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Portrait Of Male Owner Of Sustainable Plastic Free Grocery Store Behind Sales Desk
Community Articles, Employment Issues,

We have more local entrepreneurs than we think

We need to tap into the hotel industry and the grocery stores

Introduction

I know many of us are not where we want to be but there is a significant number of Turks and Caicos Islanders who are entrepreneurs. Some are doing very well, and some are not doing well. For those that are not doing well, we must find ways to make their businesses successful. I believe if we were to count the number of local entrepreneurs and compare it to the local population, the percentage would be high especially when compared to other Caribbean countries.

I think what we lack though, is more local entrepreneurship in the hotel industry Tourism is our main industry and while there are many locals who are now villa owners, we have very few locals who are hotel owners.

Another thing we lack is entrepreneurship in the grocery stores industry. We have many grocery stores, but I don’t even think we have two locals that own a grocery store on the island of Providenciales. However, on the islands of South Caicos and North Caicos, there are a few that are owned by Turks and Caicos Islanders. Everybody needs food to survive and so a grocery store is something that can be profitable and more should be owned by Turks and Caicos Islanders.

We may say we don’t have the money, but I believe if some of us can come together and put our resources together, we can establish these businesses. We don’t need Government to help us, we can do this so let us try and form partnerships among one another.

We have more entrepreneurs than we think

The Turks and Caicos is so blessed, and I admire individuals who took the risk to start a business. In 2001, my wife and I took the risk and started our office supplies store and then I took a risk again in 2013 to start an accounting firm and a property management company. There are other locals who are also owners of office supplies stores and accounting firms.

We also have many local entrepreneurs of car rental companies, restaurants, dry cleaners, horseback riding, apartments, building materials, airline companies, gas stations, construction companies, architects’ firms, FBO, medical facilities, newspaper companies, taxi companies, real estate companies, plumbing and electrical supplies, watersports companies, private schools, villas, law firms, barber shops, salons, massage parlours, bakeries, liquor stores, water companies, mechanic shops, tire shops and the list goes on and on.  Therefore, many locals are entrepreneurs and are benefiting from the economy.

The challenges some local entrepreneurs face

Even though we have many local entrepreneurs, there are challenges. Too many of us are in the same line of business and so there is a price war going on among our businesses so that we can retain or get more customers. While this is good for the consumers, I personally believe that some businesses need to merge, and they will be able to get more profit. However, there is a lack of trust among us and furthermore, many of us do not really want to be in partnership with anyone. Many other businesses in TCI are thriving because of partnerships.

Another challenge we face is that some locals are fronting and some of these businesses are so big, it is a challenge for some of the local businesses to compete against them. Fronting is illegal but it is quite prevalent in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Another challenge is the lack of support. Many businesses are not getting the support from the community. Some people rather not support some local businesses as they feel they are making some locals rich. Some locals are also not getting the support from non-locals especially if a non-local has the same type of business as a local. Another thing is some individuals and businesses are supporting businesses overseas by purchasing from them rather than purchasing local.

A major issue that local entrepreneurs face is the Procurement Ordinance. The Procurement Ordinance allows anyone (even if you don’t have a business licence from TCIG) to bid on a government tender. I wrote about this several times and I will continue to write about until Procurement Ordinance is changed and is level playing field for local entrepreneurs. Imagine you put in a tender and your supplier put in a tender, who do you think will win the bid.

There are some individuals who are entrepreneurs and find it difficult to start either because they do not know how to start, or they don’t have any money. I encourage you who are in this category to talk to an entrepreneur who can guide you. You may discover that you can start your business with the little that you have.

Entrepreneurship in the hotel industry and grocery stores

I believe tourism will continue to grow in the Turks and Caicos Islands and while there may not be much land available on Grace Bay Beach, there is land in the vicinity of Grace Bay Beach, and there is land available on the other islands in the Turks and Caicos. I know most of the resorts in Turks and Caicos are condo but many of us do not even own a condo. Therefore, I throw a challenge out there for us to come together and put our resources together to own hotels and condos.  It is possible to do this. Maye some of us are trying to do this by ourselves rather than through partnership and it will be a challenge to build a hotel on your own unless you are very wealthy. The best thing is for us to develop a partnership.

The same applies to a grocery store. In the past, we had quite several local entrepreneurships in the grocery store, somehow, that is no longer the case. However, it can still be done. Let us leave a legacy for the future generation.

Conclusion

We should not become intimidated by the size of the local population nor the size of the competition or the number of the players in the market. We also need to overcome fear and the lack of trust. I believe there is enough of us who can come together and become entrepreneurs in the hotel industry and the grocery store. We need to blame ourselves for not coming together and for not supporting one another.  Let us not waste time talking about the problem, let us use our energy and put the solutions in place. I am ready. Are you?

Woman customer with cashier in the supermarket
Community Articles, Employment Issues,

Do not take the frontline employees for granted.

They know more about the needs of the customer than you think

Introduction

One of the greatest issues in any organization is that some leaders do not engage the front-line employees. Front line employees are those employees that interact with the customers directly. Because of their interaction with the customers, they know the needs of customers but yet many leaders think very little of the front-line employees.

Front-line employees are employees such as the cashiers, the administrators, the health care workers, the switchboard operators and the truck drivers.

Engage with the front-line workers

Many leaders consume a lot of their time having meetings with the Heads of Departments but quite frankly the Heads of Department need to spend more time engaging with the front-line workers. It is unfortunate that many of us as leaders have allowed our positions and educational attainment to go to our heads. Somehow, we think we know everything and think our front-line workers do not know anything. Based on my observation, some of these front-line workers will make better leaders than some of our current leaders.

Our front-line workers understand and know the issues that customers are facing and if anyone that is able to address the needs of customers, more than likely those customers will remain with that organization. However, if leaders are out of touch with the needs of the customers, they will lose those customers and then they will be wondering why they are losing customers. In fact, they may also lose some of their front-line workers because if the workers feel they are not appreciated or listened to, they will become frustrated and move to another organization.

Engage more with the frontline workers and stop disrespecting them and talking to them in a condescending manner. The truth is each employee matters and we should treat them like they matter. Every role in an organization is important and so we need to stop acting like management is better than frontline employees.  Meet with the frontline workers frequently and do not only meet with them but address the issues they raised. In fact, we should empower the frontline workers to make certain decisions. Of course, controls must be in place to ensure there is no abuse.

Speaking about abuse, many of us are taking too much advantage of the front-line workers especially if they are work permit holders. Stop looking at employees as foreigners, locals, Dominicans, Haitians and Filipinos but look at them as valuable human resources for your organization. Stop showing preference to front line workers because of who they are. Be very careful how you treat your employees because your employees can also become revengeful and encourage customers to go elsewhere.  In addition, your frontline employees may discourage other great potential employees from joining your organization if they are not treated right. I know if I were to join an organization, I would find out from frontline employees what the work environment is like.

Conclusion

I encourage all leaders to have a one-to-one conversation with their employees. Make the employees feel that you care about their opinions and one way to do so is to implement the recommendations they suggested. The thing is, as a leader, when you address the issues, it will make you look good as well. I believe it will also increase productivity and morality of the employees.

Portrait Of Teacher Helping Pupil Using Computer In Classroom
Community Articles, Employment Issues,

We need to address the shortage of local teachers.

Don’t blame the “foreign” teachers but let us do more to incentivize locals

Introduction

There are many professions that are overlooked particularly the educators. The teaching profession is not only overlooked but is underpaid especially. In 1986, when I started college, I double major in education and accounting as I was either going to be an accountant or an accounting teacher. After the first year of college, I decided to drop education and replace it with business management because after months of careful consideration, I concluded that the salary as a teacher in the Turks and Caicos would be too small even though I loved teaching.

I know there are many other people who want to be educators and are perhaps thinking the same thing I thought in 1986. As a result there is a shortage of local teachers and therefore we have to recruit teachers from overseas.

Teaching is a noble profession and unlike other professions, everybody needs a teacher. The doctors need a teacher, the lawyers need a teacher, the accountants need a teacher, the plumbers need a teacher and the list goes on and on but yet we look down on teaching as a profession.

Don’t blame the “foreign” teachers

From the time I was a little child, we had “foreign teachers” particularly at the secondary level. As I can recalled, most if not all of my teachers at the elementary level were locals. However, that has changed now. In fact, I believed back then, the majority of scholarships offered were for teaching and the Turks and Caicos private sector was virtually non-existence. Nowadays, there are few local teachers at the elementary, secondary and tertiary levels therefore our education system will consist of mainly non local teachers.

We cannot and should not blame the “foreign teachers.” Jobs are advertised and have to be occupied and if there is insufficient locals then we have to get teachers from the outside. Let us stop blaming the teachers for occupying these posts. How do you think they feel? They have feelings just like you and I.

We have to accept the fact that unless we do something to attract more locals to the teaching profession, we will continue to have “foreign” teachers. Don’t you want your children to be educated? Well in order for them to be educated, they need to be taught and in order for them to be taught, they need to have teachers.

Incentivize the locals

I believe there are many locals who want to be teachers but they feel disenfranchised. I know there are locals who were teachers and left the profession to secure better paying jobs. Due to the fact that most of our teachers are not from here, more than likely they will not stay here in TCI especially since there is also a demand for teachers in Canada and the USA. In order to mitigate this risk, we need to encourage more locals in the profession.

This can be done by offering more scholarships for the teaching profession. In addition, we need to review the compensation that teachers are getting paid. My understanding is that the non-locals are given a gratuity at the end of their contract while the locals are not given any gratuity.

To resolve this issue, I think we should increase the salaries for teachers. I know a review was done a couple of years ago but if we are serious about attracting locals to the profession, then the salaries need to be increased.

Conclusion

Whether we like it or not, the public and private sector offer incentives to non-locals such as gratuity to attract them to their organization. If we cannot increase the salaries for local teachers then maybe we need to review the local terms and offer the teachers a contract with gratuity. I challenge those local teachers to apply for the teaching positions that are advertised. Don’t expect people to call you because you know you are a teacher. If you want something, you have to apply for it.

In the meantime, let us be thankful for our teachers for they are the ones that are imparting knowledge in our children’s lives. I have always had an appreciation for teachers but I respect them more during the lockdown when we as parents were more involved than usual with our children’s school work.

1580142846267
Community Articles, Employment Issues,

There is nothing wrong with recruiting talent from among the Diaspora – Why not as there are only a few of us left in the country?

Introduction

Many countries have challenges recruiting the right talent among the citizens that reside in the countries and as a result they have to import labourers. The Turks and Caicos Islands is no different and we are so unique in that Turks and Caicos Islanders are outnumbered in their country. It is believed that Turks and Caicos Islanders account for about 35% of the population.  Furthermore, Turks and Caicos Islanders comprise of 37% of the labour force in the country. This percentage is based on Table 3 of the National Skills Audit which indicated that there were 23,027 persons in the labour force and only 8,589 were Turks and Caicos Islanders.

The National Skills Audit report is dated May 2017 and this is now 2022 so we can assume that the percentage of Turks and Caicos Islanders comprising the labour force is significantly less than 37% given that thousands of Turks and Caicos Islanders have migrated to the UK and USA respectively.

Turks and Caicos Islanders cannot be on every job in the country as we do not have the numbers so there is nothing wrong if the Private Sector and Public Sector recruit talent from among the Diaspora. In fact, this should be encouraged.

I have already written several articles on encouraging us to tap in the Diaspora but the latest appointment of Mr. Godfrey Smith as the interim CEO of Turks and Caicos  Airport Authority and the reaction from some of the citizens has prompted me to write another article.

Our pool of talent is limited in the country

In the introduction of this article, I have given you a synopsis of the composition of our labor force. We have to admit that there are not enough citizens to occupy the positions in the country. Therefore, we have to recruit from overseas. With that said, wouldn’t it be better to recruit from among the Diaspora?  There are more Turks and Caicos Islanders living abroad than those living at home. We are already outnumbered in the country and we can close this gap if we recruit from among the Diaspora. Honestly though, what do we want?  We complained about the expatriates and we complained about our diaspora. Let us face the reality, there is not enough of us in the country.

There are a lot of experience and skills among the Diaspora

There are so much skills and experience among TCI Diaspora. Why should we not recruit them? They can bring so much value to our country and they can help train others who do not have the experience.

I believe in ensuring that Turks and Caicos Islanders are in key positions but we should not put people in positons because they are Turks and Caicos Islanders. What if they are not qualified? Find someone that is qualified and let the nonqualified person understudy the qualified person.

From the outside, it may appear that some of us are qualified because we were acting in the role or we were in the organization for a long time. Based on my experience, I can say all that glitters is not gold and we should not believe all the rumours people say about individuals especially those who are in key roles. We should not set up Turks and Caicos Islanders to fail and this can easily happen when we put unqualified people in roles they do not qualified for. However, there are many Turks and Caicos Islanders living abroad who have a wealth of experience and knowledge. Let us attract them to return to TCI.

I know many will argue that there some experienced Turks and Caicos Islanders living within the Turks and Caicos and are not given an opportunity for some key positions. Know your rights. Apply for the job that you think you qualified for and if you were rejected, make a case to the Labour Department and don’t stop until you get what you deserve.

Conclusion

Many of our parents and grandparents migrated to the Bahamas for a better living and they made the Bahamas their home. However, their children and grandchildren have rights to secure Turks and Caicos Islanders Status. If they want to come to the birth place of their parents and grandparents, there is nothing wrong with that. They have the same rights as us. So what if their parents never returned to the TCI. Our cultures are the same and we should embrace our brothers and sisters from among the Diaspora. As I always say in any article I write about the Diaspora and the expatriates, assimilate within the Turks and Caicos Islands and don’t act like you are better than us. With that said, I take this opportunity to welcome Mr. Smith to the Turks and Caicos, the birth place of his ancestors.

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