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News Article

July 13, 2012
An opportunity to push sustainable tourism

Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?

Sonia: I had the privilege of working for the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island from 2002-2005. It was a breakthrough opportunity for me after serving seven years at the Ministry of Works as a design engineer and project manager. In the role at Atlantis I drew on my project management skills, as I had responsibility for executing an annual multi-million dollar capital budget for all the senior vice presidents of the company who were at the time my internal customers. Unlike in the public sector I was given a lot of autonomy to run the projects department. I, of course, closely coordinated with the heads of the facilities division but felt empowered, and I was expected to succeed.
I currently own and operate a full service mechanical and electrical engineering consultancy and, as it turns out, my major project is the Baha Mar Development resort being undertaken on Cable Beach. Graphite Engineering Ltd. has been selected as the Mechanical and Electrical Engineers of Record for this project.

GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?

Sonia: I did not choose tourism specifically as a career, but as a consequence of what was available in the economy. An opportunity in tourism presented itself and I was pleased to embrace it. Bahamian engineers continue to be under represented in major tourism projects at the level of design and onwards. This will only change if we continue to build capacity and, when given an opportunity, we provide stellar service.

GB: What has been your most memorable moment?

Sonia: My team was given the opportunity to oversee the renovation of the Crown Ballroom. By dollar value it was the largest project given to our department. It was not a technically challenging assignment but we had a very short time frame to deliver the project, and we were able to get it done.

GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?

Sonia: As it specifically refers to the engineering services in hotels, there have been a myriad of changes because the mechanical and electrical systems that support these buildings, keeping them lit and cool, continue to be more sophisticated.

GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?

Sonia: We are currently sitting on an opportunity to aggressively push sustainable tourism and make this a given for any property in The Bahamas. We should require that our hotels in the first instance be high performance buildings, with excellent carbon footprints. We should be reusing, recycling and cutting waste. If we can do this without hurting our cost competitiveness we would set ourselves apart from the pack and demonstrate that we really care about our country.

GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?

Sonia: Do your homework, literally. There a lot of opportunities very high up in the food chain of these resorts that Bahamians can fill. We must accept the fact that a lot of the developers are multi-national companies and it means we may be competing with international persons for jobs at home. This means we need to get international exposure and experience, and be prepared to function at the top of our game.

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News Article

April 10, 2012
Talent is one thing, patience is another

Industry position: Technical Support Officer, Underwriting, Bahamas First General Insurance

What attracted you to the sector?

Initially I desired to be a teacher. During my high school years, however, I developed a love for economics. After summer jobs at Lloyd's and Commonwealth Bank, I became interested in banking, particularly trust administration.

How long have you been involved in financial services? What keeps you motivated?

I have been involved in financial services for the last 10 years

and have been employed at Bahamas First General Insurance for seven-and-a-half years.

I am motivated by the person that I know that I am and the potential that lies within me, along with my desire to be the best and to truly be a person of excellence. I must be my best not because someone is watching but because of me. I do not judge myself based on others' actions. I am also motivated by the support I receive from those around me. Knowing that persons are pushing you to succeed is great motivation.

Why do you think you have been successful?

I have been successful predominantly because of the favor of God.

As I reminiscence, I realize that throughout my life He has allowed me to "stand out" with various key persons who have presented me with opportunities and caused me to gain the necessary exposure.

My "success" is also due to the hard work of my parents, Bradley Pratt and Theresa Hopkins. They ensured that I was educated and that I had the tools needed to succeed. I watched them push to success in spite of obstacles. Beyond that, they loved me and pushed me to success. Just about every person that I have come into contact with has believed in me, sometimes beyond what I believed in myself. This provided a great impetus and I was driven to discover what they saw in me; in other words, to see if I could actually do and achieve what they thought I could.

Finally, I would not downplay my hard work, discipline and determination.

Did mentoring play a part in your success?

It sure did. In the personal arena, I was mentored by the late Ruthmae Bonnie Miller and I continue to be mentored by Kelson Miller. Careerwise, Oscar Sawyer "took me under his wings" when I first arrived at Bahamas First and continued to ensure that I had a firm foundation and understanding of policies throughout his time at the company.

Bonnie Nguyen may not know that I consider her a mentor but she is to me. She has helped me to grow in confidence and challenges me to perform many tasks that I would not "take on" without her guidance.

What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?

All of my post secondary education was geared toward financial services. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the industry. The CII courses which I became involved in after my official entry to the sector were a tremendous source of knowledge and greatly assisted my understanding, paticularly of the insurance sector.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career? How did you overcome it?

This is somewhat of a hard question for me.

My biggest challenge in my career to this point, I would say, has been wanting to be promoted too quickly. Because I know who I am and what I can do, I sometimes become frustrated with where I am. I have learned to remember that some things take time and that continued diligence, efficiency, initiative and excellence in my work and personal life will take me to where I need to be in time.

What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?

I would tell young people that this is definitely an interesting industry. I particularly like insurance because it "touches on" many different sectors, law, medicine, construction.

I would encourage them to work hard, work well, not get caught up in office politics, contribute and participate in work related social activities as it helps to deepen your commitment to the job and wanting to see your company succeed.

Having an open mind and believing in themselves can position them to take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities that will be presented to them.

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News Article

June 21, 2012
Caribbean governments killing the hotel sector 'golden goose'

Each of the Caribbean hotel investment conferences held in April and May this year included sessions to encourage closer cooperation between the public and private sector but, immediately prior to the Caribbean Tourism Summit in mid-June, the governments of Jamaica and of Antigua and Barbuda announced significant new airport arrival taxes, with a new hotel occupancy tax also added in Jamaica. The Caribbean hotel industry's greatest fear now is that other governments will follow.
These extra charges target the region's highest spending visitors - the stay-over guests. While everyone understands the difficulties that island governments currently face in trying to balance their own budgets in times of world economic uncertainty and with increasingly youthful populations, it is a fact that much of the region's hotel industry is in deep financial crisis and has been for some considerable time. The region's largest employer and biggest direct and indirect taxpayer cannot be "the cow you take to market and milk it twice".
Today, most lower and middle market Caribbean hotels, which have significant bank loans, are in default to some degree or other. Energy and water costs on many islands are as high as US$40 per day per occupied room - with little actual utility cost differential per day per room between budget hotels charging US$80 a night and luxury resorts charging US$800 a night.
Reservation systems, like Expedia, and tour operators continue to negotiate aggressively low hotel room rates, such that Smith Travel Research projects that average room rates in the Caribbean will not recover back to 2007 dollar levels until 2014.
My own research suggests that lower end hotels will not even achieve that level of rate recovery. More tour operators are pressuring hotels for all-inclusive rates, where meals become part of the tour operator's "commissionable" package, but Caribbean hotel restaurants are already incurring operating losses in the face of escalating world food prices. Inevitably, hotel refurbishment and marketing budgets continue to be cut.
Prior to this year's two hotel investment conferences, I researched opinions from the hotel sector, relative to its perceived needs from Caribbean governments, and the following points summarize the concerns and suggested requests.

Hotel taxation
Review taxation structures for new and existing hotels, "in their role as the region's biggest export industry and foreign currency generator". Many hotels currently require major re-investment and are struggling with bank debt and increased operating costs.
Without new thinking, continuing low levels of inward investment in the sector and a downward spiral of standards are resulting in a consequent loss of global competitiveness for the overall Caribbean hotel product. At least a certain percentage of hotel taxation should go directly towards generic Caribbean global marketing in order to create world class campaigns of adequate scale.
If taxes are reduced on the hotel sector - the current principal direct/indirect "tax cow" - governments should seek to derive compensating levels of tax revenue from the following alternative targets: much higher cruise ship port fees; effective taxation of private condo/villa rental income; a wider property tax base; corporation tax increases paid by a wider range of businesses; abolish duty-free concessions for car rental companies. Governments should also take steps to re-invigorate and grow the region's agriculture and fishery industries as major components in sustainable economic activity - for export and for direct supply to the hotel/restaurant sector and to other local consumers.

Duty-free incentives
Governments should simplify and improve duty-free import concessions for refurbishment of existing hotels and for development of new hotels - but also expand them to include incentives for furnished condos and villas, providing that those units are in a hotel managed formal rental program that generates taxable income on island.
This latter action will speed up the recovery of the leisure real estate market, provide construction work, ultimately generate additional tax revenue and create new fresh resort inventory with extra earning potential for the region's hotel companies. In general, current fiscal incentives are significantly better in many Central American tourism destinations than in most Caribbean countries.

Food cost
In the light of rising world food prices, there is a need to eliminate import duties for hotels on all food items - not available from local sources -- and governments should actively encourage the growth potential for local food supply.

Utility costs
Reduce utility costs through part/full privatization of existing electricity companies in order to finance investment in better infrastructure: the proposed gas pipeline from Trinidad or on-island LNG trans-shipment facilities; replacement of old diesel generators with efficient gas turbines, hydro, wind and tidal generators.
Similar privatization of water companies should be undertaken for greater efficiency through re-investment in updated and extended infrastructure. Given likely increases in long-term energy and water demand, this is a safe investment for the region's social security funds, insurance companies, unit trusts, credit unions and private conglomerates - many of them still too risk averse to invest directly in the Caribbean hotel industry.

Human resources
Re-invigorate human resources within the hotel sector and improve the industry's profile as a career choice. Governments and the hotel sector should cooperate in developing and resourcing better, larger management and operative level training facilities throughout the region. Speed up and expand CSME to effectively allow CARICOM citizen managers and specialists to work anywhere within the region. In the meantime, expeditiously grant medium-term work permits for other skilled personnel from outside the region - where their expertise helps to drive world class standards and disseminates their specialist knowledge.

Air services
All stay-over visitors to the Caribbean (except yachtsmen) arrive by air. Greatly increased UK airline and regional airport taxes continue to have a significant negative impact on air travel to, and within, the region. The UK's APD tax was highly discriminatory and costly for the Caribbean but lobbying by the public and private sector has been completely ineffective to date and must be more vigorously pursued with the UK government.
The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain can be a powerful lobby at the next UK general election, if the APD issue is successfully communicated to them. The region now faces additional potential negative effects from the proposed European Union's airline "carbon tax" and must avoid further increases in regional airport taxes.
Almost all Caribbean-based airlines are currently loss making but their ticket prices (including taxes) are some of the highest in the world per seat/mile. The private and public sector across the region should work together to help create, finance and under-write a viable pan-Caribbean international and regional carrier, which will genuinely "partner" with the rest of the Caribbean tourism industry. Meanwhile, the cruise sector, which operates in the region virtually tax free and increases its "Caribbean hotel market share" year on year, must also be forced to make its fair share contribution to government tax revenues in the region.
I do not pretend that this commentary from the Caribbean's hotel sector represents a panacea, but the region's most vital industry is on a slippery slope, with a significant part of it in danger of being decimated by strengthening world-wide competition.
It seems very likely that middle market hotels on the islands with a lower cost base, like the Dominican Republic and Cuba, will survive. Highly likely too that the region's luxury resorts will survive, but what are the survival chances for some of the rest of the Caribbean's hotels, particularly older properties with significant debt finance? Some of the dominoes are already falling.
Governments and the hotel sector should communicate quickly and effectively to act together with the greatest sense of urgency. Arguably, the French market has already left for the Indian Ocean and most of the Germans for South East Asia. And some people still think, "These islands market themselves!"

o Robert MacLellan is CEO of MacLellan & Associates, the largest hospitality, tourism and leisure consultancy based in the Caribbean. He has 18 years experience in the hospitality industry in the Caribbean and was a cruise ship hotel officer and vice president, hotel services, of a cruise line earlier in his career. Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.

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News Article

January 19, 2012
Don't be afraid to dismantle the box

Industry position:
Attorney at Law / Chairman of the Bahamas branch - Charted Institute of Arbitrators/London
 
What attracted you to the sector?
I became interested in pursuing a career in diplomacy while studying French at La Sorbonne, Paris, France.  My deceased brother, Richard Cooper, himself a lawyer, encouraged me to read law after I had finished my tertiary education in France. I studied for the LLB  in London, while simultaneously working as a full-time officer at The Bahamas Maritime Office. My primary duties were in the areas of registration of mortgages, an area of ship finance, which firmly established my interest in the financial sector.
 
How long have you been involved in financial services?
Following my call to the Bar in 1993, I practiced over a broad range of areas in the law, but my primary interest was in corporate and commercial laws. I became actively interested in financial services about one decade ago, and have been involved in the sector since then.
 
What keeps you motivated?
We all know that life is full of challenges.  I meet these challenges, and bring stability to my professional and personal like by drawing inspiration, strength and hope from God.  My conviction of The Bahamas' potential to be a premier international arbitration center in the Americas with capacity to complement other arbitral seats around the globe particularly motivates me.  Ensuring that there are successors in the industry in 2030 and beyond is also an important motivating factor for me.
 
Why do you think you have been successful?
I attribute my success to the favor of God and the kindness of persons that have touched my life.  My parents, especially my father the Late Rev. Dr. R. E. Cooper Sr. made huge sacrifices for my education and instilled in me a determination and appreciation for life and the opportunities it brings.  Along the way, persons have sowed into my success. For example, my benefactor the late Frank Lloyd was instrumental to my completing my studies in France and England after my father's death.  Of course, it was left to me to embrace the opportunities afforded to me, and as with others, hard work, dedication and a fearless determination to re-start from ground zero all contributed to where I am today.
 
Did mentoring play a part in your success?
Yes, I consider mentoring critical.  Friends, family and associates have mentored me over the years in areas as wide as business etiquette, diplomacy, and in the legal and financial sectors.  I do believe, however, that mentoring should start at home; my parents were my first mentors.  I have also found that mentorship is not hinged on age, but rather experience and a willingness to share.
 
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
Fluent knowledge of the French language has enabled me to provide professional services to the francophone community. Additionally, obtaining my Series 7 has given me the investment knowledge and exposure to respond effectively to a dynamic and evolving marketplace and particularly to the business needs of my clients.
Training with The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in London has allowed me to provide the option of  Arbitration/Alternative Dispute Resolution to clients who are keen to conduct business in The Bahamas, and want a commercially viable option to settle disputes.
 
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?  How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in my career has been staying innovative and seeking new opportunities within the global community.  This is a continuing challenge.  In order to meet the challenge, I regularly attend legal and financial conferences  all over the world, to remain on the cutting edge of what is happening internationally, and to be familiar with what others globally perceive as the future of the financial industry. Also, I research market developments and remain abreast of the global financial regulatory climate.
 
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?
I would say to young people that they should learn how the financial markets operate.  I strongly advise them to read and research to understand national, regional and international economies.  Exposure by means of travel or internships whether in The Bahamas, regionally or worldwide would prove to be very strategic for future networking, and the establishment of a competitive curriculum vitae.  I advise young people that becoming fluent in a foreign language in which business is conducted is more pertinent today than it was when I was studying.
I also encourage young people to pursue their vision with laser focus and not to be afraid of dismantling "the box" and embracing the global market.

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News Article

June 19, 2012
Are we up to the challenge

During the election campaign both major parties committed to long-term national planning. Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham promoted Jubilee Bahamas, a 10-year national planning process leading to the 2023 independence jubilee. Given his record, such a planning exercise would have been conducted extending the plans and accomplishments of his former administrations.
As it did with a number of other policy matters, the PLP followed suit, adding a twist: It promised a 30-year plan. Notwithstanding this copycat, and that 30-year plans tend to make little sense in terms of realistic planning, it remains dubious that the incumbent government will, given its past, fulfil its pledge.
But long-term planning going forward is critical, and not just because such planning is perennially essential. We are, today, in the midst of some of the more dramatic structural changes facing the country post-independence.
These changes are varied and complex. They include globalization, urbanization, economic and political modernization, and the interrelated demands of energy security and a complex of environmental issues.
These meta-challenges are occurring amidst, and are part and parcel of a combination of a deep cyclical "financial crisis-based recession" and a variety of structural changes sweeping the globe.
The better news, if we can call it that, is that we may experience a series of rolling recessions lasting the remainder of this decade, and related structural challenges stretching into the future, all resulting in widespread economic and social dislocation. The bad news is that much of the world economy can falter into a depression.

Global context
This is the global context of which any national planning must take full measure. While many more Bahamians suspect that we are entering a new normal, constituting a daily struggle to make ends meet and persistent anxiety about the future, many may not realize the nature, scope and depth of the challenges we face.
We are not solely experiencing the typical cyclical recession of which Bahamians of a certain age remember, and which usually lasted for a relatively short period. The turnaround in some tourism indicators should not obscure our deep-seated challenges.
The structural changes with which we are faced are wide-scale. Some of them have been partially discussed and hinted at by political and financial leaders. But the broader scope of these challenges is not fully appreciated by many politicians, business people, academics or journalists.
In turn, these opinion leaders have failed to articulate anything approaching the breadth of our challenges, much less the fundamental changes to our way of life they will bring about.
So, even while an increasing number of Bahamians sense that we are entering a new world, they may not yet appreciate what responding to that new world will entail on numerous fronts. The unprecedented level of change will be staggering.
Communicating the reasons why and responding to such change will not be easy for the political class, especially those still pandering to the mindsets of yesteryear even as events outstrip the make-believe they seek to pass off as reality.
Take something like a value-added tax (VAT) which the Christie administration has discussed introducing. Such a tax seems imperative in light of our accession to the World Trade Organization and desperately-needed state revenues.
But how does a government introduce such a tax to a populace used to taxes hidden in plain sight but unaccustomed to a tax measure like VAT? How does one sell the need for such a tax change to a high consumption society, inclusive of an often brand-name and status-obsessed middle class that has an entitlement mentality when it comes to what is demanded of government?
Tax reform is only the beginning. There are other potentially wrenching reforms on the horizon if The Bahamas is not to fall behind - way behind, on various fronts.

Fundamental changes
Globalization, not the fact of, but the nature and imperatives of change across the continents will have far-reaching implications. Think of the fundamental changes in our financial services sector wrought by advanced economies, and the fight over the privatization of BTC. Now multiply these many fold, and one gets a sense of what is on the horizon.
Changes like global aging, the shift in China's growth model to greater domestic consumption, and fundamental socio-economic and political changes from the U.S., Europe and Latin America to Asia and the Pacific will pose opportunities and challenges to the way the nation and government conduct its business, and the business of business.
In subsequent columns the challenges of urbanization and the attendant issues of crime and socialization will again be explored. Political modernization concerns the reform and modernization of the role and functions of government, including the level of public sector employment, and the privatization and monetizing of public services.
Economic modernization concerns far-reaching technological changes and the development of human capital in areas such as education, training and innovation, as well as the sustainable provision of social goods such as healthcare.
One burning question is how much the state can afford in terms of social welfare, and who pays for it. The Christie administration will soon face this question as it has promised comprehensive National Health Insurance. The pressures on the government will be immense from insurance companies to healthcare providers to those who may foot the bill for NHI.
The administration also faces its gargantuan promise of doubling investment in national education. Finding the resources alone will be a monumental task. But as importantly, what is the PLP's vision of education reform?
Thus far, we have heard mostly platitudes and generalities. To truly reform public education will require considerable improvement in the quality of teaching. There is no route to improving student performance without overhauling the manner in which we hire and evaluate teachers inclusive of issues of tenure and testing.
If we fail to get the human capital equation right, especially in areas like education training and innovation, our other public investments will account only for so much in terms of productivity and competition. In the area of training, our efforts should be targeted, consistent and practical, not wild-eyed about what may be possible given various cultural and sociological realities.

Human capital
Also in terms of sociology, our great challenge in the area of human capital is building the capacity of scores of unemployed young people now facing formidable difficulties in terms of employment and the world of work. As critical, is the basic human development, education and training of young males, the source of both great economic potential and major crime.
And then there is the challenge of energy security amidst ever escalating energy costs which is vexing homeowners, businesses and the competitiveness of tourism and other industries.
The upcoming Rio+20 Summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, will again highlight the complexity of global environmental challenges including that of climate change.
At home, from ocean acidification to rising sea levels to biodiversity, we are faced with environmental challenges that are more than structural. They are elemental to our survival. In the question of drilling for oil in The Bahamas, the issues of environment and profit collide.
While we are all faced with these challenges, the ability of our political and business leaders to understand, navigate and communicate the new world and the new Bahamas we are facing will be pivotal.
When China shifted towards capitalism and Singapore transformed itself into an economic powerhouse, it was the collective insight and dynamism of its political, business and academic elites who made these countries cutting-edge economies. Though a smaller country we are faced with the same imperative. Are we, and our elites, up to the challenge?

ofrontporchguardian@gmail.com www.bahamapundit.com

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News Article

June 12, 2012
It's time to raise the standards

Many Bahamian businesses are holding on by a thread and seeking answers on how to survive this seemingly never-ending recession.
Many are complaining and feeling the pressures brought on by a sluggish economy, but I ask you, how many of us are really willing to do what it takes to not only survive, but to thrive? In this new arena several factors have become crystal clear:
o Business as usual is a thing of the past, get over it!
o Self-perseverance is the name of the game, the strong survive, the weak will be swallowed up!
o Survival depends on making the tough decisions that will enable you to adapt to the ever-changing landscape and remain competitive.
o New visions will have to be outlined and current strategies redefined, while still remaining open to new and emerging opportunities, for example, the demand for new products and services or just the ability to cheaply acquire the assets of a distressed competitor.
o Organizations will need agility, the ability to quickly spot and snatch opportunities before the competitors do.
And I can hear some of you crying right now, Stacia I hate change. Trust me I know you do. The reality is, the more successful you become in your career or business, the harder it is to change, since all of the learning that has led to your success thus far, has been implicitly coded in your brain and works against your ability to unlearn. So believe me, I understand why change is difficult, but consider this, the new normal and #1 rule for business survival in this new arena is simple, adapt or die! And in the words of former U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki, "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less." If you don't learn how to embrace change my friend you run the risk of your products and services becoming obsolete!
Tough times call for tough measures. Here are a few of my suggestions for your business survival:
o As business owners and executives, you need to ensure that everyone drinks the Kool-Aid, that you and your employees are on the same page. Your strategy is not a military secret, your employees need to understand it as clearly as you do! So even If you've said it before, you need you to say again. Tom, Sue, Maryjoe, Shaquita, this is where we are, this is where we are going, and here is what we need you to do to help make his happen. And when we are successful in achieving our goals, here is what the benefits will look like.
How many times do you have to tell them? As many times as it takes because execution is crucial to your survival. Without a doubt it is imperative for your employees to understand your highest priorities, and know what they are supposed to do to achieve them.
o I said it before I'll say it again, the success of your organization lies in the hands of the people you hire. So don't compromise, hire right the first time and make sure that you have the right people involved in the recruitment process. Outsource this function if you must because here is what I need you to always remember:
A level employees hire other A level employees.
B level employees hire C level employees.
C level employees, well they just hire losers so with a bunch of losers running around your company's survival is slim to zero.
o My people, my people, we've got to raise the standards, as a people our brand is too low, our work ethic is almost non-existent, we've grown too comfortable, entitled and lazy. Comfort leads to stagnation and I just don't know when we will realize that not doing more than average is what keeps the average person down. We really need a paradigm shift! We have to change our work ethic. Clients with choices will refuse to put up with crap and you know exactly what crap I'm talking about: Showing up late, missing deadlines, inferior work, "ducking clients", over promising, fluff with out substance, etc. It's time to stop this nonsense! We must learn to stamp everything that we do with excellence. We must absolutely improve the quality of our goods and services. We must improve our level of professionalism.
o Hold people accountable for their performance. Reward those who execute, especially your superstars (since they are not equal to your average worker), coach those who don't, and if they still don't get it my friend it's time to separate. Employees must come to the place where they realize that everyday they must earn the right to be employed. They must bring value or their services are not required! Don't be afraid to make the tough decisions, understanding that your employees either add to or detract from your success.
Finally, I want to leave you with the words of Jack Welch, former CEO of GE.
"The winners will be those who search out and participate in the real growth industries and insist on being number 1 or number 2 in every business that they are in, the number one or number two leanest, lowest-cost worldwide producers of quality goods and services, or those who have a clear technological edge, a clear advantage in the market niche.
"Where we are not number one or number two and don't have, or can't see a route to technological edge, we've got to ask ourselves Peter Drucker's very tough question: If you were not already in this business, would you enter it today?
And if your answer is no, face that second difficult question: what are you going to do about it?"

Stacia Williams offers keynotes, workshops and personal coaching on a wide range of personal branding, image management, customer service, leadership, business etiquette and international protocol topics.
You can contact Stacia Williams at 325-5992 or email Stacia@totalimagemanagement.com or visit staciawilliamsblog.com.

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News Article

June 19, 2012
What is URCA's role in BTC's system upgrades

Dear Editor,

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) came into existence on September 1, 2009. URCA replaced the Public Utilities Commission and the Television Regulatory Authority. URCA is supposed to act as an independent body and its main purpose is to regulate the telecommunications industry.
On its website, when clicking on the consumer section, there are five main points that URCA is supposed to ensure that competitors in the telecommunications industry execute to protect consumers. These are listed below:
o Ensuring that the quality of your utility services are satisfactory
o Ensuring that prices for utility services are reasonable
o Promoting and protecting your interest
o Promoting competition in the utility sectors
o Publishing reports on the utility sectors.
I ask the question then: What is URCA doing to ensure that the consumers of cellular services receive satisfactory service? BTC's announcement that it is upgrading its network and that there are going to be outages is not good enough. Certainly, URCA has a much bigger role to play, but as it is supposed to be an independent body, why isn't it publicly coming to the defense of the consumer?
Friday, June 15, 2012 was another day in which many businesses lost thousands of dollars because cellular services were disrupted. This in my view is unacceptable. Where is the redundancy in BTC's network? Shouldn't capabilities exist so that when the primary system is down, that the secondary system is booted up to handle all the network traffic?
If these capabilities do not exist now, I hope URCA has demanded that BTC put these systems in place for future upgrades. We have had a horrific experience with the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP) and now the upgrades at BTC are proving to be moving along the same trend. These examples are certainly not the best way to execute projects.
Maybe BTC and the decision makers of the NPRIP can look at the execution of the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD). They are rebuilding Lynden Pindling Airport, but the airport has remained open and is still providing its core service which is to ensure that consumers depart and return to the airport safely.
Bahamians now know better and these companies who take the unpopular approach to projects without carefully considering the negative effects to its consumers had better get on with it and rethink their strategies. I say to URCA that BTC's outages are planned and the question to ask is why these planned outages can't be completed between 12 a.m. - 6 a.m.
I say to URCA, that "independent body", to please regulate and protect the consumers.

- Dehavilland Moss

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News Article

September 17, 2012
Seeking foreign saviors in the cancer fight

Dear Editor,

I write this letter with deep consternation after reading this Komen blog (http://blog.komen.org/?p=1339) and the press reports on the Susan G. Komen and Ministry of Health announcement of a $100,000 gift to launch a breast cancer program yesterday, September 12.
It also strikes me as so ironic that, exactly one month away from Christopher Columbus' "Discovery" date we, who are supposedly an "independent" nation, are still looking to a "savior" from outside the country to "discover and rescue us". See what you lookin' at, Bahamas - wake up, and stop perpetuating this nonsense.
The Cancer Society of The Bahamas (CSB) was formed in 1976 by a small but fiercely dedicated group who worked relentlessly to form an organization dedicated to educate the public about cancer so that it may be prevented, diagnosed and treated in its early stages, to be of service to cancer patients and their families, and to raise funds to support these programs; and after close to 40 years of sacrifice, hard work and struggles in the original trenches of the cancer fight, they have built an organization that assists the local population all over The Bahamas with all forms of cancer, breast cancer being one of their primary targets.
I know the story intimately because I helped to write it as a 30-year breast cancer survivor and a past president and board member of the society. Although I have long retired from the society I still keep in contact with all of the many entities that deal with cancer care in this country.
Here is my story: When I was only 31 years old, it was the late Dr. Poad who accurately diagnosed my cancer as soon as he saw it, and referred me to the outstanding Bahamian surgeon, Dr. Earle Farrington who performed my biopsy and mastectomy at Princess Margaret Hospital with the late Dr. Wavell Thompson as the anesthetist, after the specimen was correctly diagnosed as stage one Piaget's Disease by Bahamian lab technicians and pathologists, and I recuperated in PMH with Bahamian nurses, the late Lillian Thompson and Susie Mae Lockhart, taking excellent care of me.
This was 30 years ago when we did not have all of the experts, equipment, nor amazing technology that we have today and I am still alive. So don't you think Bahamians knew what they were doing then and are doing now?
I joined the society when they were in the process of purchasing the first ever mammogram machine for The Bahamas which was donated to Princess Margaret Hospital. We knew then that "early detection was the best protection". That was our motto 30 years ago when Komen was just being formed and we were working closely with the American Cancer Society, who embraced the CSB with open arms, asked us what we needed and then shared their services, expertise and resources freely with us so that we could adapt it in whatever way we thought necessary to appeal to the Bahamian public.
We knew 30 years ago that Bahamian women's breast cancer developed at an earlier age than the U.S. statistics showed and that it was more aggressive. We might not have had the scientific data to show it, but our doctors had the empirical knowledge to advise us it was needed, so the CSB was advocating monthly breast self-examination and mammogram screenings at an earlier age decades ago.
In contrast, the Komen organization is only 30 years old and entered the Bahamian cancer scene a mere four years ago. The correct story is that they were introduced to The Bahamas through the auspices of the Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative (BBCI) that was formed by the wife of the then U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas, Stephanie Siegel, herself a breast cancer survivor.
Members from the Sister, Sister Breast Cancer Support Group, the Cancer Society of The Bahamas, me, and a group of extremely qualified Bahamian cancer specialists - Dr. John Lunn, Dr. Theodore Turnquest, Dr. Larry Carroll, Dr. Corrine Sinquee and Dr. Devaughn Curling - were invited by Siegel to work along with the BBCI to advance cancer care in the country. We, the Bahamians, were their respected consultants and were asked for our advice on how to achieve this.
We are the ones who have been in the trenches and on the ground from the outset; we are the ones who know our people and our country; we are the ones who patients turn to for assistance; we are the ones who have the right to set the policies and procedures because we know the story. This is our country and we must demand the respect that we deserve. Visitors to our country should have the decency to ask our permission to participate, not barge in and try to take over. But as in all such cases, if the donkey lets you get on his back, in so doing it gives you the right to ride him.
It was the BBCI who invited the Komen organization to partner with it to assist in the fight against breast cancer here in The Bahamas. It was the BBCI who informed Komen about the genetic study which was developed by most of the same brilliant Bahamian cancer specialists listed above who worked along with their colleague, Dr. Judith Hurley out of the United States, and this study was also assisted financially by the highly successful and locally organized annual cancer fundraiser Ride for Hope. I trust that these persons and organizations will also write in to elaborate on "how the story go" since many of them were not mentioned in the press reports.
I resigned from the BBCI because I was not prepared to bow to Komen's control. I refused to be told by them how and what to do to develop educational programs for women in The Bahamas based on the standards and statistics of a group who "just reach". It appears that too many people are not aware that slavery and colonialism are dead and I, for one, refuse to dance to the beat of someone else's drum especially since I was involved in writing the music "in the first beginning".
In these days and times, no person or organization should be allowed to come into the country purporting to be our "savior" with the presumption that they have the right to impose their standards unequivocally upon us, telling us how and what we must do in order to conform to their guidelines. Allowing persons to dictate their terms of engagement just because they can write a fat check is no better than prostitution and I cry shame on those who perpetuate this pathetic behavior.
I am a Bahamian first and foremost and I believe in the Bahamian people. I have respect for the successes of the Bahamian people who work hard and I have no hesitation in speaking out in their defense - so should we all.
I am therefore outraged that the Ministry of Health would deny and ignore the cancer achievements of our historical past and "diss" our own organizations and professionals by saying they want to partner with a entity from outside the country to do the very things which these organizations have already developed and have been doing for years.
This is ridiculous and a total waste of time and energy. Furthermore, just how many digital mammogram machines do we need in the country anyway, especially if we do not intend to also invest in properly training the personnel to operate and maintain them? We also refuse to enact legislation that will guarantee quality and consistency in standards of diagnosis or even enforce existing legislation that is already on the books that will protect our women from poor quality diagnosis and care.
Before independence in 1973, many of us might have been poor in the material sense, but we were richer in spirit and creativity. We were more self-sufficient and proud because we relied on our own selves and our community to sustain our existence.
Do we wish to continue to be like Oliver Twist? When we are hungry, do we want to continue to cower and plead, "Please, sir, may I have some more?" Or do we want to ask our neighbor to help us plant a seed to grow a tree that we can eventually stand next to and lift up our heads to pick the fruit to feed ourselves for generations to come? Bear in mind that this process takes time and serious nurturing with plenty of hard work and patience, but such is the long and winding road to success.
How in the world are we ever going to regain our self-respect and dignity if we continue to put out our hand in supplication instead of in collaboration? Collaboration embodies mutual respect - supplication perpetuates dependence. Ask yourself: What position and condition would you wish to encourage?

- Pam Burnside

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News Article

March 08, 2012
Riviere: Nothing will be handed to you

When Joyce Riviere graduated from college nearly four decades ago, she took a job at RBC Royal Bank at the clerical level.
The financial institution may have changed over the years, but according to Riviere, the path to becoming a top executive is consistency.
Exceeding the expectations of superiors and being willing to take on new and challenging roles have helped this leader at RBC Royal Bank achieve her career ambitions.
For International Women's Day, Riviere, area vice president of personal banking for the Family Islands, shared with Guardian Business a few inspirational words for young women with similar hopes for the future.
Education and academic qualifications are one thing, she said.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is your commitment to the profession.
"Always do your best and make sure your expectations are higher than what is expected by your organization," Riviere said. "Performance on the job is everything."
Heading a business network that spans six islands, the RBC executive is accustomed to sacrifice and getting the job done.
She told Guardian Business that over her career she has "moved around a lot", and would encourage young Bahamians to do the same.
Experience in the Family Islands, she explained, can provide employees with the opportunity to shine in smaller environments. This exposure and the chance to "stand out more" make positions in more scenic locations a smart long-term investment.
In 1999, Riviere accepted the opportunity to work as manager of the Abaco branch, a position she held for 10 years. Now, she provides leadership and support for all Family Island units.
"Some people are comfortable and do not want to compete to work at another branch. But I'm always open to taking on new and different responsibilities."
In other words, expanding horizons is another key component to success.
What is expected today might not be expected tomorrow, she explained, and it's important to apply yourself to every challenge that might come.
In addition to her work on the Family Islands, Riviere's career has been particularly dedicated to coaching and team building.
In turn, satisfaction among clients remains a top priority as employees work together to ensure a superior client experience.
"These days, you are expected to spend more time coaching. It's important to find out what is going well, what we can provide you to deliver on your job and what you want to deliver personally," she told Guardian Business.
On the client side, asking the extra questions and stepping up the presentation of financial advice are ongoing goals for RBC Royal Bank, whether the client is a young college student, a young professional or someone on the brink of retirement.
In the 1970s, when she first joined the bank, Riviere remembered that everything you needed to know could be found in books and binders. Today, the rise of electronic information and processes is perhaps one of the most profound changes in her long career.
And that trend is expected to continue in 2012.
"We are seeking to deliver more opportunities for personal clients through electronic banking as opposed to having to enter a branch. That can come in many different forms. In 2012, personal clients will have another means of conducting personal transactions without having to some into a branch," she said.
Another change she has seen over the years is the role of women.
More women are entering the financial services field than ever before, she said. If you were to look around the leadership tables of The Bahamas, at least half of those chairs, or more, are filled by women.
That said, Riviere wished to stress RBC Royal Bank's commitment to diversity and the opportunities available to women.
While the economy might not be ideal, opportunities exist for those that wish to seize them.
"Amid stiff competition, you really have to put your best performance forward," Riviere said. "If you do that, there remains a lot of opportunities. Nothing will be handed to you. You must recognize the opportunity and position yourself."

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News Article

March 01, 2012
Success is a matter of trust in your abilities

Industry Position: Ops. Product Specialist (Trust Officer), UBS Trustees (Bahamas) Ltd.
 
What attracted you to the sector?

Can I simply say "faith"? Thereafter, everything else helped to guide me into my current growth in the industry.  It has not been all easy, but thankfully, I have gained a multitude of experience and friends.  It's funny that a few years ago, I found a dream writing I did prior to first traveling to university and it read that I wanted to be a trust officer, with a certain salary. Really ironic.  Almost 20 some years later, Trust is what I am doing.  I guess, I was really impressed by the professionals in the office and the information that I obtained at Chase Manhattan in my early years.
 
How long have you been involved in financial services?

I have been engaged in the sector for 13-plus years, starting in formation of IBC Companies and New Business then progressing into Trust Administration.  Sharing in these three sectors of Trust business matures you and gives a complete understanding of Wealth Management.
I began my trust financial career working at Chase Manhattan Bank prior to leaving for university.  Once returning from university, I spent a little over a year working at Imperial Life Insurance Company before re-entering the trust industry with Andrew Law, Christina Rolle-Beneby and Nicola Farrington at Credit Suisse Trust Limited (where I completed the STEP exams) and Pearl Investment Management, a subsidiary, where I spent almost nine years inclusively.  After leaving Credit Suisse Trust, I spent a short time at The Winterbotham Trust Company and, thereafter, joined UBS Trustees (Bahamas) Ltd. where I have been now for six years (as of March 1, 2012).
 
What keeps you motivated?

Learning! And the changing industry and our growing financial industry.  Also, meeting great professionals in the markets.
 
Did mentoring play a part in your success?

Indeed!  Firstly, by the mentorship of my parents and then the professionals that I encountered closely in my growing career.  Some of the persons that have helped in this area are, but are not limited to, Cassine Grant-Kinnear (Chase Manhattan Trust), Andrew Law (Credit Suisse Trust), the Management of UBS Trustees (Bahamas) and Alrena Moxey (Winterbotham) - together with colleagues from all of the named places I have been employed with, on a daily basis. I have learnt that everyday someone touches your life and however that experience is taken is surely a lasting learned experience.
 
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform? 
My STEP designation for sure.  Also, all the certificates (for example, in areas such as compliance, KYC, UBS person training, trust and fiduciary services etc.)  gained by mandatory examinations offered to UBS employees as a means of keeping their employees aware of changes in business practice and regulations. These tests/assessments are offered only to the employees via an e-learning/UBS University engine, and are a must-have for any employee.  My performance in the sector also has been enhanced by the regular updates received from STEP Worldwide and from the STEP Bahamas educational and interactive luncheons on the changing times in our Bahamas location and internationally.  Also helpful is attendance in the various symposiums offered by the local heads of the financial industry, such as BFSB, AIBT, law firms and investment companies.
 
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

Being made redundant firstly and then encountering individuals in the workplace who do not share in the same positive outlooks I have in life and trying to encourage persons to learn from every experience.  I never gave up!  I reminded myself that I had the tools that I needed to market myself educationally and professionally and that is what I did.  Also, by talking about it to persons who have more experience in the financial industry, observing, listening and sharing in the workplace and trying to remain positive in every circumstance.
 
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?

Choose a sector that best fits your personality and dreams.  Educate yourself; read, read, read and stay current with business news, locally and internationally and the changes in your country's laws and industries. Then, equip yourself with every tool desired and necessary to compete in that chosen industry/market that you find yourself drawn to.  That, together with a positive attitude will propel any individual to a level of success that would exceed even his/her own expectations.

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