Jamaica pride itself as a leading Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) location with sixty-one (61) companies offering call centre and BPO services. Named a priority sector for the Government of Jamaica, it is no wonder this Caribbean destination was the one of choice for the inaugural Outsource to the Caribbean Conference (OCC), themed “Leveraging the Nearshore Caribbean for Outsourcing Services”. Jointly organized by Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) and the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (CAIPA), it was funded by the European Union via the 11th European Development Fund (EDF). CEDA is the only regional trade and investment promotion agency in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group.
The 18 country-strong event which ran from 5th to 7th December 2017 at Iberostar Beach Hotel, Montego Bay, opened with a Welcome Reception and Regional Investor of the Year Awards. The awards recognized regional investors who have made extensive contribution to the region’s development and growth. Attendees took the opportunity to network, highly anticipating the day that followed. The tour of the Montego Bay Free Zone, home of Yoni Epstein’s itelBPO, a major sponsor, was a fitting climax to an informative, content rich event.
Iberostar Beach Hotel, venue of the inaugural Outsource to the Caribbean Conference 5th-7th December, 2017
At the start of the OCC, the Honourable Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands boasted, “Now is the time to do business with the Caribbean”. She gave in her defense, strategic location; skilled labour force; competitively priced labour; labour retention; environment that supports businesses and high quality of life.
The deafening cry heard time and again for better data collection and analysis within the Caribbean was echoed by Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, CEDA’s Director. “We need data to support what we do. Without the data, we cannot make sensible decision”, she added. Notwithstanding, she provided an informative overview:
“Given the existing contribution of the outsourcing sector to job creation in the region and its potential for expansion, we believe that it must be given priority. In 2010, the sector provided employment for 47,000 workers and by 2015, this number had increased to 74,000; this is an average of 5,000 workers being added annually. BPO and other professional services generated over US$2 billion in revenue in 2014. Calculations show that companies in the region generate close to US$25 million in revenue for every 1,000 agents.”
After the main remarks, a number of panel discussions ensued. The discussion on ‘Caribbean Talent’ was a highlight. Professor Paul Aiken, Head of the Engineering Department, University of the West Indies spoke of the opportunity for Jamaica to leverage ‘Reverse Logistics”. The idea is to establish a local facility that would repair broken parts/products bought on Amazon for example and sell them to other territories as refurbished items.
Jamaica’s Minister of Finance, the Honourable Audley Shaw, when asked about the kinds of viable opportunities available to prospective entrepreneurs within the current BPO landscape, had this to say:
“It is clearly a great area for growth, not just in jobs but for entrepreneurship. A lot of the people abroad are not themselves wanting to set up their own operations but to contract their work to an independent operator. It is an area that I would commend to JAMPRO in its promotional programme, both in terms of identifying potential entrepreneurs, making sure they are getting trained as well as including that into the market overseas to say, we have the entrepreneurs, we have the market place and we have the people.”
Jamaica’s Minister of Finance, the Honourable Audley Shaw and The Entrepreneurial You’s Heneka Watkis-Porter after an interview at the Outsource to the Caribbean Conference.
In response to the same question, Coke-Hamilton had this to say:
“It is an incredible landscape for the downstream opportunities of the sector. If you have a set of persons answering phones, there is also the opportunity for offering transcription services, training on how to answer the phone, cultural sensitivity training, transportation services, security services, legal and medical facilities. These are all things that can be done around the ecosystem of the BPO.” She further hinted at the opportunity for students leaving university for example to start writing culturally sensitive scripts for companies. There are various levels of entry but some things are low barrier, making it more accessible to startups.”
She continued, “There is an opportunity to improve on our customer service to train people in understand value. If people understand why they need to be nice to people it will make a difference. Understanding that being nice is not being subservient. This is true for many of us post-slave societies – moving from this post-slave, rebellious nature to an understanding of our end game. A mind-set shift is needed.”
President of Jamaica Promotion (JAMPRO) and CAIPA, Diane Edwards elaborated:
“The best example of entrepreneurship I can give right now is Yoni Epstein. He started his operation with 7 people in a small room and who is now at 1,000 plus members of staff. There is entrepreneurial opportunity available but you have to know the industry. Spend time to research it. It is high-performance requiring you to be close to your customers and satisfying them. Choose which niche to get into, which may not require a vast number of people. Legal process outsourcing is a great niche one can enter into. There is an opportunity to create entrepreneurs in this space.”
It was a commendable first initiative, with obvious room for improvement. It is unfortunate that many of the tables allocated for the various countries were without a representative even provisions were made for them to be there.
Now that the discussions have been elevated, we can now examine how the model can be improved upon, impacting not just the employment challenges within the region but that of underemployment as well.
It was November 4, 2017 – a Saturday morning like none other, at least like no other Jamaica has ever seen. In a flash, the room at the Jamaica Conference Centre began to come alive, quickly filling up with hungry people.
Les Brown engages a hungry audience at the Jamaica Conference Centre November 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Involve Magazine
The anticipation on faces told a story of deep yearning and longing, probably even desperation. But nothing physical could satisfy that gaping void. It was a hunger that goes much deeper than the bottom of the stomach. After all, the weeks of obvious intense planning by a hard-working team could not afford to yield disappointment. Greatness like you’ve never seen before, was about to be unleashed.
Elegantly garbed in a powerful red long-sleeved top complimented by a flared, quietly-sexy black skirt, host Amita Persaud-Webb shouted exuberantly to the audience in waiting at 9:11 AM EDT, “Good morning and welcome to the Unleash Your Greatness Conference”. Moments later, co-host Oliver Mair joined in getting a room, which was full to capacity, even more euphoric about what was to come.
A pre-conference chat with some of the attendees revealed the expectations of many. They range from ‘killing the enemy within”, to “eliminating fear” to “getting inspiration to take action”.
Clearly, everyone was ’hungry’ to hear and see the main speaker, the legendary and highly sought-after, Les Brown. This, they had to wait for until the other scheduled speakers presented. But lest there was any doubt about the caliber and aptitude of the other speakers, they never hesitated to dispel any such myth through the demonstration of their mastery and competence. Delivering with gusto and sincerity, they rose above the obvious pressure of presenting on a platform with the man of the moment.
Les Brown and his son Patrick shares lens as they departed Jamaican soil at the Norman Manley Internation Aiport after the Unleash Your Greatness Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre November 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Involve Magazine
Patrick Brown, son of Les Brown, was the first one to serve up the appetizer. He came on stage rapping much to the amusement of an audience in waiting. “Greatness is your heritage”, he posited. “program yourself for success”, “we all start from somewhere and nobody starts at the top”, he continued. He went on to share his experiences growing up in the shadow as ‘Les Brown’s son before poignantly ending with a poem entitled, “It’s Time”. It’s time to step into your greatness, he charged, to the applause and approving cheers of a gathering whose appetite has clearly been whet.
Next on was Paul Bryan who spoke of his experience thirty (30) years ago with Les Brown via his mom’s cassette tapes which she played incessantly. “You’ve gotta be hungry”, was the main message that stuck like a glue to Paul’s memory. This was to make the point of the importantance of feeding your children’s minds with positive messages from an early age. Against the backdrop of the fertilization process where from a possible four billion sperm, only one will fertilize an egg, “You are, by your mere presence, extra-ordinary”, Paul emphasized before segueing to his roadmap to greatness which went like this:
- Get pregnant (with an idea) and give yourself over to an idea that excites you;
- Create environments for your success;
- Establish partnerships;
- Develop yourself;
- When greatness calls, answer, ‘YES’ knowing you have everything it takes to succeed.
With an American accent, Jon Talarico emerged next, shouting what seems to be the catch line for all visitors to the Jamaican shores, “Wat a gwaan Jamaica?” to an already steaming gathering. He started out by saying his turning point came from hearing that he has greatness within from a Les Brown conference he attended years ago. Jon went on, sharing his irrefutable Laws of Greatness – all ten of them.
- The Law of responsibility;
- The Law of motion;
- The Law of goals and planning;
- The Law of conduct;
- The Law of value creation;
- The Law of reciprocity;
- The Law of being unique;
- The Law of infinite possibility;
- The Law of education;
- The Law of attitude.
Sheree Martin, in her down to earth presentation style, put forth the idea that everything in life stems from two emotions, love and fear. When we live from a place of love we can never fear. She continued, “Measure success on your own terms…nothing has meaning except the meaning that you give it…you are a co-creator, the universe is conspiring to give you what you want. Live in appreciation of everything and bless others who are living in abundance even if you are not there yet”. Sheree’s model for success is based on Experiences, Beliefs, Actions and Results.
Kevin Ingram, representing sponsor National Commercial Bank (NCB), shared the secret of how the wealthy unleash their greatness. “Let your money stay in the bank and borrow other people’s money, create a vision, define what you want to be; practice good habits, keep focused and stick to your plan”, he said.
Keeping it ‘positive’. International Gospel Recording Artiste shares lens with Les Brown after his riveting performance at teh Unleash Your Greatness Conference at teh Jamaica Conference Centre on Saturday November 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Involve Magazine
In keeping with the positively charged atmosphere, the internationally acclaimed Gospel Recording Artiste, Rondell Positive, took the platform just before the lunch break. As he belted out hits like ‘Overcomer’, fans sang along while being feted to a dance off by Patrick Brown, son of Les Brown, host Amita Persaud-Webb and the man of the hour, Les Brown.
Host Emprezz Golding causing the attendees to erupt in laughter at the Unleash Your Greatness Conference with Les Brown at the Jamaica Conference Centre November 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Involve Magazine
After lunch, there was a shift, a changing of the guard as it were. A new host had taken the platform. The vivacious media personality, Emprezz Golding with her infectious personality, stopped short of bringing the audience to tears through laughter. Her energy set the stage for what to come. Giving out prizes after prizes, she brought audience members on stage to get their moment of fame. Many just had to merely open their mouths and a prize would be theirs.
When Internet Income Jamaica and Pow Social’s Alicia Lyttle, graced the platform, it wasn’t to train participants how to make money online but to let them in about what she has been through. She shared her powerful story of being a two-time Cancer survivor who had to overcame several other odds to be where she is at now. She charged everyone to:
- Understand responsibility
- Shed your past
- Hit decline when the calls from the naysayers and ‘waste’ people come in
Duane Lue-Fung, in his usual debonair style which is known to sell ice to an Eskimo, asserted that we must have a strong ‘why’ in our quest for greatness. He charged the twelve hundred strong participants to:
- Read the biographies of successful people;
- Express gratitude for everything, everyday;
- Stay away from average, it is the biggest enemy to success;
- Be intentional about your thoughts as they create your reality.
UK based, Online Marketer Danny Walsh added his flavor to the diverse pool of speakers. “Conversations is the key to success”, he pointed out. He further went on to state that, “If you are fishing in the wrong pond, you won’t catch the big fish.
Standing tall and strong at age 72 Les Brown at the Unleash Your Greatness Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre November 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Involve Magazine
Then it was time. The moment everyone waited for had arrived. Time for American motivational speaker, author, radio DJ, former television host, and former politician, Les Brown, to appear. The man of 72 years, appeared on stage to a standing ovation and cheers from a hungry crown. He invited everyone to be seated and for the next 1 hour and 40 minutes he held the attention of everyone. “Seated in this room is greatness and I’m honoured to be in your presence”, he started. Les went on to share his story of being labeled ‘educable mentally retarded’ while in grade school. His story is nothing short of resilience, telling the narrative of overcoming, through the help of his adopted mother and high school teacher – a tale he tells with pride.
As Zig Ziglar once said, “some people say motivation doesn’t last, neither is bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily”. A motivated and inspired audience was the result as was the objective of the conference. The stage has been set for the next event of this kind to take place because the motivation has to continue.
The Unleash Your Greatness Conference is the brainchild of Inspire Me Events, managed by Internet Income’s and Pow Social’s Alicia Lyttle, Lorette Lyttle and Andrew Reid, and Think Grow Lead’s Duane Lue-Fung and Paul Bryan.