Hugh Graham, building an empire
Restaurant Week ambassador Hugh Graham has the Midas touch when it comes to creating a successful business. The founder and CEO of Paramount Trading (Jamaica) Limited created his organisation in 1991 and has successfully expanded his company into a profitable investment. Flair had a chance to get insight on the man behind the mogul; how his decisions, drive and lifestyle choices have helped to develop his multimillion-dollar company.
The opportunity to become an entrepreneur presented itself when Graham was asked by an interviewer, "Why not do it yourself?" After contemplating this question, Graham began having discussions with a few colleagues about establishing his own business. "My two friends, who are still directors to this day, created Paramount Trading (Jamaica) Limited. We each had our designated responsibilities and worked together as a team. My contribution was the day-to-day managing and maintaining of the business, their contribution was to ensure our overhead expenses were covered," explained Graham.
Paramount's original mission was envisioned to be a commission agency that would sell chemicals on behalf of suppliers for a fee. This unique niche propelled the company into expansion due to the high demand for its services. "The success and growth of the business has far surpassed anything I could have hoped for. My mission now is to continue to grow beyond anything I may envisage," said Graham to Flair.
Creating the business from the ground up was not an easy task for Graham and his team. When asked what his biggest initial hurdles were, he mentioned the hardest decision he has ever made was close to home and dear to his heart. This decision was the dismissal of his niece from the company. With his mother's guidance and advice, he managed to overcome this hurdle and made steps to maintain a relationship between himself and his niece. "This taught me a life lesson on how to manage relationships, in particular work-family relationships," explained Graham.
Paramount's success over its competitors was due to the strategic analysis and execution by Graham and his team. "We made it our duty to study the competition like we had a major test coming up in school," laughed Graham. "We needed to find the gaps in their model and strategically make ourselves available to fill the gaps. We were open to change and approaching every day as if we are our biggest competition aiming to do better today than we did yesterday and onwards," said Graham.
The company has established partnerships both locally and abroad, which have contributed to its tremendous success. Graham looks for honesty, humility and passion when looking for a business partner for his company. "Our United States joint venture partner, Allegheny, formed a partnership with us on the basis of honesty. It was the foundation of our partnership and has resulted in the construction of the Allegheny/Paramount Lubricant Plant, which boasts its own laboratory and state-of-the-art technology," said Graham.
Every successful entrepreneur in history has admitted to making mistakes when it comes to building their brand. However, Graham does not see his failures as mistakes. "It is hard for me to say I have made mistakes. All mistakes are a learning opportunity, in my opinion. There is always a chance to become better at something, having failed at it before, or not doing it as well as you would want to. I take every chance I get to improve on anything that can make me better as a person and make the company better for everyone," said Graham.
He acknowledges his mother as the source of his accomplishments and all-time hero. "My mother. She is my biggest supporter and my prayer warrior. I owe everything I am to her and I am always aiming to achieve more to continue to make her proud," said Graham.
Graham himself is a huge foodie, and is expecting phenomenal experience from this year's Restaurant Week. "I hope everyone has a great gastronomic experience, and don't forget to eat di good ol' Jamaican gizzada!" laughed Graham.