Monday, November 19, 2012

‘Stop waiting on the IMF!’

Jamaica Observer column | MON 19 November 2012
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Butch Hendrickson: “Let us stop waiting on the IMF.  Let us put our money where our mouths are.”

“This country is stuck in a waiting game,” declared Butch Hendrickson at the 60th Anniversary celebration of National Bakery.  “Waiting on ‘Mr I, Mr M, and Mr F’ but decision makers need to decide and Jamaica cannot wait!  I have 760 workers who depend on National to fulfill their own personal dreams for themselves and their families.”  
To his colleagues in business Butch appealed, “Let us stop waiting on the IMF.  Let us put our money where our mouths are.”

The young Chairman who succeeded his father, business icon Karl Hendrickson, 18 years ago has been a visionary in his own right.  “We’re 60 years old, but we’re just starting to rock and roll,” he quipped. This is developmental ‘rock and roll’ – he has expanded his facilities at 45 Half Way Tree Road by 140,000 square feet.  He has expanded his fleet to over 200 vehicles and his workforce is still growing.  In spite of the advanced technology at his plant, Butch assured us that ‘this never replaced one worker.’ He said instead, the mile-long spiral coolers, giant mixers, speedy bagging and wrapping machines have enhanced their output and made their work much easier.

But baking good breads (including that amazing Healthy Start) and biscuits is not enough for Butch Hendrickson.  He has been mentoring new manufacturers over the past three years in his ‘Bold Ones’ project.  These are little known new manufacturers who have at least 5 employees and are tax-compliant. They are awarded a comprehensive marketing package including showing at the big JMA-JEA Expo, display stands, professional video, publicity and mobile outdoor advertising on ubiquitous National trucks.  Some have been catapulted into overseas markets and others to the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange. 

National has also invested heavily to ‘go green’ - converting to biodegradable bread bags, recycling bio-fuel, banishing disposables from their canteen and using solar energy. They have been sponsors of ‘Crayons Count’ to the tune of over $40 million during the current year – the programme benefits early childhood education and their trucks have delivered over 2,700 learning kits to basic schools throughout Jamaica.

There are two sets of people who send an enthusiastic Butch Hendrickson bouncing to work every day: his customers and his employees. “When you think of your customer first, everything else becomes easy,” he says.

No doubt, Butch has learned well at the feet of his father, that icon of entrepreneurship, Karl Hendrickson who, in the company’s 60th anniversary magazine, reflected on his company’s growth, drawing a parallel with Jamaica’s history.  “The year 1952 was exactly ten years before the country achieved independence, but we were already a confident people, having achieved universal adult suffrage in 1944, the year of our first national general elections,” said Mr Hendrickson. “Throughout this period, we saw a rise in entrepreneurship, a glorious time as we embarked on our journey towards Independence … The spirit of Independence was magical! The ensuing years took us into a creative and innovative phase – we were a hotbed of optimism and entrepreneurism.”

Like the best global visionaries, Karl Hendrickson kept his finger on the pulse of the times: “The country then entered an era of examination and self assessment, but, even as we forged a strong Jamaican cultural identity, the world was changing. We were entering the information age and a new globalized world - a world that demanded fundamental changes and development imperatives.”

While our public sector leaders were jousting, private sector leaders like the Hendricksons were planning. “We at National Baking and the NCC Group were fortunate enough to recognise this global phenomenon and we took strategic steps to focus on areas that would keep us relevant and viable,” said Karl Hendrickson. “All this was possible because my children chose to return to Jamaica after they had completed their education, and to participate wholeheartedly in the development of these businesses, the bakery business, poultry and feed milling and the hotel industry.”

This keen observation of global conditions and planning for them should have taken place decades ago in the public sector.  But we must live in hope, especially since we have business leaders like the Hendricksons who continue to believe in a better Jamaica for all and work to achieve it.

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