Kingston businesses must connect to MoBay community - says MBCCI
Several business stakeholders in Montego Bay are of the view that the main reason branches of Kingston-based businesses sometimes fail in the western city is because of their failure to connect with the local community.
Speaking during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum in Montego Bay, Gloria Henry, the president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), said when businesses from Kingston attempt to set up branches in Montego Bay, they often come with a misconception of what the customer base in St James is like.
"What I find that really impairs Kingstonians, who do business in Montego Bay, is that they come with a chip on their shoulder, thinking this is 'country' and that they are coming to deal with 'country people', and Montegonians take serious offence to being described as country people and as not knowing what they are doing," said Henry.
"People have to understand the culture, and that what works in Kingston might not necessarily work in Montego Bay, and that the majority of persons that make up the consumer base are persons who work in the hotel and business process outsourcing (BPO) industries and so on, and that they are lower-level employees and do not have the kind of earning potential that a senior executive in Kingston would have."
Henry also attributed poor management of branch offices to their parent companies' failure to remain long in Montego Bay.
"Another thing that Kingston does that debilitates their growth in Montego Bay is a downright embarrassing limit on their management in Montego Bay; for example, they will give them a spending limit of J$5,000, which is embarrassing," said Henry. "I remember we, as a Chamber, went to a member once to support an event; and they told me that their limit was $50,000 and $100,000. So that philosophy that is there in Kingston, that this is 'country' and they must treat it accordingly, is wrong, and that sometimes impacts their ability to grow."
Businessman Davon Crump, a past president of the MBCCI, noted that Montego Bay business branches tend to send their profits back to the parent company in Kingston instead of investing in where they are located.
"I have seen a lot of people and businesses come here in Montego Bay and fail because they make their money and they send it back to Kingston, but they do not involve themselves in the community. I know two of them in recent times that have closed their doors... I had asked them to join the Chamber of Commerce, and they had no interest in joining the Chamber," Crump recounted.
"(Conversely) I have seen where the companies who excel, they get involved in the community, and they give back (to the community). If you give back to the community that provides money to you, I am sure you will succeed," Crump added.
Director of sales and marketing for National Supply Company Limited and MBCCI member, Donovan Chen See agreed with Crump's declaration, saying that for a company's branch office to thrive, the parent company must be willing to get involved at the community level.
"If you are serious about doing business in Montego Bay, and if you are willing to tweak the way you do business in Kingston, do not come down here and believe that you know everything because you come from Kingston," Chen See cautioned. "What a lot of people from Kingston believe is that... if you are successful in Kingston, by extension you can be successful in Montego Bay, and I think that is the wrong footing to step off on."