IT is not often that organizations like the Saint Lucia Industrial and Small Business Association (SLISBA) is put in the spotlight. Today we invite the Association to take a bow for its relentless pursuit in equipping small, medium and micro entrepreneurs with the type of knowledge and assistance needed to keep their business alive.

The Association was at it again Tuesday night, bringing Castries vendors to a workshop on ‘Customer Excellence for Micro Enterprises’ The proprietors of these enterprises were thrilled at the opportunity given them to learn about ways to provide excellent customer service, an education that many big business executives learn in business school.

The workshop participants walked away understanding that excellent customer service creates loyal customers for life who are willing to refer their businesses to friends, family and colleagues. They learned that providing excellent customer service starts with a genuine desire to delight their customers and think beyond simply selling their products or services.

This interactive session Tuesday night got vendors to understand how much they need to consider the cumulative experience their customers have and how their customers think on visiting their business places.

The small and micro business people, who are the backbone of our economy, learned that they need to be knowledgeable about their products and services and how much they need to be aware of the most common questions asked by customers and how to articulate answers that would leave customers satisfied.

Of the several tips needed for improvement of their business, handed down by Flavia Cherry, SLISBA’s formidable president, listening proved to be a valuable tip to participants who learned that it is one of the simplest secrets of customer service. It means hearing what your customers are saying out loud, as well as what they are communicating non-verbally. Participants were instructed to watch for signs that their customers are displeased, while listening to what they say to them directly.

The event Tuesday night was short but vital to the micro business people who participated and who were awarded certificates at the end. Drilled into them is the need to be responsive as there may be nothing worse than non-responsiveness to customers who are trying to get help, resolve an issue or find out more about what are on sale.

This was not SLISBA’s first and only event for this month, known as business month in Saint Lucia. First was an entrepreneurship workshop for Rural Women Producers on November 8th, which brought together women from the rural communities who manufacture a wide range of products such as wines, condiments, cakes, oil and soaps, potato and other chips, beauty products and creams, etc.

This was followed by a series of youth entrepreneurship workshops which built the capacity of youth in and out of school to consider going into business by harnessing their talents and learning from mentors who are very successful in business.

Tuesday night’s event brought together 56 members of SLISBA in the micro sector. This event was followed by a networking session which allowed the participants to socialize and build synergy for supporting each other. A Financial Management Workshop for Mechanics and Tyre Shop Owners was also held at SLISBA’s office in La Pansee, Castries.

The Association will today hold a workshop on ‘Exemplary Culinary Standards for Food Service Providers’ scheduled to be held at the Auberge Seraphine Hotel for small restaurant owners, canteen operators, roadside Bar B Q stalls, mobile canteens, pizza shops and caterers. This workshop will teach participants how to ensure that their food preparation environment is of a high standard through maintaining standards in sanitation and food handling as well as storage and food preparation.

This refreshing approach to the small, medium and micro entrepreneurs amongst us must be applauded. We all know of the challenges these business people face on a daily basis both at home and in keeping their business going, which to most, if not all of them, is what puts food on the table for their families.

We join others in lifting SLISBA and wish them all the best in their endeavours during business month. A strong business environment is exactly what this country needs and it makes us proud to know that our small, medium and micro entrepreneurs are on board.

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