COESL head: Change is good, but must be well-managed

MANAGED change is good. If we can turn the challenges into opportunities, entrepreneurs can thrive.

This is the view of Managing Director of the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (COESL), Dr. Marcia Brandon, who notes that many entrepreneurs have been hard-hit by COVID-19.

Dr. Brandon, who has been a voice for entrepreneurs in Barbados and across the region for several years, said there is a new type of business emerging as a result of the pandemic, which is seeing more businesses moving their services online.

“Post COVID-19, more MSMEs will opt to work from home. They will not have a choice, as they might not be able to afford two sets of rent.”

In fact, she recalled that in 2016, COESL as a social entrepreneur was “broke” and had to undergo significant changes.

“We could no longer afford a building. The Board decided we had to move. We went virtual and in this time, we realised that we were ahead of the game. We always used technology and so we have not been disadvantaged in this time at all.”

Dr. Brandon acknowledged however that other concerns come with operating from home including security, confidentiality and policy decisions, which impact on where you can conduct which type of businesses from.

“One of the advantages of working virtually, depending on the product one has, is that there are no borders and entrepreneurs can reach the globe. I have always said that many of our entrepreneurs do not use the internet as the tool it could be for business. I am hoping that this will change and that we will see entrepreneurs fully utilizing this medium and making a living wage.”

The entrepreneurship expert believes that in this time of change, en-trepreneurs should be focused on personal and professional retooling.

“Entrepreneurs should always be learning, unlearning and relearning. Our people in general should be, because more than ever we need thinkers, not arrogant, seemingly intelligent talkers, but real thinkers, who can look at something and find a way to get it done, fast and efficient and look out for the most vulnerable in our society.

“Those are the people we need. We need intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial people. Entrepreneurs can use the time to look for new partners and develop existing products or even pivot.”

She said that while pivoting is not a bad move for entrepreneurs to make, they must also focus on balance.

“Our entrepreneurship landscape will change. We will have leaner organisational structures, which means more cross-functional roles. Entrepreneurs who are operating virtually need governance structures in place, policies, to guide how they do things.

“For example, how does one work from home? Telephone etiquette, use of camera on computer, all of those are things to consider to guide the standards in a business. If MSME entrepreneurs do not have these already, it is now time to learn from this and take the time to create crisis protocols and preventive action items for the future.

“During this time, entrepreneurs’ actions will determine who they are and maybe even how they are viewed after this ends,” Dr. Brandon opined.

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