The webinar was delivered by Marlon Hill, a Kingston native and partner at Hamilton, Miller & Bithisel in the United States. A champion of regional entrepreneurs, Hill has facilitated programs related to Caribbean diaspora engagement for the World Bank Group and the U.S. Department of State.
Hill shared practical advice for team building, marketing, and brand protection from his experience in both business and law. The webinar engaged participants from Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Curacao, as well as Caribbean natives working in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
Building Your Team
A business partner can make or break the success of your venture. A good partner should share your vision and complement your core strengths, Hill said. Your partner should also be an “innovator, motivator, and doer” who can identify product or service offerings with the potential to reach regional or global scale.
A business partner’s value is not determined simply by his or her bank account. Your partners, team members, and advisory board members have unique relationships, expertise, and connections with customers and markets—all of which can benefit your company’s bottom line without the loss of ownership associated with angel investors or venture capital.
When building a team, a founder has four goals, according to Hill:
- Identifying and hiring the right people for the job;
- Inspiring and motivating team members to perform;
- Sustaining strong relationships with team members; and
- When a team member does not perform as expected, a founder must be prepared to dissolve the relationship with professionalism.
Legal Agreements and Brand Protection
Before entering a business partnership, Hill recommends preparing a legal agreement that outlines ownership and responsibilities for each partner. For example, what percentage of the firm is owned by each partner? Who has the final say in decisions? What happens if a partner leaves the business? Partners should also agree upon a budget for professional services, such as legal, financial, accounting, and marketing.
Business founders should familiarize themselves with a variety of legal documents to ensure smooth operations and reduce the risk of costly litigation, Hill said. These agreements include letters of appointment for employees and independent contractors, non-disclosure and non-compete agreements, copyright and creative agreements, and shareholder and joint venture agreements, among others. Partners should publish an operations manual containing these agreements, along with guidelines for resolving disputes.
Hill also urged participants to protect their brands and proprietary information. This process begins with registering a business in its country or countries of operations. International registration in multiple markets can be pursued through the Madrid Protocol. Business owners should also purchase domain names associated with their brand or business across all platforms, even if they have no plans for immediate use of the platform.
Effective marketing campaigns are built upon a strong understanding of the target market’s history and culture. Cultural nuances—such as language and music—inform product and service delivery, as well. Caribbean business owners should initially focus their marketing campaigns within the region. However, the Caribbean diaspora—which is concentrated in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and increasingly Africa and Asia—also represents opportunities for growth.
Business owners should build relationships with their Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and familiarize themselves with the ambassadors and consuls in their target countries. Additionally, local foreign diplomats can often provide helpful information about engaging in business with their countries.
Strengthening the Ecosystem
A strong leader knows how to clearly define team roles and responsibilities, provide and receive feedback gracefully, bounce back from mistakes, and celebrate success. With this foundation in place, Caribbean business leaders have a unique opportunity to strengthen the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, while building multi-generational wealth for their families, communities, and countries.
By Alison Christie Binger