if it was something we could borrow,??? she said, while adding she participated in a two-month fellowship to New York to understudy the Model which also attracted the Organisation of American States (OAS) who were developing a similar programme where they wanted to provide more assistance to the region helping Micro, Small and Medium-Sized enterprises.

???So, they independently of us were also examining the US model and they saw it then from their assessment as one that could be adapted and implemented through the region to help move the SME sector,??? Ms. Blackman explained.

SBDC???s aim is to provide services through professional business advisors, such as the development of business plans; manufacturing assistance; financial packaging and also lending assistance.

And, according to the Chief Business Development Advisor, there are several benefits to utilising this Model, as it would help to streamline, reduce, minimise, and eliminate the level of duplication that currently exists in the delivery of services in this country.

???It would be better deployment of the scarce resources that we have as a country to provide services to the sector. Through this we would also now be moving from a state where we would no longer be saying simply that we assisted three businesses or four businesses or 25 businesses in a year.

???So, we are now moving towards measuring the economic impact of that assistance and, therefore, we are better able to say this has been the return on government???s tax dollars in terms of this level of expenditure of delivery of services to the sector??? What we are trying to do is transition now through this Model to the level where we can measure the economic impact and not simply state statistics that said that we have 100 businesses, but we don???t know what the level of impact has been,??? she clarified.

Although it is early days yet, and the relevant agencies are still undergoing training, there has been significant ???buy-in??? to this particular Model.

??????We would have had an overview of the Model in March 2012 and we invited a number of stakeholders to that interview including not only the [relevant] agencies but other stakeholders such as the commercial banks, the credit unions and so on???We [also] had other consultants who provided their services to small businesses, accountants and so on and the response has been very good ???,???

With the ultimate goal of having stronger and more successful small businesses that not only operate in the local market but expand further afield, it is hoped that by adopting this Model it would help to get Barbados??? SME sector on the right track to achieving these goals, and ultimately foster economic growth and the provision of more jobs.

theresa.blackman@barbados.gov.bb

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