Carmen Mayela Fallas, President of CCK, talks to us about the challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in Central America in 2019.
5 ways to grow our companies...and our countries
Which Central American businessman has not felt anguish and uncertainty at the beginning of 2019? The things that are happening in our regional environment are challenging. Excluding Panama, which has years of stability and according to the IMF presents flattering prospects for 2019; all the other nations generate jolts: the conflict in Nicaragua, the very atypical elections in El Salvador, the uncertainty of a new electoral process in Guatemala, the complicated news about the Costa Rican economy and the prolonged Honduran crisis are worrisome.
Only those of us who know this region well understand that aside from the challenges and shocks, there are also many opportunities for business. Just as difficult climates foster the development of physically and emotionally stronger people, the business environment in a region like Central America seems to produce strong, fearless, persevering and imaginative entrepreneurs.
For that same reason, as regional entrepreneurs we must pay attention to some indicators that are "shouting" at us the urgency of reviewing our businesses to ensure sustainability and growth. Apart from innovation strategies in the productive and financial fields, the use of artificial intelligence, technological development and new marketing and commercialization platforms, I would like to draw attention to five key aspects of the new way of doing business:
- Collaborative work. We have been so focused on our own businesses, on surviving and seizing opportunities that we have neglected the collaborative effort. Our children and grandchildren are showing us a path unfamiliar to most of us but one that promises benefits. Beyond business chambers, many of which are outdated, we urgently need to find new ways to collaborate and work for common interests. A good example is Antigua Limpia, an organization of businessmen who decided to unite to protect their main source of prosperity.
- Social solidarity. A poor market is not a good business for anyone. The widening of the socioeconomic gap we are experiencing will inevitably lead to crises of new proportions. As entrepreneurs, we must not leave the solution to this enormous challenge to the State. In public-private partnerships we must find creative ways to combine education, employment and social solidarity to lift as many of our fellow citizens out of poverty as possible. The business MPI is a fantastic tool that was developed in Costa Rica by a business association called Horizonte Positivo in partnership with The Oxford Poverty and Social Development Initiative (OPHI).
- Responsible brands. A growing number of consumers are not satisfied with a good product at a good price; they demand brands that demonstrate through their actions that they are environmentally and socially responsible and that the companies that produce and market them act consistently with their discourse. Aligning the conduct of the entire company with values of sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) will be key to growth and survival in Central America. It is no longer optional.
- Combating corruption. Although we sometimes despair at the slowness and inefficiency of the procedures of public institutions, it should not be us, the businessmen, who fall into the trap of encouraging corruption. Eradicating these practices will result in more prosperous markets. Technology is the main ally to achieve transparency in processes, procedures and bids. As a business sector, we must exert pressure against those who insist on dirtying business. The corrupt and corrupters must become social pariahs.
- Appreciation for diversity. We are operating in a highly diverse region and it is worth reviewing whether we have men and women in our company with equal conditions and opportunities; whether we are open to receive people of different abilities, ethnicities, religious beliefs or sexual orientation; of different ages and generations; of different socioeconomic backgrounds and even different political thinking. Apart from being the right thing to do today, it is the way to take advantage of all the potential and ensure a better reading of the environment, opportunities and visions of the different stakeholders of our company.
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