Overcoming Obstacles: What is your ‘Panama Canal’?

By: Julia Pimsleur, an EO New York member, special to Overdrive

What one question can you ask 800 entrepreneurs from 30 countries at an Entrepreneurs Organization’s global leadership conference in Panama?

What is the ‘Panama Canal’ in your business?

Meaning, if you could cut through one big obstacle in your business that would allow you to grow exponentially, what would it be? When the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 it connected the Pacific to the Atlantic and changed global trade forever, saving ships months of travel around Cape Horn of South America and ultimately generating billions of trade dollars. Entrepreneurs are always trying to do things the fastest, most effective way so the Panama Canal metaphor seemed particularly fitting.  Here is how a 5% sample of the 800 at the conference responded to a Panama Canal sketch (see below). I gave them a drop down menu of answers and being entrepreneurs, they also added a few new ones.

The number one most requested “Panama Canal” is PEOPLE.

32% of the entrepreneurs said they spend more time and resources finding, training and retaining the right people and this is their biggest obstacle to scaling up their businesses faster.

The number two answer is CAPITAL.

12% of the entrepreneurs said they needed more and easier access to capital to grow. Many commented how mush more difficult it is to access capital since the crash, with real estate developers hit particularly hard. “Ever since the market crashed what used to be a $300M market is now a $30M market,” Anton Haramis, a commercial real estate developer from San Francisco, commented.

10% said:


7% said:


3% said:


1% said:


2 people said:

LIMITATIONS – getting over your own limitations

While in Panama, we learned that the Panama Canal is under renovation in order to allow for the new larger carriers to pass. In our businesses we have to constantly expand the entry points too. Entrepreneurs are always adapting to changing markets and technology, pivoting and digging deeper and wider.

What is the Panama Canal in your business?

Categories: PEOPLE/STAFF


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