Mon | Jul 26, 2021

Growth & Jobs | Get online or die, corporate trainer urges traditional businesses

Published:Tuesday | March 23, 2021 | 12:09 AM
Alicia Barnett
Alicia Barnett

Corporate trainer Alicia Barnett is urging Jamaican entrepreneurs to move away from the traditional brick-and-mortar business model and become more technologically based to survive in the post-pandemic world.

Barnett was speaking at the Current Trends and Issues Conference, staged virtually by the College of Business and Management at Northern Caribbean University on February 22 during Research Week 2021.

She defined the two categories of enterprises known in the business world – the ‘dinosaur’ and the ‘unicorn’. She explained that dinosaurs, or the brick-and-mortar business model, are enterprises that offer goods and services to persons who walk in, which is prevalent in Jamaica. In contrast, small to medium enterprises that have become global phenomena with a market value of over US$1billion are considered unicorns.

“The traditional brick-and-mortar will never ever be a unicorn. She will always be a dinosaur, and she will always become extinct if she fails to dance the waltz of technology,” Barnett said.

She suggested that traditional businesses in Jamaica can prepare for the new normal by changing leadership, focusing on core activities, and undertaking cost and asset retrenchment.

“A leader will determine whether or not your company fails,” said Barnett, while emphasising that leaders must be open to using the Internet and new technologies.

She encouraged brick-and-mortar enterprises to focus on their core business, instead of adding too many different products and services. She said that these businesses should only improve products based on the needs and preferences of its loyal customers who bring in at least 80 per cent of all revenue.

Barnett said this is where research and development comes into play, but lamented that Jamaican businesses are generally poor in this area. She advised that businesses could diversify their current assets to create products and services which are in demand – this asset retrenchment is how some Jamaican businesses remained profitable despite the financial downturn of the pandemic. She also highlighted the importance of cost strategy and pointed out how businesses saved on utilities through work-from-home measures during the pandemic.

Barnett noted that the challenges are that, unlike unicorns, Jamaican businesses struggle to find angel investors for start-up capital and fall short in securing the reliable Internet connection needed to utilise more effective marketing strategies. She observed that the local culture facilitates the brick-and-mortar business model.

“In the islands, we are very hospitable people. We like to see people, we like to touch people, we like the instant gratification of buying something, we like to hear the voice over the telephone talking to us,” she said.

However, Barnett said unicorns prioritise a growth culture instead. “Growth for them means that they’re going to be using the latest technology, they’re going to be using the most highly skilled person; customer retention is number one, and this goes arm in arm with technology,” she said.