Why do some Caribbean businesses stay small despite having great products or services?
I was invited to do some marketing for an international group of doctors that had developed an innovative medical technology. This technology worked so well that it seemed like a miracle was occurring right before our very eyes. In fact, to watch the before and after literally made it seem like a hoax. This technology had not been yet approved by the FDA but it was allowed in the Bahamas. Locals and wealthy persons from America would fly down to have the procedure done on them. It worked with a 95% effective rate. And it should have made millions of dollars and created a light industry in the Bahamas for the assembly of the machines and training of medical personnel around it.
Instead without a doubt you never heard of this procedure. Although it had a huge accessible market potential, a world class product, a highly educated team with enough initial capital and a world class marketer (that’s me of course). I can tell you for certain it was not due to my marketing prowess (although I have had my share of failed campaigns) this ranked amongst my best ever. So what went wrong?
Well let me tell you first of all what went right. I realized that credibility was going to be an issue because people would simply not believe how good the product was unless they knew the person giving the testimonial. So I filmed a lot of testimonials for the website and social media. However, at that time social media was not what it is today and this medical procedure appealed to the over 40 crowd so initially I only got a trickle in effect of leads. The first months were torturously slow, and I had to endure meeting after meeting, face to face, on the phone, and even flying up to Boston to explain my strategy.
Finally, it dawned on me to try a traditional newspaper ad with a well known and respected person who agreed to have the procedure. The newspaper ad came out in the morning. By afternoon I received a frantic email from the Doctor in charge of the call center. He said there was no way they would be able to handle that level of business. They were receiving far too many calls and I should discontinue the ad. What a problem to have?
His complaint should have been my first warning that I had descended into madness with this group. Every single person in the group was smart. Or I should say smart in the medical field. And they ran successful practices so I would even venture to say they were effective businessmen at a certain level. But their success did not allow them to scale to a properly run a successful business. Within two months they had devoured themselves and I watched a potentially profitable multinational fall apart.
So what went wrong? The same things that have kept other great brands in the Caribbean from becoming all that they can be. A lack of proper business structure, proper corporate governance, and proper funding for growth. These three factors more than any others give confidence to me as the CEO of ArawakX Exchange that if they are properly addressed the region will explode as a premier destination for innovative startups that can create great returns. And at ArawakX we know exactly how to address them.
Before founding the ArawakX Pan Caribbean Securities Exchange, I spent 20 years as a management consultant with businesses of all sizes across many industries. I will share many of those stories in this blog because almost every consultation taught me a valuable lesson that we now apply to companies that are attempting to raise funds through ArawakX. I proudly say that I learned from the Rastafarian selling peanuts on the corner to senior executives of the old established firms.
I combined my knowledge of the business culture with the things I learned as an MBA from Northwestern University and my experiences as a Stock Exchange Manager and Officer. One of the first things I learned was that in order for someone to invest in you, they are usually buying into you as much as they are buying into the product or service that you offer. Therefore, at ArawakX the Founder’s of the firm story and attitude matter. If we encounter a founder without passion and integrity it is an immediate pass for us as an investible stock. We fully realize that passion and attitude are part of the success chain for early stage companies. If a Founder just recognizes a market opportunity and is purely driven by profit, we will not list them. If a Founder does not have passion for the industry, we will not list. If the Founder lacks integrity or does not have a learning attitude we will not list.
Another important point that stops local brands from developing to national and international brands is funding for growth is different from funding for a prototype. Funding for a prototype often means bringing various initial partners together whereas funding for growth involves providing an opportunity for other investors to participate. Fortunately, this is really the easiest part of the story, First of all through our affiliated ArawakX business developers we ensure that an accessible market is there and the plan, business processes and technology for growth are in place.
Then we make sure that the various elements for corporate governance are in place. And we advise on how to present it to the marketplace. That’s where you the investor come in. If a Founder has the plan, the know how, the market and the team all that’s left is the execution for growth and the formalized governance structure to ensure that anyone investing knows all the risks as well as how they can exit the investment. This is the work of the ArawakX Exchange: to bring together qualified investors and qualified company to add value to the life of the community and potentially produce some great returns.