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Creating opportunity in turbulent times

Published: 
Thursday, March 9, 2017

While the term “globalisation” may have been conjuring up negative images in some quarters recently—considering the UK’s Brexit vote and a slew of unsettling events in the US—it is, in fact, quite a natural phenomenon. Globalisation occurs over time and in different forms and history is replete with examples of how trade among nations has shaped societal changes and built economies.

Similarly, one can be expect that economic downturns will occur cyclically, very often resulting in the reshaping the business landscape in the process. From all indications, this is the point at which T&T now stands today, that is, in a period of adjustment. With a weakened global market for our petrochemical products that has driven both our energy and non-energy sectors for more than half a decade, this country is faced with two options: diversify or be damned.

The current economic circumstances have invariably caused many business operators to seriously ponder upon their future survival. As a leading business services organisation, the T&T Chamber recognises the critical role it must play in equipping members with the tools, information and tangible support to make it in the “new normal”. Naturally, that support extends far beyond our membership, into the wider national community, through the very essence of the work we do.

While it might not be possible to completely avoid the effects of an economic downturn, it is possible to buffer the effects upon your business. Of course, this will call for proper planning, risk-taking, creativity and a willingness to shift gears and change course. With the right mix of these ingredients, we believe it will be possible for businesses to not only survive, but thrive.

But how can this be effected?

Many of us are familiar with fact that the Chinese word for “crisis” also has a nuanced reference to “opportunity”, thereby giving rise to the idea that there is opportunity in crisis. One strategy that has worked for several companies is to continue investing, even during a period of economic decline.

Willingness to take risks is often cited as a strategy for success. However, in many instances, this risk is not just a “gut feeling” but one founded upon thorough and extensive research and development (R&D). Investing in R&D is, therefore, a very useful strategy in an economic downturn, and partnerships between established companies and start-ups can be a rewarding experience. And, for individuals with a start-up product or service, as well as established operations looking to expand their reach, networking events are valuable for connecting with potential business partners and complementary alliances.

Financial institutions that support and encourage innovative activities stand to benefit tremendously.

While not all risk-takers will succeed, a percentage will hit their targets spectacularly enough to make it worth the while. True and intrepid entrepreneurs rarely ever give up.

Investment can also take the form of exploration of new markets. Global trade is a matrix with large trading blocs, bi-lateral agreements negotiated on occasion.

Trade missions—similar to what the T&T Chamber will be mounting in June to Guyana—present remarkable opportunities, even for SMEs to begin this exploration. This mission follows on the heels of two similar undertakings to Cuba and Panama in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

With the pending exit of Britain from the EU and rumblings from some of its other constituent members, the world is watching with interest to see how trade relations will be affected and what new opportunities for trade might emerge.

T&T has been a partner to the Cariforum-European Union’s European Partnership Agreement (EPA) since 2008, allowing for reciprocal trade with the EU in various categories of goods and services. Through the Trade.com facility in Brussels, the T&T Chamber led the way in 2012 with a 13-member delegation to three countries of the European Union. The EPA remains in place and the time is right for our local companies to explore how to leverage the opportunities.

 

Companies must also be ready to innovate their current operations. This might, ultimately, mean shaking up the status quo, but once it achieves the objective of exceptional customer service and satisfaction, then it’s all good.

With less available disposable income, customers and clients will be seeking out the best return on their dollars. If it means engaging in promotional activities where none was required before, lowering prices or adding a new feature to make customers more comfortable, then so be it. In times like these, repeat business bears real value while customer loyalty is paramount.

Today’s marketplace is global, thanks to technological advances and more specifically, the Internet. Several companies have made their fortunes solely through online-based sales, while others utilise a combination of brick-and-mortar versus virtual sales. While this has been slow to take off in T&T—in part due to the legal framework—it is slowly but surely increasing. It means you can peddle your wares at any time of the day or night to a virtually unlimited market. It seems that service providers who peddle their expertise globally have been more embracing of the platform thus far.

The above considerations played a major role in our decision to invite chairman and CEO of the Unicomer Group, Mario Simán, to address the business community at the T&T Chamber’s annual networking luncheon scheduled for Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre.

Mario Simán, a native of El Salvador, has successfully turned around several companies, starting as early as 1982 with a troubled Honda motorcycle dealership in Miami. As he shares his experiences in his keynote address, we are certain that members of the business community will not want to miss the opportunity to share in his knowledge, the discussions about the highs and lows of business and how to win.

 

The T&T Chamber event is open to public. Interested parties can contact the T&T Chamber on 637 6966 extension 1252 or e-mail [email protected] to register and secure your attendance.