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‘Caribbean businesses need to get in habit of networking’

‘Caribbean businesses need to get in habit of networking’


If Caribbean businesses do not get into the habit of networking, partnering and sharing information, a big franchise from the United States will eventually come into the region, forcing numerous small businesses to close.

“Instead of partnering and sharing information, we tend to put everyone down and that does not allow industry to grow,” says Neysha Soodeen,{{more}} chief executive officer (CEO) of MACO Investment Group and the founder, owner and managing director of Toute Bagai Publishing Company (publishers of MACO Magazines and other Caribbean publications).

“…And if we continue to not help each other, some Walgreens from the States is going to come in and put us out of business and we are going to end up working for them. So, we have to push whatever industry you are in together and share information. I do not mean share secrets, but work together to solve certain problems.”

Soodeen was in St Vincent and the Grenadines on November 19, as a guest of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Chamber of Industry and Commerce (SVGCIC). She spoke at a business luncheon at Beachcombers Restaurant in Villa, under the theme, ‘Re-inventing your business using modern day tools’.

She said that in the Caribbean, we hate competition and that is something that we have to change, while we also have to change the attitude where we “step on one another.”

“Competition is good, we all need it, we hate it in the Caribbean but it will push a company to strive for more, to be better and that will translate into more revenue. Competition moves an industry in an upward trajectory.”

Addressing a wide cross-section of business people, Soodeen said that to survive in this modern era of business, companies have to reinvent themselves, while looking at practical and innovative ways to boost sales.

She said that the Caribbean is still lingering in a recession and companies are simply not growing, except for a handful that are exploiting their market and taking advantage of opportunities, whether in their island, out of their island, or out of the region.

Soodeen said in order to grow, one must realize that, “opportunity does not knock, it sits there waiting to be yanked and what a better time to yank than right now,” as in the region, many companies are going into bankruptcy, thus creating opportunities for expansion by other companies.

According to Soodeen, the thinking is that when one company dies, that can mean gains for another company, while a company cutting back on capital investment and marketing can allow the opportunity for brand enforcement and gains in market share by other companies.

She noted also that talented human capital are being made unemployed for the sake of cost savings and this is creating an excellent opportunity for businesses to upgrade their human resources at a reduced cost.

The entrepreneur said that while it is a huge stride to expand or start a business in these unpredictable economic times, “rewards are rarely found at the end of a path that’s most used and travelled on.”

According to Soodeen, reinventing and promoting a business can be done by advertising. She said that by advertising during a recession, great things can happen.

“Advertising during hard times is down; therefore you guys can barter for cheaper ad rates,” said Soodeen, who explained that when companies lower their advertising, there is less clutter, so ads that are actually in, are going to stand out.

“Less advertising mean your ads are going to pop out. When competitors cut advertising budget, now is the best time to promote your brand,” said Soodeen.

Soodeen, who is a former model and cancer survivor, also spoke about networking, stressing that she is a firm believer that “is not what you know, is who you know.”

“It’s about learning and listening and we all have to remember that there are people out there who know more than we do.”

She stressed that we must track competition, while to be successful we must see changes in customers’ needs and create the next basis of competition, even as we exploit existing business that have not yet peaked.

“One must be able to adapt to the changing times and keep adapting. We have to adapt to changing technology, newer trends, and to the changing economic times,” said the entrepreneur, who thinks also that human resource loyalty and empowerment is extremely important, as an entrepreneur is only as good as his or her staff and a company is only as good as its staff.

“Without amazing human resource, your company will suffer and thus you have to empower staff to be loyal. You have to be out, growing your business, not micro managing staff. Don’t berate your staff; that can hurt your company. Work with them and that empowers them, as staff refuse to make decisions if they are scared.”

The luncheon was sponsored by LIME and Scotiabank. Presentations were made by both sponsors, while a representative from the Cave Hill School of Business also spoke.