Cayman’s small businesses: A very big deal

Included in today’s Cayman Compass is a 16-page special feature, titled, “Small business … Celebrating Cayman’s entrepreneurs.”

That’s not just marketing-speak. Our country’s risk-takers and independent service providers deserve to be recognized because they comprise the economic future of the Cayman Islands.

Over the past several decades, Cayman has carved out a place for itself in the global scheme of things as an international financial center and luxury tourism destination. Nowadays, we may tend to take the results and the rewards of the “Cayman Miracle” for granted, but we should remember that the people responsible for building up Cayman were, fundamentally, entrepreneurs – cut from the same cloth as the industrious Caymanians who for ages went to sea to seek their fortunes.

What successful entrepreneurs, in any field (seafaring, law, finance, technology, development, business in general), have in common is a particular trait called “conation,” which means, in brief, an inherent inclination – as in a drive, volition or striving – to act purposefully. People who have conation cannot be stopped from achieving, well, whatever it is they have in mind to achieve.

Conation is, admittedly, a rather obscure term. But it is absolutely essential for entrepreneurs.

To those who have this drive, nothing is an absolute barrier to success – not even a lack of means, social position, education or physical shortcomings.

There are plenty of people in Cayman who possess this characteristic, and they should be encouraged at every step. Not necessarily through government grants, favorable loans or cushy internship programs (in fact, these may be impediments … an effective neutralizing agent of conation is an unwarranted sense of entitlement) – but by saying, “Yes,” to the possibilities they broach, and then getting out of their way as they get on with their business.

In yesterday’s editorial, we wrote at some length about the government’s inability to encourage economic activity through threats and edicts. Another facet of that argument is that, thankfully, government doesn’t need to.

Creation is the business of individual businessmen. And, too often, the cost of government regulation is decreased innovation.

Considering Cayman’s small population, limited natural resources and insular geography, our country’s greatest asset is human ingenuity. Accordingly, the cost of entry into Cayman’s marketplace ought to be very low, actually as close to nonexistent as possible. Anybody who has an idea for a business and wants to pursue it, should be able to, with a minimal amount of paperwork, red tape, fees and other encumbrances.

Unfortunately, but perhaps also somewhat inevitably, our school system in far too many instances is graduating students who are not adequately equipped for Cayman’s current economy. For many people who have ambition and desire, but little else, the best way into the marketplace is through entrepreneurialism. If no one will hire you, hire yourself by starting your own business. There’s a saying, which we subscribe to, that it’s better to work 100 hours for yourself than 40 hours for someone else.

We applaud every person we see on the roadside unloading a barbecue grill from the back of a truck, in preparation to sell fried fish to commuters returning home from work. An excellent first rung on the economic ladder is “Owner, President and CEO of Cayman Fish Fry Ltd.” – and it looks impressive on a business card.

Why start at the bottom when you can start at the top?