These are just my thoughts. They are not criticisms, nor even commentaries. They are the thoughts of one local guy; a business educator, and entrepreneur… but just one guy. In matters of economics, I am an observer… not an expert. Still…
This past week, I saw this news post referencing the 2016 business outlook from our local St. John’s Board of Trade. Indeed, if one follows the news or doesn’t, it is clear that a dive in the price of oil has left this Province with some serious questions… and the need to look inward. Indeed, in a recent post, I suggested that there was a real need to come together.
Indeed. In deed.
I am no economist, though I have taught it… and I do understand its essential underpinnings. I also understand that economics is ultimately rooted in collective psychology. We think, therefore we will be. There is a self-fulfilling theme running through much of economics. If we perceive a downturn, we take actions that will often advance it further. This is not to say that we should not look at things and events through realistic eyes. We should. We must. Indeed.
Still, we must do so understanding the full reality. This downturn in our economy, rooted in an extensive reliance on and celebration of oil and gas… is a reminder of the need to both go with your core sustaining strengths and not depend on rather large eggs in a single basket. This is not a criticism of the oil and gas industry. It is an industry we naturally would want to advance, given its potential for wealth in our Province. However, I cannot seem to escape the idea that we saw one big egg and went after it. We collectively hitched our wagon to it. This applies to any economy that has perceived itself as one that is natural resource driven. Arlene Dickinson speaks to this in that earlier noted post. Our ultimate resources are within; ourselves and our people. They are both sustaining and sustainable. This is more than cliché.
Still even, that is not my point in this post.
It seems to me that, in our fair Province and maybe other regions of the world, we almost unconsciously examine our own markets with a somewhat “provincial” vision. We find one or two key resource based industries and build around them. Should they fall, we all fall.
In a province of some 500,000 in population, our best markets are elsewhere. They always have been. Oil and gas. Fishery. Tourism. When it comes to natural resources, we have understood that and, in serial ways, have ridden one industry or another along the way. We do recognize the commercial potential for international markets; but it is a matter of degree and depth.
Enter the Global Entrepreneur
In commerce and business, we need a world embracing view; not one that simply knows there is a wide world out there but that embraces it. We need a local economy that is driven by what I call the “Marco Polo” virtue… to be Xenophillic; that robust curiosity for other cultures. We need a local economy that is driven by supplying to a much larger and more diverse world. We need a diverse local economy with an increasingly diverse population and the human resources that come with that; unleashed as entrepreneurs based out of this magical, mystical place that we love so dearly.
We need an outlook that is an out look.
No doubt there are entrepreneurs and leaders and programs like EVOLUTION working towards it, but it still is somewhat superficial. Collectively and consciously, we still are not quite there. Indeed, I am no economist; but the strategic part of my brain says look within for our strengths and turn our weaknesses into same. Then consider the much larger environment. How can we best serve it? What do we have to offer the world? We are a resilient people, born of entrepreneurial stock though we may have forgotten. Yes, we do have an aging population; but they are skilled and talented… and love this place. We have but to feed and support 500,000 people. What are our talents and best capacities? How can we unleash them?
This is not simply a problem for government. This requires all hands on deck and all oars in the water. The Board of Trade post suggests we need to bullet proof our businesses. With respect, that can be a prevent defense and (while certainly understandable and advisable) it cannot replace a visionary outlook that sees the world of opportunity… from the eyes of an entrepreneurial culture.
This is about more than programs and initiatives. It is about more than big industry. It is an education issue and a culture building issue. Yes, we have a wealth of natural resources and some might even be worthy of our sharpened focus even now. Still, our talent and capacity does not begin nor end there. My thoughts are to consider four things directly related; and foundational. And, they do not require a long time to complete; just a sharpened intent and focus.
FIRST, our character.
What is the character of this place upon which we can all agree, regardless of subcultures and rituals and diversity? What is it to be of this place, that unites us? What is our core? What do we share as an understanding of this place?
Are we courageous, open and creative? Are we enduring, purposeful and friendly? What strengths of character define us collectively? Define it as a starting point. What do we most value in this culture? What are our most cherished strengths of character? What is at our core? Who are we? What do we want this place to be about? This can be answered rather quickly. Examine the strengths above. Have the conversation that gets to naming our identity desired. Why, you ask? Because…
SECOND, our capacities.
What capacities do these strengths of character produce in such a way that they could be offered to the world? What services and products are naturally born of these strengths? What industries? What commercial capacities arise from our strengths? These are our best eggs in our best baskets. This is not kumbaya. It is “be who you be”, “do what you do”… and it is aligned strategy.
THIRD, our creativity.
How do we find and attract others in the world that share in these strengths of character… who want to be here and contribute and bring their cultural and world perspectives to our plate? How do we advance our cultural strength and diversity, by attracting people who share in our spirit but might have different perspectives, experiences and skills to add to our creativity?
FOURTH, our courage… our entrepreneurial bent.
How do we unleash these strengths in smart and entrepreneurial ways? How do we align our education and business models to deliver on these?
I offer no specific answers here… just questions. The answers will come from us all, if we do this right. But my suggestion is this. Let us take a moment in our history to answer:
- What are our collective strengths of character?
- How can we commercialize them to sell to a much larger and diverse world?
- Who should we attract to join our diverse, united and creative culture?
- And how do we readily unleash it to serve the world and thereby bring in revenues, albeit in maybe smaller but more diverse and consistent parcels?
As a business educator, my hope is for 10% of our business and other graduates to set out with the intent of creating jobs, not finding them. As entrepreneurs, Epic Engage™ is intent on being a small but global company in its reach and service, with The Virtues Project™ and beyond. Our own vision and mission is world embracing. We intend to serve outward while living and contributing right here. We believe that a robust community of world embracing and locally committed entrepreneurs is part of the answer.
Some may read this and think we don’t have time or that this is a waste of time. Some may even laugh this off. That would be unfortunate. My suggestion is what I have told countless business students over the years. You cannot successfully serve until you know your BEING and your DOING… your VISION and your MISSION. Without knowing and being able to clearly articulate both… we do not know for what we are fighting or with what capacities we will conduct the fight. With those firmly in place, and some good defense strategies to protect your behind, you can forge ahead. Or, as Aragorn might say….
This is just a starting point and these are just my thoughts. But it is a starting point. May we here in this place and time, or any place wrestling with its future in the present, find our way by starting with who we are, who we best serve, and how we best serve them.
Peace, passion and prosperity.
Barry Lewis Green, aka The Unity Guy™