ICSB Proposes an Audacious Plan to Save Small Businesses!

ICSB Proposes an Audacious Plan to Save Small Businesses!

ICSB proposes an Audacious Plan to Save Small Businesses – If we continue to think small in terms of solutions, we will be stuck in small and incremental changes

Sunday, March, 22, 2020

ICSB proposes an Audacious Plan to Save Small Businesses – If we continue to think small in terms of solutions, we will be stuck in small and incremental changes

Sunday, March, 22, 2020

An Audacious Plan to Save Small Businesses – All small businesses below 50 employees become tax-exempt as not-for-profits for 10 years.

“The world isn’t getting better, but technology is,” words spoken not by leaders but by an astute 9-year-old. The truth of that is like a thunderclap. Business innovation makes constant advancements, but oftentimes it’s at the sacrifice of humane practices. The very things that improve the quality of life for some come at a high “people” cost for very many others. Business innovation improves while humanity is removed. And that is when things are going relatively well.

The expression “desperate times call for desperate measures” may have sounded overused or laughingly cliche a few months ago, but those words have come to life around the world in just a few short months. The world, as we know it, is changing in front of our very eyes, and the aftermath of crisis will require more change, especially when we see the fractured economic crisis we are left with.

We think of economies and businesses as inanimate entities, but they are born, raised, and die on the backs of living, breathing people. They are inextricably linked, so when businesses go into crisis, so do the people who work for them. Particularly vulnerable during this time are small businesses that cannot afford to give employees extended paid leave and employees who depend on a weekly paycheck. Now is the time for large-scale measures to protect vulnerable businesses and workers, particularly seniors who face greater risks to their health and well-being.

If we continue to think small in terms of solutions, we will be stuck in small and incremental changes will only affect incremental improvements. But circumstances prove that the status quo is not enough. These desperate times, they call for, let’s not say “desperate” measures, but a well-thought-out plan. An audacious plan implemented on a global scale. What would that plan look like?

The Audacious Plan asks for the following 5 Guiding Principles:

1. All small businesses below 50 employees become tax-exempt as not-for-profits for 10 years. Small businesses are the lifeblood of their communities. Aside from selling necessary products or services, they provide social and community cohesion as well as jobs. Times of crisis like these hurt small businesses the most, which in turn harms society on a human level. When bars, restaurants, and other places for recreation suffer, socializing goes down. It should be considered a higher civic duty to make sure small businesses can survive. Countries can figure out ways to make money that don’t put a strain on small businesses. Big box stores in an area often beat up small businesses, and many of those wounds lead to their death. Giving small businesses tax exemption helps balance out the disadvantage, keep and create jobs, and generally give the local economy a much needed shot in the arm.

2. All countries establish standards for online education for a national education program for K-12 education in partnership with global IT firms. In this age of digital and virtual technology, pandemic or other disasters shouldn’t have to grind education to a halt. Citizens pay taxes for public education, but in many cases, it is not paying for alternatives in cases such as these. But even many affluent neighborhoods have schools without the ability to conduct education online, making it not solely an economic issue. The attitudes of educators need to be adjusted to view educated children as their civic duty under any circumstances where it is possible.

3. All public teachers and nurses get tax free benefits and free graduate education like veteran benefits. Teachers and nurses are a new breed of modern-day and all too often unsung heroes that should be given the benefits of such. Teachers are on the front lines trying to keep order, educate, inspire, and protect our children, whether the classroom is online or in real life. They often the first line of defense for children. Nurses help heal, comfort, and care for patients in close contact, putting their own health and well-being on the line daily. They fight a different war but a war; nonetheless, one that requires self-sacrifice. They should have the benefits of someone who serves and sacrifices for their community, including free tuition, tax-exemption, and healthcare benefits.

4. Free internet funded by local governments. Once a novel technological luxury, the internet can be very nearly regarded as a necessity in this era. Like many necessities, not all can afford it. The mindset towards internet access needs to change from being considered a private luxury to a public good. When citizens pay taxes for public services, the internet should be one of them. Internet for all.

5. A Global Small Business Congress to held on June 27 at the United Nations. For any of these guidelines to be enacted, there needs to be a meeting of minds; a summit for the people and by the people—organizations without government affiliation–to meet to discuss these plans. June 27 is the United Nations International Day for Micro-Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs Day). The day was proposed by ICSB and presented by Argentina to the UN General Assembly. This day is our meeting point.

We need to move swiftly forward with the Audacious Plan to Save Small Businesses.

Article written by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
ICSB Executive Director
Deputy Chair and Professor at George Washington University School of Business

Challenges of Services Sector SMEs in a Developing Country: A Case of Ghana

Challenges of Services Sector SMEs in a Developing Country: A Case of Ghana

Thursday, April 7, 2022, by Afia Serwaa Attrams & Makgopa Tshehla

School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, College of Graduate Studies



Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face diverse challenges that require solutions to enable the sector to thrive. The study used a sector-based approach to assess the challenges of SMEs from the financial institutions’ and SMEs’ points of view and suggested solutions to the challenges with a focus on the service sector in Ghana. The findings revealed that diversion of funds, inconsistencies in business, and lack of documentation prevail and are curbed by using mobile banking, improving relationship banking, and monitoring. From the analysis of 688 SMEs, high taxes and informal competitions are the highest-ranked challenges, while access to finance is ranked tenth. The policy recommendation is to reduce SME taxes and ban the importation of inferior goods.



Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of economic growth in most developing countries. They contribute significantly to employment and the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and create incomes for individuals and households (Abor & Biekpe, 2006; Abor & Quartey, Abor and Quartey, 2010a). Due to their significant contributions to employment in most economies, they have proven that small businesses do really matter and developing economies especially cannot be without them (Radic, 2020). The service sector in Ghana is the largest of the three sectors (including manufacturing and agriculture). The trading (wholesale and retail trade) subsector constitutes the majority of business engagements in the services subsector according to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS, 2018). The other subsectors include transport, information technology, hospitality, health, and education (among others). SMEs face diverse challenges (Asare, 2014; Ayyagari et al., 2017) that hinder their growth potentials (Abor & Quartey, 2010b; Ayandibu & Houghton, 2017). Although these challenges have been discussed in the literature extensively with diverse solutions (Donbesuur et al., 2020; Mamman et al., 2019; Quartey et al., 2017), they have mostly covered SMEs in general, but Seidel-Sterzik et al. (2018) have suggested a sector-based approach in tackling SME challenges. Some of the challenges identified include high cost of renting premises, high cost of income and property taxes, low investment capital (Mabe et al., 2013), access to credit (Brixiová et al., 2020), and the need for SMEs to improve on their internal ability to source for resources (Rita & Huruta, 2020). Oppong et al. (2014) contributes to the debate on SME challenges and suggests that there is a gap on how to plan, direct, control, and effectively market and strategize for their business on the part of SMEs which requires training interventions from government and non-governmental organizations.


SME owners are characterized with low capacity to manage their businesses, among other constraints (Abor & Quartey, Abor and Quartey, 2010a), and this requires the ability to understand their intellectual capital to enhance their performance (Demartini & Beretta, 2020) and invest in resources to build and maintain their networks to enhance their scope of business (Masiello & Izzo, 2019). They are further characterized by their owners who tend to lead their business operations when they are small family businesses but, as the business grows, the capacity to manage it by the family diminishes and reverts to nonfamily managers, depending on their intellectual orientation (Bauweraerts et al., 2021). Moreover, their financing decisions in terms of reinvesting in the business are affected by the local governance environment and the source of external financing (Nguyen, 2018). They are mostly financed by external sources (Beck & Demirgüç-kunt, 2008), mainly financial institutions (FIs) who, although challenged by SMEs information asymmetry, tend to use a relationship banking approach to still extend credit to them even in challenging situations (Calabrese et al., 2020). The challenges of SMEs presents an opportunity for research leading to policy directives especially for the benefit of developing economies.


For the qualitative aspect of the study, seven FIs were interviewed using a semistructured interview guide to obtain information on their challenges in lending to SMEs and how they have been able to overcome those challenges. The qualitative study was followed by a quantitative study where data were collected from 688 SMEs, the majority of whom were in the service sector in the Accra and Kumasi localities in Ghana. The questionnaire was divided into sections, with section A on the demographics of the participants. To address the objective of the study, participants had to select from a list of 16 challenges the degree to which each was an obstacle to their business, using a five-point Likert scale from no obstacle to very severe obstacle. The views on how the challenges can be overcome were also obtained.


The FIs discussed the challenges they encounter when they grant credit to SMEs, and these have been outlined in this section. Furthermore, the challenges of SMEs in the service sector have been weighted and discussed with implications for theory and/or policy.

FIs’ challenges and way out with SMEs

The FIs identified six main challenges they encounter in their dealings with SMEs in the service sector. Diversion of funds has been identified as one challenge. According to FIs, SMEs easily change their minds about the purpose of credit facilities granted them once the funds have been disbursed and especially if it is in the form of working capital or overdraft. They further engage in multiple banking, where they borrow from one bank and move the funds into another bank for another purpose. Another challenge that leads to the diversion of funds is inconsistencies in business dealings by SMEs in the service sector. Because these businesses are small and the ownership is vested in mostly one man with little structure in place, they tend to make business decisions in an ad-hoc manner without recourse to their FIs who have extended credit facilities to them. They tend to acquire assets and enter into business deals with little consideration of the implications for their business. Furthermore, FIs are challenged by the lack of succession planning of SMEs such that in the absence of the main promoter of the business, the activities come to a halt and in some cases where death occurs, the business closes down with loans not being repaid. In addition, FIs are challenged by the lack of documentation by the SMEs, which tends to affect the financing decisions to extend or renew existing credit to these SMEs. Poor management capacity and the informal structure of SMEs in the service sector also pose a challenge to FIs as, in their financial inclusion approach, SMEs who can access banking services are those who have registered their businesses, have proof of addresses, and can be reached via mobile phones or e-mails. This, therefore, excludes some of the SMEs from being banked.


Despite the challenges FIs encounter with SMEs, they intimated that they do find SMEs profitable, as a majority of their bank portfolio is made up of SMEs. Hence, FIs have adopted some techniques in being able to lend to SMEs. These include the use of mobile banking, especially for traders who tend not to leave their shops. The mobile bankers visit them in their locations to both collect deposits or give credit. The use of insurance cover as part of securities when they lend to opaque SMEs, building closer relationships with their SME customers to reduce information asymmetry challenges, and developing basic financial information for the SMEs using their bank account operations to JOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL FOR SMALL BUSINESS 3 determine ability to repay a credit are all approaches used by FIs to lend to SMEs. Finally, FIs have concluded that improving due diligence and bank account monitoring is one of the ways they can lend to SMEs successfully.

Service-sector SMEs challenges and the way out

For the quantitative aspect of the study, participants were given a list of 16 obstacles that SMEs face and asked to select their perceived level of severity of the obstacles to their businesses on a five-point Likert scale from no obstacle to very severe obstacle. The obstacles and the level of severity are listed in Table 1. The researchers then combined the percentage of participants who selected severe obstacle and very severe obstacle for each item and ranked the obstacles in Table 2 to determine how the obstacles had been rated by SMEs and the implications thereon. From Table 2, the highest-rated obstacle was tax rates and government laws with 46.65 percent of participants perceiving this as the biggest challenge to their businesses. Practices of informal competitors was the second most rated obstacle, perceived by 37 percent of the participants as either a severe or very severe obstacle to their business. Uncertainty about government policies and competition from cheap imports were ranked third and fourth respectively. Political instability due to changes in government and electricity were fifth and sixth, while crime, theft, and disorder and access to land followed. Access to finance was ranked 10th. Court delays (5.78 percent), followed by labor regulations (7.18 percent) and business licenses and permits (8.23 percent) were the least rated perceived obstacle to service-sector SMEs. The suggested solutions to the challenges by the participants as outlined in a word cloud in Figure 1 includes government’s reduction in taxes, consistent policies, control of the importation of inferior goods, government to deal with the inflation rate, stability of the Cedi, access to cheap sources of funds, ability to market goods and services, the need for trained personnel, and ensuring regular power supply, among others.

Implications for theory and practice

Governments and institutions are making an effort to ensure there is financial inclusion of businesses and individuals through innovative approaches (Senyo & Osabutey, 2020), the availability of credit to SMEs (Lu et al., 2020), and development of entrepreneurship ecosystems as a mechanism to enhance development in the wake of a global health pandemic (Liguori & Bendickson, 2020). This study has helped to identify the challenges faced by service-sector SMEs. The implication is that policies and solutions to SMEs’ challenges should be tackled from the top down according to the rankings of the challenges identified in this study. Figure 2 outlines the challenges and solutions of service-sector SMEs from both FIs’ and SMEs’ point of view and provides implications if tackled by the responsible institutions. For service-sector SMEs to be sustainable and continue to be the engines of economic growth, it is recommended that government and other stakeholders use the challenges identified and the solutions as part of their development of the service-sector SMEs. This will have diverse implications on ease of doing business, growth of SMEs, improved access to funding, and growth in the GDP.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).


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Corporate Entrepreneurship: The Power of Creativity and Passion in a Crisis

Corporate Entrepreneurship: The Power of Creativity and Passion in a Crisis

Corporate Entrepreneurship: The Power of Creativity and Passion in a Crisis

Friday, February 11, 2021, by Dr. Alex F. DeNoble, Ph.D

Executive Director, Lavin Entrepreneurship Center San Diego State University


Let’s not pretend that things will change if we keep doing the same things. A crisis can be a real blessing to any person, to any nation. For all crises bring progress.

Albert Einstein


I recently attended the 2022 annual meetings of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) in Raleigh North Carolina.  A number of years ago, USASBE developed a new program innovation called Learning Journeys.  Each year, the conference is held in a different city and the local hosts would organize a number of outings to give conference participants an overview of local entrepreneurship points of interest. This year, I happened to go on the Arts and Entrepreneurship Learning Journey. It was during this tour that we made a stop at the Raleigh Little Theatre. During the visit, our group had the opportunity to hear from Executive Director, Heather Strickland.


Heather explained that the “Little Theatre” movement began in the early 1900’s as a way to broaden the reach of theatre as an artform to all segments of society. Little Theatres then began to crop up in communities throughout the country.  The Raleigh Little Theatre began operations in 1936 and has been running ever since. The Raleigh Little Theatre operates through financial support from public and private grants. philanthropy and a cadre of community volunteers involved in all facets of the production process.


During her presentation, Heather discussed the crisis that the group experienced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As one can imagine, the city ordinance requirements hit the Raleigh Little Theatre pretty hard. They could not hold in person events and hence had no way of continuing their traditional operations. This is when the leadership team unleashed their creativity and passion to imagine a way forward. Their solution: old time radio productions!  During the 1940’s and 1950’s, this is how large segments of the population received their entertainment. Families would gather around the radio at  predetermined times to listen to stories such as Orson Wells’ epic tome “The War of the Worlds”.   A suggestion was made by one of the directors to stage our own version of “old time radio”.  It was during the September / October timeframe leading up to Halloween. So the group made a commitment to produce a series of shows based around Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and poems. Using this approach, actors could lend their voice and other production specialists could work remotely. People within the community and even around the country could subscribe on a “pay as you can” basis. Even the education sub-group within the Raleigh Little Theatre community was able to get involved. The bottom line to this story is that the program was so successful that they are now considering radio show productions as a permanent addition to their portfolio of programs.


So why would I share this story in a featured monthly article series devoted to corporate entrepreneurship?  In my first article in this series, I underscored the urgency for corporate entrepreneurship, especially in today’s environment. I talked about a punctuated equilibrium situation where an exogenous factor can suddenly impact an ecosystem. For the Raleigh Little Theatre, the impact of COVID-19 and the ensuing social distancing mandates was profound. They simply could not conduct business as usual. But their solution, originally intended as a stop gap measure, was innovative and inspirational. The community embraced it. People from outside of the Raleigh geographic area subscribed to the streaming broadcasts. But best of all, the Raleigh Little Theatre now has a new program to add to their portfolio. Thank you Heather for sharing such an inspirational story of how dreaming and behaving like an entrepreneur can lead to amazing new business opportunities.





#Women2030: Sustainable Career Development

#Women2030: Sustainable Career Development

#Women2030: Sustainable Career Development

Friday, February 4, 2022, by Prof. Analia Pastran and Evangelina Colli

When you are a woman it becomes complex to define the professional development you would like to achieve, since in some way the family, the traditions and customs were preparing us mainly for family assistance tasks. In these times, we are experiencing a global paradigm shift in which the proposal that is promoted with expansive force is to abandon that role for another that puts the core of beliefs in tension.


In this context, being able to see yourself as an economically independent professional woman who can express her own thoughts but at the same time strengthen the foundations of a society by thinking in community, it requires an effort that you must be willing to make, but also of a boldness that is achieved through alliances.


From the observation and experience of the Urban Thinkers Campus (UTCs)  in Mexico and Ecuador carried out since 2019 to date, we can point out that when innovating and advancing in issues that concern humanity, such as life in cities, women have been the most tenacious allies. Women face challenges that are replicated regardless of the region, country, culture or belief, and whose solutions are global given that local problems are global.


The Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) model is an initiative of the UN-Habitat World Urban Campaign, conceived as an open space that includes a series of plenary sessions with debates at the level of international experts, with the aim of bringing together governments, civil society, researchers and personalities from academia, local authorities, professional organizations and youth groups, to propose solutions to urban challenges and achieve green, productive and more inclusive cities.


From this logical framework, we can analyze the real and effective possibilities that women have to access knowledge and power, to apply technology to personal and community development, and to generate alliances during and after these urban thought encounters.


On the other hand, we observe then that the generation and escalation of alliances represent a great challenge to be addressed, since there is a vocation and intention to carry them out but the routines of the organizations and personal objectives make them a difficult and harsh matter to specify and to hold.


Women 2030, a Smartly initiative, comes to propose a scheme of alliances between women to achieve sustainable career development. During the campuses we emphasize the importance of Women Promoting Women, aware that the model of women that we propose is resisted by society and by the women themselves who are already in decision-making positions.


The analysis postulated so far will be under the scrutiny of the social, economic and environmental model that the political systems of the region propose for our democracies.


This series of articles is based on the experience of the Smartly #Women2030 program, and the conclusions published in the UTC online Reports: Vibrant and Inclusive Urban Life First and Second Edition.


*Article written by: Prof. Analia Pastran and Evangelina Colli, Executive Director and Director of Localizing the SDGs of Smartly, Social Entrepreneurship on the SDGs, Partner of the UN Habitat’ World Urban Campaign. #Mujer2030 desarrollo de carrera sostenible

The Entrepreneurial Leopard

The Entrepreneurial Leopard

The Entrepreneurial Leopard

Friday, January 28, 2022, by David A Kirby

Professor David A Kirby


Used  as a title for a recent essay in this ICSB series (Dana and Salamzadeh, 2022), the idiom “A leopard cannot change its spots” is thousands of years old. It means people and things cannot change their innate nature. But this is exactly  what MSMEs will need to do.


Ever since the work of Cantillon (1680-1734 ) wealth creation and the generation of profit has been a central theme of  entrepreneurship and in his articulate essay on the topic Friedman (1970) argued   that “The Social Responsibility of Business is to increase its profits” – to make as much money as possible. Since then, this doctrine has dominated business thinking and while the entrepreneurial  pursuit of wealth has brought about change and improvement, particularly in the world’s developed economies,  often it has been at the expense of people and the planet. Accordingly, despite the introduction of such new approaches as ecopreneurship, humane entrepreneurship and social enterprise, entrepreneurship   has had little impact on the sustainability challenge and may, indeed, be regarded as having contributed significantly to  the plight of the planet. Hence, questions have been raised about its compatibility with sustainability (Gawel, 2012)  and both academics  and practitioners have been actively  seeking new business models to address the challenge (Schaltegger, et. al. 2016).


The problem is that the planet is a system which means  it is not possible to address  one element  without disturbing the other connected elements –  solving one problem often  creates other problems elsewhere  in the system. To address the sustainability challenge, therefore, requires a systemic approach to entrepreneurship that integrates or harmonises the traditional economic, eco, humane and social approaches and brings profit, people and planet into harmony. (Kirby and el-Kaffass, 2021).


While this appears to contradict Friedman’s doctrine what he actually said was that the social  responsibility of business is “to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of society, both those embedded in the law and these embedded in ethical custom. Rarely, however, has this   been  articulated or acted upon, yet  all of the major world religions address such ethical  issues. Indeed in Islam, for example,  the Quran explains explicitly how ethical business should be conducted while the Prophet  MOHAMED pronounced that “The world is green and verdant and verily God, the exalted, has made you the stewards of it”.


To save the planet MSMEs will need to change. Profit and shareholder satisfaction will no longer be the primary objective.   Rather  a more blended, systemic  approach that harmonises profit, people and planet is needed. The entrepreneurial  leopard  needs to change its spots!



Dana, L-P and Salamzadeh, A., (2022), A leopard never changes its spots! ICSB  Entrepreneurship around the globe. 23 January. (news@icsb.org)

Friedman, M., (1970) The Social and Ethical Responsibility of Business is to increase its profits. New York Times. September 13. 122-126

Gawel, A. (2012). Entrepreneurship and sustainability: do they have anything in common? Poznan University of Economics Review. 12 (1) 5-16.

Kirby, D.A. and El-Kaffass, I., (2021), Harmonious Entrepreneurship – a new approach to the challenges of  global sustainability. The World Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development. .17(4), 846-855. First online 12th July.(https://doi.org/10.1108/WJEMSD-09-2020-0126).

Schaltegger, S., Hansen, E.G., & Ludeke-Freund, F. (2016). Business Models for Sustainability: Origins, Present Research and  Future Avenues. Organization & Environment. 29 (1) 3-10.

Entrepreneurship around the Globe: “A leopard never changes its spots!”

Entrepreneurship around the Globe: “A leopard never changes its spots!”

Entrepreneurship around the Globe: “A leopard never changes its spots!”

Sunday, January 23, 2022, by Leo-Paul Dana & Aidin Salamzadeh

Leo-Paul Dana

Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University, Canada

Aidin Salamzadeh

Faculty of Management, University of Tehran, Iran


Many people believe that doing business is just about selling something. Although this could be true, one cannot neglect the importance of where we do such activities. As mentioned by Peter Drucker: “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. The context reveals the playground in which we could win or lose. While a businessperson could succeed in a context, he or she might not even be able to compete in another context. The culture could motivate people or kill their creative spirit.


Hopefully, many intellectuals and authors have already highlighted its importance, but how it could affect business activities is beyond a simple discussion. Countries have various cultures that have been evolved throughout centuries. Many cultural aspects of a set of randomly selected countries might be surprisingly contradictory, while similar textbooks, courses and programs are offered around the Globe to help people do their businesses! It is more like trying to survive a freshwater fish by putting it in the ocean or saltwater!


One might believe that “doing business is all about offering a set of products to a group of customers. that’s it!”. To be honest, one might answer, “that’s not right at all!”. While the business modelling logic provides a basis for understanding any business, it lacks enough attention to its context. At least, this is the mainstream approach in business schools worldwide. We do not overlook the activities already done by various entities in many countries, but we talk about the mainstream approach.


A leopard never changes its spots!


Generally, people respect their shared values, beliefs, and customs, which we simply call their culture. People stick to these issues and avoid doing something contrary to those unwritten rules and regulations. It is almost impossible to change who they are, even if they try to do so very hard. Then, as businesspersons, we need to be so careful about such issues. Although it seems simple, history has shown that it is not much simple. Without respecting various cultures, no one could not make a success story in a specific context. Then, before initiating a business, one must learn more and more about the context. Indeed, many benefits are associated with studying the context, such as knowing the Dos and Don’ts, ensuring survival and growth, and preparing to succeed.


“Understanding Contexts of Business in Western Asia: Land of Bazaars and High-Tech Booms” (Dana et al., 2022) is an example of how culture has affected Western Asian countries by using an interesting phenomenon called “bazaar”, and how such a cultural fact has helped them deal with high-tech booms and improving entrepreneurial ecosystems in those countries. It could be a beginning to revise teaching and doing business in diverse contexts.



Dana, L. P. (2014). Asian models of entrepreneurship—from the Indian Union and Nepal to the Japanese Archipelago: Context, policy and practice. World Scientific Publishing: Singapore.

Dana, L. P., Salamzadeh, A., Ramadani, V., & Palalic, R. (2021). Understanding Contexts of Business in Western Asia: Land of Bazaars and High-Tech Booms. World Scientific Publishing: Singapore.

From Digital Revolution Back to the Barter System in One Day

From Digital Revolution Back to the Barter System in One Day

From Digital Revolution Back to the Barter System in One Day

Tuesday, January 18, 2022, by Dr. Mariya Yesseleva-Pionka, PhD

We have been witnessing a digital revolution worldwide which affected all industries, especially with the evolution of digital payment methods. The global connectivity due to the introduction of the Internet allowed for the flow of information, payments, emails, texts, to name a few. We all so quickly got used to having a mobile phone that gave us quick and easy access to all the banking and finance needs, exchange of data, verbal, video and text communication. The IT industry has flourished over the years by introducing new software, Apps and programs with a greater emphasis on mobile phone users. An everyday consumer has rapidly accepted online bank cards, online banking and investment systems, digital cash, online roboadvisers,  trading in cryptocurrencies and other digital tokens mainly because they were introduced with user-friendly mobile interfaces.


Kazakhstan, which used to be part of the USSR, gained its independence back in 1991, is the largest country in the Central Asian region. The banking sector in Kazakhstan introduced digital and QR code payment systems a few years ago and strongly promoted cashless payments. The digital payment options have quickly received acceptance from the general population. It was easy, convenient and fast to transfer money and pay for goods and services. It was interesting to witness that even small shop owners had access to the QR codes and, in general, MSMEs were happy to accept cashless payments. Physical cash was rarely circulated. The vast majority of payments were digital, and whenever someone had a banknote, in many cases, sellers could not accept it as they did not have change and asked for a digital transfer of the funds.  It was all due to smart mobile phones that could provide access to the online banking apps that offered omnichannel banking experiences, from basic banking needs to all the types of shopping, travelling, investing needs, and so much more. The Kazakh nation has been tech-savvy for years and showed no signs of slowing down.


This all changed on the 4th of January 2022, when the lives of the citizens were thrown into turmoil. Suddenly there were demonstrations and unrest and a major disruption to everyday life. Sadly there was also loss of life. The entire country was in a state of emergency, and people were urged to stay at home. There was no Internet access, mobile networks stopped working, international numbers could not be reached on landlines – the country was cut off from the outside world. The banking sector stopped operating, the stock exchange suspended operations, and ATMs were emptied.


Large supermarkets and malls were closed, none of the point of sale terminals were working, and none of the bank cards were accepted. When going to the small local shops to buy bread and milk, the ordinary citizens were asked to pay with cash only as all the cashier online payment systems were not operating. Everyone had money in their bank accounts but could not access them to pay for essential goods. People did not have any cash savings at home as they got used to mobile phone cashless payment systems. After a few days, while queueing for food, some people were desperate to buy necessary items but had no cash to pay for them. They started asking people if they were able to give some money in exchange for expensive phones and other valuable items; others were asking shop owners to provide food in exchange for valuable items. In the emergency state, the barter system started its operation.


What happened in Kazakhstan is unprecedented but makes us all think about the key questions:


Are we ready for the digital world?


Are we ready to have only digital means of payments?


What happens to us and our daily lives once the Internet goes down due to various reasons?


What happens to technology, the finance and banking sectors, and, most importantly, payment methods in the absence of the Internet and global connectivity?


What will be the value of cryptocurrencies and other digital tokens when there is no access to the Internet?


Dr Mariya Yesseleva-Pionka is Global Certificates Manager at ICSB, a Higher Degree by Research Supervisor at Excelsia College and Adjunct Academic at the University of Technology  Sydney, Australia. Dr Yesseleva-Pionka held teaching and senior academic management positions in Central Asia (Kazakhstan) and Australia. She specialised in general investments, personal and corporate superannuation investments while working for Westpac Banking Corporation and BT Financial Group in Australia. She was invited to join The Housing Connection, a not-for-profit organisation in Sydney, Australia as Treasurer and Board Member from November 2019. Her research interests include entrepreneurial finance, traditional and alternative ways to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs), corporate finance, policies for the small business sector, innovation and SMEs, FinTechs and Blockchain. Dr Yesseleva-Pionka is the Associate Editor for the Journal of the International Council for Small Business (JICSB). 

Alternative Finance Landscape: Roboadvising

Alternative Finance Landscape: Roboadvising

Alternative Finance Landscape: Roboadvising

Monday, December 6, 2021, by Dr. Mariya Yesseleva-Pionka, PhD

At various stages in their personal lives, many entrepreneurs choose to seek the advice of a finance professional to assess risks and recommend financial solutions that could help in the financial decision-making process. Historically, professional advisers or financial planners could be found among lawyers, tax and insurance agents, credit providers, stockbrokers and other financial service providers. As such, it is necessary always to check if all the licenses and registrations are in place before you pay for the services and rely on the advice provided by a chosen financial adviser. A complete financial advice from a selected financial planner typically encompasses information and advice that makes it easier for you to manage investment options, tax implications, insurance policies, education needs, retirement plans and various loans and provides an interconnected financial plan.


As the widespread adoption of digital banking continues to increase it is evident that customers will continue to expect more personalised banking services. The myriad banking options shared with customers through their banking applications are making it more challenging to make well-informed financial decisions. Access to professional financial advice has always been associated with a fee payment which gave you access to personalised advice on a diverse range of financial matters. Clearly, for a significant number of people, the fees were considered to be quite high and as a result, not many people could access professional financial advice services. 


In today’s digitalised world roboadvising has gained popularity due to lower costs, at scale personalisation, greater accessibility, efficiency and overall, financially inclusive approach. In general lower fees charged by roboadvisors made their service more accessible in comparison to their traditional financial advisors. The process is relatively straightforward, which involves completing an online questionnaire that contains a large set of questions connected with your financial plans, age, risk tolerance level, investment horizons, the amount you are planning to invest, among other granular questions. Upon successful completion of the questionnaire, a roboadvisor will ask you to link your bank account with the roboadvisor’s platform for a more seamless investment experience.


There are many online platforms that rely on mathematical computer algorithms to provide recommendations and financial advice to customers with varied financial profiles. Even in the presence of so many benefits, it is essential to be aware of the limitations associated with roboadvising. For many clients, having no face-to-face meetings or conversations could be considered a major hurdle. Roboadvising is still a new landscape, so it is necessary to compare fees and services offered by various roboadvisors.  For instance, check how accessible is the customer support team (e.g., chatbots, emails, phone contact with human advisors), level of management and investment fees charged, types of investment options in order to gauge the level of portfolio diversification, educational material they have on offer, minimum investment amounts, level of customers’ ratings, opportunities to minimise tax exposures, trading costs associated with buying and selling various investments and potential conflicts of interest when it comes to the types of investment products recommended by roboadvisors. Remember, every single outcome in your financial success story is defined by the financial decisions you make.


Dr Mariya Yesseleva-Pionka is Global Certificates Manager at ICSB, a Higher Degree by Research Supervisor at Excelsia College and Adjunct Academic at the University of Technology  Sydney, Australia. Dr Yesseleva-Pionka held teaching and senior academic management positions in Central Asia (Kazakhstan) and Australia. She specialised in general investments, personal and corporate superannuation investments while working for Westpac Banking Corporation and BT Financial Group in Australia. She was invited to join The Housing Connection, a not-for-profit organisation in Sydney, Australia as Treasurer and Board Member from November 2019. Her research interests include entrepreneurial finance, traditional and alternative ways to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs), corporate finance, policies for the small business sector, innovation and SMEs, FinTechs and Blockchain. Dr Yesseleva-Pionka is the Associate Editor for the Journal of the International Council for Small Business (JICSB). 

So You Say You Want An Entrepreneurial Revolution

So You Say You Want An Entrepreneurial Revolution

So You Say You Want An Entrepreneurial Revolution

Monday, December 6, 2021, by Dr. Norris Krueger

Is it Kepler Time?

So you say you want a revolution; well, you know, we all want to change the world.[i] [ii]


2022 is ICSB’s Year of Revolution. We have been witness to no less than four Copernican revolutions in how to develop entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. In each case, we have already had our Copernican moments. But would Copernicus be Copernicus without those like Kepler who fought to prove their essential value?  As a field, the time has now come to find and support our Keplers.

Copernicus proved what many had already suspected: The earth travels around the sun, not vice-versa, despite our evident lived experience. A great triumph for science, yes, but his insights did not change the world until Kepler figured out how to make it actionable by demonstrating the regularity of planet orbits.

Entrepreneurship has already had our Copernican moments; the time has come to empower a generation of Keplers. Everywhere we look, we see “entrepreneurs” and “entrepreneurship” – yet in reality, the quantity of entrepreneurial activity has been in decline for decades.

TESLA for our time: Taking Entrepreneurship Seriously by Losing Assumptions[iii]

Our own lived experience about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship is often as wrong it is about celestial mechanics. Entrepreneurship is both a consequence and driver of complex dynamic adaptive systems where simple linearities are rare. To use an apt analogy, local economies are far more like a messy rain forest than a tidy, organized farm.[iv] Too often, our experiences lead us in the wrong directions. Just as the persistent myths and misconceptions about entrepreneurship resonate too often with our intuitions, the critical leverage points for growing entrepreneurs can be maddeningly counter-intuitive. That means letting go of well-entrenched assumptions about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Losing our most cherished beliefs is never easy, but the rewards will be brilliant.

There are no less than four Copernican revolutions in how to grow healthy entrepreneurs and healthy entrepreneurship. Yet entrepreneurship is lionized but not embraced. Each month I will take a deeper look at these:

            1) Entrepreneurial education and learning

            2) Lean startup, design thinking, etc.

            3) Bottom-up, outside-in entrepreneurial ecosystems

            4) Social and sustainable entrepreneurship

We need to embrace all four if we are to realize the entrepreneurial potential of our communities – all of our communities. That we need to embrace if we are to realize the entrepreneurial potential of our citizens – all of our citizens.

We will likely have to storm a few barricades for the entrepreneurial revolution to succeed. Will you join ICSB and friends? Then, we will give John Lennon the final word: Don’t you know it’s going to be all right?


ICSB Entrepreneurship Revolution series continues with Dr. Norris Krueger.

[i]     Lennon, J & McCartney, P (1968) “Revolution”. Sony Music Publishing (with apologies for the liberties).

[ii]    Stay tuned for a “Keplerian” entrepreneurial update of this Beatles classic…

[iii]    ICSB CEO Ayman El-Tarabishy has dubbed me the “Tesla of entrepreneurship”; it seems only appropriate to leverage the meme

[iv]    e.g, Hwang & Horowitt’s seminal 2012 book, The Rainforest; also Brett’s 2020 Admired Disorder)