Glen Christian 22nd PSOJ Hall Of Fame inductee
Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter
Glenford Christian, CEO and chairman of Cari-Med Limited and Kirk Distributors Limited, was inducted into the select club of outstanding business leaders in which just 22 people now have membership, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica's (PSOJ) Hall of Fame.
Christian rose from a life of poverty in Clarendon to become one of the largest local employers overseeing a combined staff of nearly 700 employees between Kirk Distributors and Cari-Med Limited.
Praised for his "human approach" to the running of his businesses, Christian, who started in the pharmaceutical industry in a sales position at HD Hopwood, launched his own company in 1986. His idea was to make low-cost pharmaceuticals available to the local market.
Speaking at the induction ceremony held in Kingston on Wednesday, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding said Christian knew the value of being willing to take a risk "to gain a crown, knowing you may very well lose your shirt."
"Glen knew he would be seen as an upsetter," Golding said as he detailed the early conversations held between the two, when the businessman crafted his plan to break into a controlled pharmaceutical market.
A teacher by training and a graduate of The Mico College, Christian credits his mother for his sales acumen, saying he learned the art of the trade while sitting at her feet at Coronation Market in Kingston.
He also attributes his people-centred approach to business to his mother, who taught him to love both God and people.
After landing the sales job with HD Hopwood in 1971, it was clear that Christian had a knack for sales. He moved the division's share of company sales from 15 per cent to 85 per cent and was promoted to manager of the division.
Fifteen years later, when he launched Cari-Med, he set up business at a 3,500 square foot building at 20 Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston. The company started operations a year later with three employees. Ten years later, in 1996, the Cari-Med Consumer Division was formed as a complement to the Pharmaceutical Division.
However, Cari-Med was not his first taste of business ownership. That was Portmore Pharmacy, which he acquired in 1979, and which was run by his wife, Marva.
In 2005, Christian acquired the assets of Colgate-Palmolive Jamaica, a moment of pride for the businessman, whose association with the organisation before that was delivering mail there as an employee at the Hagley Park Post Office.
The 216 Marcus Garvey Drive property became the base for Kirk Distributors.
Alongside his business initiatives, the man with the "big heart" and a passion for education has supported many philanthropic causes, for example, the $70 million investment in the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School/Centre of Excellence, in honour of his late mother, Evelyn Mitchell, on lands owned by the Jamaica Baptist Union in Brandon Hill, Clarendon. He fully retrofitted a computer lab for more than $5 million at the Brandon Hill Primary School in Clarendon and funded the Cari-Med wing at the Hope Institute.
"His is a story to inspire anyone challenged by poverty, adversity and misguided opposition from a powerful establishment that might have extinguished the light before it could shine bright," his daughter, Althea Stewart, said at his induction.
Over the years, Cari-Med has received several accolades which include: The Governor General's Achievement Award for community service in 1995; The Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica Distributor Award, and the PSOJ Job Creation Award, among others.
Each year, since 1992, the PSOJ pays tribute to a private sector leader who has made innovative and sustained contributions to development over a minimum of 25 years.