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Historian says lack of succession planning hurting black businesses

University of the West Indies (UWI) senior lecturer Dr Henderson Carter says many black businesses in Barbados fail mainly because of the lack of succession planning.

Urging black business owners to do more of this planning, the historian recalled that more than 50 years ago, black Barbadians were dominant in several sectors and were owners of large plots of land, despite many challenges.

“I want to suggest that those entrepreneurs made it in the most difficult circumstances.

“Those businesses that failed, failed mainly because of succession issues. That is one of our problems. We have not been able to plan properly, we have not been able to pass on our businesses to others,” Carter said.

Pointing to some instances of business continuity among the black Barbadian community, Carter said this was something that should be more widespread.

“I think every black entrepreneur, at the midway point of his or her business or life, must think of continuity. In other words, you are approaching 50 or 55 in your life and you have already established yourself; you have to think of what will happen in the next 20 years,” he suggested.

“A lot of people don’t think about passing on their business. A lot of people just live for today, business for today; when you die that is the end of it. That is the thinking. But I think we have to move beyond that thinking, because it takes a lot of struggle in the first three years of business to erect something and then for that thing to come crumbling down, and some young entrepreneur to come again and start from scratch. That is our problem. For many black people, you are starting over rather than building on something that has already reached a certain stage of maturity,” Carter explained.

He was delivering the State of the Sector presentation at the Small Business Association’s Small Business Week 2023 forum on Thursday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, on the topic The State of Black Business in Barbados and Prospects for the Future.

Carter suggested that aspiring black Barbadian entrepreneurs look at the option of buying other businesses, and those who already have a business and no family member to leave it to should consider “passing it on to somebody else”.

He also urged entrepreneurs to consider greater collaboration with each other and to form partnerships with trusted business individuals, as they learn from Indo-Barbadian business owners.

“They are strong economically because they cling together. They unite,” he said. “Unity and cooperation can lift black businesses out of trouble.”

Carter further urged local black business owners to also learn their history, pointing out that this was important in helping them know what pitfalls to avoid and some areas on which to place focus.

He also encouraged business owners to employ people who have a positive attitude and an interest in the operations, “and not just somebody who wants a wage”. 

Insisting that the future for these businesses is bright despite the challenges and setbacks, the university lecturer also suggested that they “explore again, the opportunities in the sugar industry, especially now that the sugar industry is about to be transformed into more than sugar”.

Stating that there was “a lot of idle land” in Barbados, he questioned whether agricultural land could be rented to individuals “in small quantities” of around two to three acres to produce sugar cane that would then be sold to distilleries for the production of rum, for molasses, and to produce cane juice for local consumption.

Carter said the plan could include rotating land for the production of potatoes and yams.

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