Small Business Network takes off

Launched late last year, the Small Business Network sprang into life guided by the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull investigates and reports.

Cayman is a jurisdiction that is crammed full of creative thinkers and entrepreneurs. Small businesses starting out with perhaps a one-man or woman operation turn into mid-sized businesses and hopefully eventually large organisations servicing a wide clientele, sometimes embracing overseas customers as well. But getting from that small one-man-band business to a large and successful organisation is a huge leap which needs to be carefully navigated and guided.

The Cayman Islands Investment Bureau is an organisation on-island that provides a support framework for would-be entrepreneurs or existing business people who need a helping hand to make the next step, business-wise.

The newly created Small Business Network provides a support network for local entrepreneurs to allow the exchange of ideas and the potential for partnerships and has been facilitated by the CIIB. Geared especially for pre-startups and existing small and micro businesses, the Small Business Network, powered by the CIIB, provides a monthly meeting place for business owners to exchange ideas and information, and the opportunity to connect with potential partners and service providers.

As an additional resource, the CIIB has created an online forum which provides an online platform for the discussion of topical issues related to entrepreneurial activity in the Cayman Islands.

In addition, the Small Business Network’s Online Directory is a great resource for accessing an online directory of local small business service providers that can assist you with developing and improving your business.

Up for discussion:

Top five tips for surviving in an economic downturn

The Small Business Network’s online forum takes a look at how small businesses can avoid the vulnerabilities associated with this less than favourable economic climate we currently find ourselves in. The global outlook for 2009 raises many concerns given the number of countries facing an economic recession. So, what should you do about it?
The following five tips may offer tactics that you can use to insulate your small business from the impact of global conditions on the Cayman Islands:

1) Revisit your business plan
It’s important to examine how your plans for your business will be affected given the anticipated changes in economic conditions. Consider new directions for your business, perhaps reinventing it to be more appealing to customers. Evaluate how your current business model is working and any adjustments that need to be made in order to bring your business back to a path that will enable you to achieve your long-term vision.

2) Improve efficiency
It’s time to tighten your belt and cut back on non-essential expenditure. Explore ways to refine your operation to improve efficiency, cutting costs without sacrificing quality in your product. A good idea is to motivate your employees to be a part of the solution. After all, they have a stake in the survival of your business and hence their jobs.

3) Improve your cash flow
Cash is essential to your business and you want to make sure that it’s coming in faster than it’s going out. Talk to your suppliers to see if you can negotiate better terms on deliveries. Be more aggressive in collecting accounts receivable. If you foresee problems, remember to talk with your loans officer so that your bank is aware of any potential delays in your loan repayments.

4) Focus on your core market
Most businesses depend on a group of key customers. Be sure to strengthen your relationship with this group, watching for changes in their behavior and adjusting as necessary to ensure continuity in the relationship. Through providing a high level of customer service to this group, you may also develop a better understanding of your core market and gain insights that will help you attract other customers that share similar characteristics.

5) Focus on effective marketing
If there ever was a time to focus on effective marketing, it’s now. Remind your customers that you are still there and of value to them. Generate new leads and cultivate new relationships that will bolster revenues. Remember that advertising takes time to be effective, and be sure to evaluate its success.

Entrepreneurs at work

Sandra Lichtenstein owns Signature Events, event planners and promoters with a slew of customers on and off island. Madhavi Mathura runs Accounting & Enterprise Solutions Ltd. Both ladies speak with Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull about the trials and tribulations of owning and operating a small business in Cayman.

Tell me about your business.
We operate a full service event planning and organising company, including marquee hire, gourmet catering, boat charter, entertainment agency, as well as integrated solutions for the production of a corporate event, promotional or private celebration such as a wedding or other important family occasion.

We also operate within the incentive travel business and have an extensive portfolio of incentive travel opportunities for groups ranging from ten to 500 plus. We also specialise in designing new and innovative concepts to meet the specific objective of our clients.

We can also provide personal shopping services as well as a personalised gift purchase service.

MM: I started Accounting & Enterprise Solutions Ltd about a year ago. The services that are provided include Quickbooks training; payroll, pension and general bookkeeping; the preparation of financial statements, budgets and forecasts; management and cost accounting, as well as custom and forensic analysis of financial records.

What you feel are the biggest threats and pressures facing your business right now, both internationally and locally?
I feel that the biggest threat and pressure facing my business is the fact that the smaller businesses are not given a chance to showcase their abilities locally and internationally. The majority of my business in 2008 was generated from overseas.

MM: I think the biggest issue facing small businesses is the reduction in consumer spending due to the economic recession. If consumer spending continues to decline, sales will drop and therefore income for businesses will fall. This has the effect of preventing small businesses from growing, developing or hiring new people and gives businesses less funds available for important services such as accounting or marketing.

I also believe that rising prices, regardless of the recession, due to rising oil prices and so on means continuing high prices here in Cayman. Tack on duty and we have high prices here which means people still go off-island to purchase goods, which again contributes to lower sales and income on island. Businesses need to develop a niche of providing value-for-money goods and services which will help them capitalise on the local market.

How much do you feel an established network of small businesses will help you in your business?
An established network here for small businesses would be great as I have experienced the advantage that networking can give to your business as I am a member of a networking group overseas and the information available is unbelievable. But in having the local network we have to be willing to share and come up with viable solutions.

MM: I think this is a great way for small businesses to network with each other and help each other to grow and prosper. When marketing and advertising budgets are low this is a good source to get the word out about your business.



Sandra Lichtenstein