A dozen of our Mogul in the Making nominees got to quiz our expert panel on Wednesday.
This is an edited transcript of their questions and the answers they were given.
Q 1: Aisha Morgan, Nettle and Moss
What are the characteristics of a successful, sustainable business and what are the factors that cause failure?
A: Patrick Casserly: The business cycle needs constant innovation. You start with an idea, a germ of an idea, and you acquire some clients and those clients will stay with you as long as you continue to innovate.
You have two clients, those who you sell to and your internal clients, your employees. You need to constantly invest in them, because they are the face of your company.
Q 2: Juliet Thompson, MJ Body Concepts Spa
Where should we look to raise funds for a business in its first three years?
A: Christopher Berry: Most small businesses get their capital from friends and family and people they know. When your company is small, the people who are likely to invest are people who either know you or have an interest in your idea. So you have to tell a lot of people your story.
Banks don't like square pegs in round holes. They will try to help, but it will take forever to go through the system unless you know what they look for.
You have to prepare yourself to receive financing. There are questions that investors and banks and investment bankers are going to want answered. If you can't answer these questions, they will think you're not serious.
Q 3: Alex Morrissey, represented by Jacquie Juceam, Jamaicanmusic.com
What are the advantages and disadvantages of equity and debt financing and how should we balance the two?
A: Patsy Latchman-Atterbury: The advantages of debt financing reside in the fact that you maintain full ownership of your company. There are also tax benefits that come with the interest paid on a loan. Debt also allows you to build you credit rating as you go along.
Equity allows you to sleep a bit better in the night because you do not have a burden of debt in your business. However, with equity you lose the ability to direct your company totally, because you have a third party who may want to have a say in which direction the business goes.
Q 4: Jason Dear, No Brand Chemical
What strategies should we employ when expanding, either across the island or internationally, and should we take baby steps or dive in?
A: Adam Stewart: There are pros and cons to both sides. Take a deep look at what it is that you do and where it works and why it works. Mr Tony Hart was asked a similar question recently and he said something that could not have been said better. He said cashflow, cashflow, cashflow. Just because something works in Kingston, doesn't mean it will work in Montego Bay and just because it works in Jamaica, doesn't mean it will work in Barbados.
But you also have to take risk, you have to diversify and find a way to spread your wings so that all your eggs are not in one basket. So yes, you have to role the dice and yes, you do need to expand, but understand your cashflow and make sure that you have all your ducks in a row first.
Q 5: Melville Lumley, Food Express
If you were mentoring a small business owner today, what advice would you give regarding the current economic climate?
A: Tina Matalon: We have to understand the longevity of this economic climate. It's not gong to return to economic levels we've seen in the recent past. We're in it for the long haul. To survive at a time like this you have to be in it to win. You have to be at first or second spot or get out.
A cost saving strategy is absolutely imperative. Monitor your costs daily or it’s not going to happen. We have to have an understanding of the macro environment. We have to understand what's happening locally as well as globally.
Q 6: Dean Salmon, Di Photo Shoppe
How should we recruit qualified staff and what sorts of answers should we look for in an interview?
A: Michele English: Recruitment is very expensive. But the cost of recruiting the wrong person is more than just what you actually spent to bring them in and to train them. It's the problems they may have created.
Social websites are great ways of interacting with people who have interests in your particular line of business. It's a way of finding potential candidates.
If you ever speak to a recruiter they will tell you never to go on your gut. I will always go on my gut, and every time I haven't it has been a mistake.
Tina Matalon added: Hire slow and fire fast.
Q 7: Stacey Robinson, Robinson's Fowl Farm
What is the perception of women in business, and particularly agriculture, and where can we get support to counter any disadvantage?
A: Patsy Latchman-Atterbury: Women in business have been getting a lot of attention. There are many support groups available in Jamaica that can allow a young business person, and a woman, to be able to run their operation a lot better.
In agriculture, for example, you've got the Jamaica Agricultural Society. You've also got the MSME (Micro Small and Medium-sized Enterprise) Alliance, which caters to a lot of our farmers and poultry persons.
Q 8: Andrea Green, With Ease Catalogue
What is the best way to promote our brands so that they have maximum impact with the buying public?
A: Adam Stewart: You have to know your product inside out, whatever it is that you're doing.
ATL's been around a long time, but it needed a shot in the arm. I was at a race and Audi won and gave me an idea. I was able, with my team, to come up with a phrase that could be used many ways but never negatively. It's called “Unbeatable”.
Q 9: Aidin Brown, Henlon Brown Capital
How do we find experienced businesspeople to sit on our boards and give us advice?
A: Christopher Berry: The short answer is, really, just ask. If you ask people, nicely, they'll help you. Don't be in a rush to appoint someone as an official mentor or board member. As you develop a relationship, it will become clear whether that person is the right one to mentor you.
Some people are legends in their own minds, but they can't really help you.”
Q 10: Angelica Barrett, Glad Helpers
How should we set up our records in order to minimise the costs of accountants and auditors?
A: Patrick Casserly: When you scrimp on an accountant, it's the death knell for a company. I used to spend every day with my CFO (chief financial officer) and we argued every day. He saved me on numerous occasions from making bad decisions. You have to invest in having an accountant you trust and keep him close.
Q 11: Jason Robinson, Solar Buzz
What changes have you made in your business strategy due to the high cost of energy?
A: Tina Matalon: Organisations compete on cost, not necessarily on price. And energy's one of the biggest costs. We have not taken any significant, big steps; some are a large investment. As smaller organisations you can drive awareness of energy conservation, be maniacs about conserving energy. Daily monitoring becomes second nature.
Q 12: Durren McLean, Shhh Boutique
Where can we go to get information about workshops, seminars and mentoring programmes that might help us?
A: Michele English: Engage in social networking sites, getting into discussion groups. You'll be notified of upcoming events. That's a cost-effective way of learning. There's a ton of webinars, many free, that you can find through professional associations. The banks do many webinars as well. “If you have suppliers of services goods, particularly technical suppliers, you want to negotiate training.
And then there's networking, like the opportunity tonight.