Saturday, April 09, 2011

Institutionalizing Entrepreneurship

The Brazilian government considered entrepreneurship a priority for national development. Since 1972, a group of people got together to form a not-for-profit private organization to “promote competitiveness and sustainable development of micro and small enterprises and foster entrepreneurship.” In 2006, the federal government approved the General Law of Micro and Small Enterprises which includes the rules and incentives required to follow-up the issue at a federal, state and municipal levels.

The result of these efforts is diverse and very rich in experiences and entrepreneurship even within the organization itself. The Brazilian Support Service for Micro and Small Enterprises (SEBRAE, in Portuguese) announced today on Folha de São Paulo, perhaps the most important newspaper in the country, that in 2010 it achieved the mark of one million (yes, 1,000,000) new formal entrepreneurs, which have been assisted in techniques, methods and principles for sustainable development of new enterprises allowing them to benefit from the services and advantages of having their enterprises duly registered according to law.

It is clear that, with almost 200 million people, Brazil still needs much more to scale the transformation of 100 million people living in poverty into becoming micro and small entrepreneurs. In this way, the “bolsa família” program, which gives scholarships to poor families that send their children to school and take them to medical check-ups regularly, is complemented by this institutional effort so that those children and adolescents can also expect the necessary support to establish their own companies.

It is also clear that this is the right way to go and that there are plenty optimistic results thus far. It is inevitable to think what will happen during the coming 20 years following this line of support to the person that needs support into becoming a formal entrepreneur.

SEBRAE transfers competencies –by law and also through training workshops- to municipalities, so that these offer more customized services to their constituents. This generates competition among the different municipalities towards enlarging their lists of clients and improving the socioeconomic condition of their neighbors. According to their performance, municipalities receive every year the “Entrepreneurial Major” award, which stimulates municipalities to constantly improve to aspire to this certification.

Today, SEBRAE makes efforts to introduce more national legislation amendments, this time to create an entrepreneurship learning program for public schools for children and youth between 7 and 17 years old. Upon graduation, the student can choose to continue her academic career or continue her entrepreneurial career, as she already possesses sufficient tools, guidance, ideas and experience to become an entrepreneur. I was very positively surprised seven years ago in Thailand seeing 20 year-olds managing their own companies thanks to this kind of public policy in that Asian country. This time, Brazil attempts to do it as well.

By 2020, SEBRAE promises to be recognized for: connecting people, having passion for entrepreneurship and the transformation of dreams, impeccable customer service, virtualization of services, cooperation to perpetuate businesses, being a cherished brand, being sustainable around the value cycle including clients, partners and suppliers in environmental responsibility, and being coherent with the organizational vision. Do you think they will manage? If they can, then why can’t we?

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