Monday, February 1, 2010

'When I was hungry, you invested'

Hon. Karl Hendrickson

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | 1 February 2010
(Click on title for full column)

Four prime ministers at his birthday celebration, and no media. Fifty million donated to his alma mater, Jamaica College, and minimal publicity. His friends and associates know that I could be writing about only one person: Karl Hendrickson. The Jamaican public may be surprised to know that this elegant patriot who recently achieved fourscore years has founded, and with his four children re-engineered a group of homegrown companies with a total workforce of over 3,000.

Today, Gary runs National Baking in Kingston and Coconut Bay Resort and Spa in St Lucia; Lori-Ann and her husband Dave run Caribbean Broilers, Newport Mills and their subsidiaries; Kevin and wife Jackie operate Yummy Bakery in Mandeville, The Courtleigh and Knutsford Court hotels in Kingston and the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay; Cathy and husband Ian operate Sunset Beach Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, Sunset at the Palms in Negril.

The business pioneer recalls that when the family decided to invest in the hotel industry, they got solid advice from other hoteliers. What would this country be without such daring investors? Entrepreneurship is probably the greatest and least acknowledged response to the Christian mandate, which in modern times could be translated as, "When I was hungry, you invested."

Karl is asked regularly, "How did you mentor all of your four children to become such successful entrepreneurs?" His first response is to praise his wife Nell, who he says has been the strength of the family. "I knew that with guidance they would realise their capabilities," he says. "It is important to release energy, intellect, potential."

The iconic business leader harks back to the 70s when they saw many of their extended family members migrating: "But we made a collective decision to stay in Jamaica. Times were tough ... the family, including the children, focused on work and home. It made them stronger and inculcated positive work habits. They also developed a deep compassion for the less fortunate." He is grateful that his grandchildren are now showing the traditional Hendrickson caring, diligence and discipline.

For the Hendrickson family, business is an integral part of their lives. "Even during the short holidays we took, we used the time to acquire knowledge about new technology, equipment and processes that were taking place around the world. I can't remember ever leading a boring life. Business is a full-time commitment," says Karl, "seven days a week, 365 days a year. I am not a hobby person, my hobby is work."

"I am a manufacturing person," emphasises Karl. "I believe if Jamaica is to progress we should go back to production; we need to respond to the necessary discipline that goes into production. This will generate quality employment for our people, and this deviation from production is why Jamaica has not seen growth."

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