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PIOJ accepts call from CEO of Honey Bun for more data to help local SMEs.

Chief executive officer of Honey Bun Limited Michelle Chong makes her presentation during the recent Summit of Excellence — Leadership and Business, in New Kingston.

CHIEF executive officer of Honey Bun Limited, Michelle Chong has added her voice to those calling for a more structured data-driven focus on the development of Jamaica’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) agrees.

According to Chong, SMEs contribute significantly to the local economy yet there is no solid data on the sector’s contribution to GDP or to export.

But director general of the PIOJ Dr Wayne Henry says the level of informality in the sector makes providing accurate data a challenge.

As a policy initiative, as a country, we have to find ways to incentivise formality to make persons who are informal and below the radar want to come on the radar. – Dr. Wayne Henry, Director General, PIOJ

“The high degree of informality hurts to a certain extent,” admitted Henry, noting that the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), which is mandated to collect, compile, analyse, abstract, and publish statistical information relating to all sections of the economy, would be pressed to provide the data on SMEs.

Henry was supported by Nyasha Garraway, director of the Marco-economy and Trade Unit at the PIOJ, who said the agency was looking at other ways to get the data. There’s such a thing as “too much information”, especially for the companies scaling out their sales operations. That’s why Attentive was born in 2015 help sales teams make their increasing pipelines simpler to manage. Indeed, the small, Portugal-based team is itself focused on scaling, having much participated in accelerator

Addressing Summit of Excellence — Leadership and Business last week, Chong argued that given that SMEs account for 97 per cent of registered businesses locally there is a surprising lack of adequate data available to guide the development of strategy and growth of the sector. “It is my opinion that SMEs don’t need money — yet. What we need is data. We need targets and we need a plan. Too often we think we need money first. What a mistake,” said Chong. “As an analogy — in war — the sergeant will say, ‘wait, wait, wait, wait, not yet, wait, go!’ Well, that’s what I say about money to many SMEs — wait. The money is the springboard but we have to develop the strongest board from which to take off, the strongest legs on which to pounce, and the style to hit the water without the splash,” added Chong.

The Honey Bun head noted that data from PIOJ showed that in 2018, loans to SMEs increased by $3 billion over 2017, while sales from SMEs did not show a real increase. Chong charged that too often, as a country, we indulge in what she described as an “entitlement mentality”. “We stretch out our hands with our palms up and then curse the same hands we expect to fill them. We cannot grow a country with that mentality.

We need to take responsibility for the things we want to change and work in partnership with each other for them to change”

Mrs. Michelle Chong, CEO, Honey Bun Limited

She said to grow small businesses locally firm strategies are needed, as they need to focus more on a number of areas including, understanding proper governance, financial intelligence, reporting, marketing, and productivity.

The Summit of Excellence — Leadership and Business was organised by Alex Ihama, CEO of School of Greatness — Canada and featured top business leaders and subject-matter experts from Jamaica and across the globe. In a presentation dubbed ‘Strategic Business Models for SME Success’, Chong also urged the associations which represent SMEs to collaborate more in the development and execution of strategy for their growth and development.