Monday 28 January 2013

Final thoughts on this small businesses matter

Some final thoughts on this whole small business / Dragonfly Affair thing ...

Some people may not have sympathy for poor Dragonfly Games. You can never rely on money or help from others, even the government, they say. You need to be independent and succeed or fail on your own merits.

I would counter by saying that you shouldn't offer assistance if you don't intend to follow through in a honest way. You shouldn't claim your program is reliable and then rescind it a year later. You shouldn't require a company to submit dishonest financial statements. You shouldn't force somebody to hire your wife.

Maybe the government shouldn't be in the business of actively helping business at all. Maybe they should just keep regulations and red tape to a minimum and get out of the way. That's a fair position to take ... I won't argue against that. However, I am personally not opposed to the government providing assistance.

I have friends who are better able to speak about these matters than I am, but that's okay ... I am going to offer up a couple of suggestions anyhow:

1) Programs should be simple and permanent. I know it's tempting to announce new programs before every election but it must be confusing and frustrating for businesses when they keep changing.

Tax credit or assistance programs should not be specific to certain niche industries, but general programs with clear guidelines that any small business can apply for. They should be managed by an independent board to keep politics out of it as much as possible. The board or a jury should select applicants based on some combination of factors such as need, probability of success, strategic industry, employment potential, etc. The program should be permanent, so that as businesses rotate through it, it will develop a track record. This will make manipulation or interference more apparent and harder to hide.

2) We need to get to the bottom of the Crocus debacle. It's still poisoning the venture capital environment. The current government's position has been to pretend it never happened and hope that people forget. They will, eventually. The noxious cloud of Crocus will slowly dissipate until one day the people investing in their RRSPs will once again be inclined to trust a Manitoba small business venture capital fund because they were too young to remember what it was all about when it happened.

But that will take too long. We need to cleanse this ASAP with a proper investigation or inquiry or something. Nobody has ever been held accountable for what happened, which means that the people who made it happen are still out there, which means that it could happen again, which means that people will not invest in venture capital to any significant degree, which is bad for small business n Manitoba.

AND maybe or maybe not ...

3) Scrap the NRC & BCC. I really don't know enough about this .. only anecdotal information suggesting that the research and incubation programs run by the National Research Council and Biomedical Commercialization Canada aren't very efficient. I'm all for research and development, but maybe there's a better way.


These are just my thoughts. I do not guarantee the quality of my thoughts. I absolve myself of any responsibility for the actions of those who read my thoughts. Reading my thoughts may cause dry mouth or liver disease.


unclebob said...

Good for you to take this on. It obviously took a lot of thought and a lot of work. I wish more people were as thoughtful and engaged.A further discussion about public /private assistance might be useful but that can happen another day. For today, thank you.

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