By Alicia Sutherland
Representatives from coffee manufacturer Jamaica Standard Products, Pioneer Chocolate Company, Fontana Pharmacy, solar and irrigation company Isratech Jamaica, and community tourism player Jakes Hotel gave useful pointers to those who took part, many still budding entrepreneurs.
Managing director of Fontana Pharmacy, Kevin O'Brien Chang, said that it is a culture of service, family, and community engagement that is being passed on in his organisation.
“The staff is the secret of Fontana. We have employees for over 40 years. Common sense says that if your community grows, your business grows with it,” he said.
Chang said that having a suitable location is important for a retail business as this allows customers to gravitate to the service.
He also noted that business is about “filling vacuums”, as he explained the importance of being able to adapt to changing times — a concept all the business representatives admitted to understanding on a practical level.
The company on the panel in business the longest was Pioneer Chocolate that began in 1938, and is now operating as a fourth-generation company.
Robert Cunningham, who is third generation in the business and now handing the reins to his children, said that they have no local competition currently, but understand the relevance of being innovative.
He said, for example, that as younger generations started making purchasing decisions, they realised that they had to tap into an instant chocolate market, which was not part of the offering before.
Jamaica Standard Products' John O Minott reminded the audience that with increasing technology it is now even clearer that the competition is the rest of the world.
And Jason Henzell of Jakes Hotel in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, said that it was the growth in Internet access that assisted in propelling his business into the household name that it is today.
He said that some family businesses will not be able to make the transition to the next generation.
“You can't force (a family business) on your child; that will be a disaster,” Henzell cautioned.
On the other hand, the youngest panel representative, Benjamin Hodara of Isratech, said that when a transition is made, having a clear organisational structure helps in the efficient operation of the company.
Organiser of the Small Shops Big Business Forum, Annette Salmon, told theJamaica Observer that business owners had a chance to mingle and meet fellow business owners they never knew existed.
She said a few micro business owners were able to acquire new clients through the forum, and other networking events will follow to multiply the connections.
Salmon encouraged the participants that, even as they look to entrepreneurship, those who are still employed to an organisation should seek to make a meaningful impact.