Observer column for MON 22 June 2015 by Jean Lowrie-Chin
|Butch Hendrickson - man of action!|
It was 7.30 am, and folks were on time last Tuesday at the Courtleigh Hotel. ‘Jamaica Time’ is evolving, especially when the speaker National Bakery Chairman Butch Hendrickson is giving advice on “How to successfully navigate the export minefield”.
In introducing Butch, JEA President Marjory Kennedy noted that “all of us need to take a lesson” from the Hendrickson family. Indeed, the Hendrickson group started from a small bakery in St. Elizabeth and has grown exponentially because the family “plough back their gains into their businesses,” she said.
Butch explained: “I have only two assets: my customer base and my staff – everything else I can buy….If you think of your customers first, all decisions are easier.” For example, regardless of New Year’s Eve festivities, he says the bakery must operate on New Year’s Day.
National Bakery’s burgeoning export business has taken them to the United Kingdom, the Eastern Caribbean, Canada and the US, particularly New York. They concentrate on the wider market, not just Jamaicans, with 50% to 60% of their customers coming from the mainstream in England.
Butch encouraged his fellow exporters to share containers when shipping to smaller countries or markets. National shares with Spur Tree Spices and he knows of other companies who do the same.
He advised that exporters could not solely depend on third parties to market their products. “You have to stay on top of your distribution,” he warned. “We have to pull bread every three days. If we didn’t, we would see our bread on the shelf beyond five days.”
|National's Sonya Linton|
As a result of this, National took over their own distribution and Butch introduced his export manager Sonya Linton, who described some of her activities. Always showing enthusiasm in her attitude and excellence in her implementation, Sonya uses technology to assist her in tracking the locations and quality of displays.
“Most everyone has a camera in their phone,” notes Butch. “Take photos and send them to distributors right there on the spot.”
He emphasised the importance of quality: “It takes a lot of effort and time. If you’re not producing quality, don’t bother. People’s love of Jamaica only goes so far!”
He explained that the packaging guidelines varied from country to country: “We have different packages for cream crackers because it has to be bilingual for Canada and the nutritional panel has to be changed for the US. If you don’t follow these rules, there are hefty fines and you could end up having to dump an entire container!”
“You can only overcome by sheer quality and service,” he says. “Sonya usually returns from a trip with an entire suitcase of samples – you just have to keep up!”
“There is nothing simple about business,” says Butch. “You have to work it. We are a part of the Jamaican society and you must give back. You should actually invest more when people say things are bad. The country’s best time is now – now is always the best time!”
He recommended that anyone who wants to do business with the Diaspora should take advice from Jamaica National’s Earl Jarrett: “We have taken a leaf from Jamaica National. You can’t do better than Earl Jarrett. He can be more British than the Queen and more Jamaican than Busta!”
However, he admits that taxation is such a burden, that it is hard to be starting a business in these times. William Mahfood, PSOJ President and Chairman of WISYNCO, commented that when comparing notes with one of his associates in the Dominican Republic, he discovered that they could get their product to Miami for what it costs him to get his to the ship, due to high energy and other costs.
Jamaican exporters are also being undercut by dishonest labelling with “Jamaican Style” products being manufactured in far flung countries with absolutely no Jamaican ingredients. To counter this, Marjory Kennedy noted that Brand Jamaica was being registered under the Madrid Protocol, which would give us protection in over 80 countries.