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Lascelles Chin - A solid reputation of success

Published:Tuesday | October 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Lunchtime Conversations with Robert Lalah

Lascelles Chin, for all that is known about him, remains an enigma. Though much has been written about the founder and executive chairman of the Lasco-affiliated Companies, it's still a mystery to most who've never met him in person, and to many who have, how the businessman manages to retain the drive he has, even after decades of success. And the odd thing about it is that the older he gets, the faster he moves - literally.

"Many people would be surprised to see the tremendous energy, effort and determination I have to continue improving even at my age," he said. "They would also be surprised at the very fast pace at which I walk!"

That's true. Because of the many roles he has at several organisations and groups, Chin is often all about town attending events. It's not uncommon to hear the occasional exclamation from an onlooker about the speed at which the businessman, who'll be 77 in December, moves.

But Chin is always defying expectations. For one thing, he never trained formally in accounts, yet you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who can analyse financial documents faster than he can, or who can commit as much of the information from the documents to memory. He's also an unassuming figure whose strength never rested in his physical stature. However, as a child at school, he was so good at karate that big, bulky bullies would stay clear of him.

from humble beginnings

Chin's story started in Bog Walk, St Catherine. "I was born in St Catherine but grew up mainly in Kendal, Manchester, and Balaclava in St Elizabeth," he said.

"I came from humble beginnings and even had to make my own toys as a child. Being Chinese, I was teased a lot, but that made me determined to achieve my goals. My teachers told me I was very mature for my age, so I studied very hard to be successful."

As he studied, he imagined himself someday becoming an agricultural chemist. That was his dream job. But he had a knack for business and was excited by it. In 1958 when he worked as a lab technician in the pharmacy at the University Hospital of the West Indies, he dutifully saved more than half his earnings each week. Three years later, with savings of £175 and a family to support, Chin formally entered the business sector and began importing black pepper from the far east and peas from Portugal and the United States. The business did well and would lead to him eventually becoming Jamaica's largest trader of black pepper. He was filled with pride and since then, he's experienced that feeling many times. "I've had many proud moments, however, I felt gratified when we listed the Lasco-affiliated Companies on the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange," he said. "It provided an opportunity for Jamaicans to own a part of a company that cares. It gave us the opportunity to expand the factory by over US$30 million and set the stage for tremendous expansion. We will continue to expand even more."

Chin talks confidently about the growth he intends to drive at Lasco. I asked him what inspires that confidence. "Throughout life, I have always been self-motivated. I read many books about successful persons and always aspired to be one."

But surely, things couldn't always have gone according to plan. I asked him what was the biggest mistake he made in his career and what he learned from it. "In business you have to take risks. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The biggest mistake made so far would be the venture into the United Kingdom. We set up a large, modern factory there (in 2004), but it was not the right time to set up such a business there, as many factories were closing," he said. "We lost a significant amount of money, but fortunately, we were able to bounce back within two years. One important lesson learnt is to get all the facts before venturing into business."

realistic goals

He pushes his team to always be better. "We stay motivated by continuously setting realistic goals. Once we have attained the goal, it pushes us to do even more." And the team will have to do a lot in the next several months since the boss has set a lofty target. "Professionally, the goal is to double the size of the business both in sales and profits within the next three years," he said.

Chin and Lasco have developed solid reputations of success. He started the company in 1988, and since then, has experienced ups and downs both in his private life and in business. Times have changed a lot since then, but Chin is quick to dismiss any suggestion that it's a bad time to go into business, or that growth is unlikely. You just have to have the right mindset, he said.

"From my experiences, problems are everywhere, and if you focus on them, they will distract you from your goals and there will be no solutions," he said. "I love Jamaica and it gives me pleasure to hear Jamaicans express their love for our products and what we are doing. Even though the environment may be hostile at times, we remain confident that we can still be successful."

He also encourages young entrepreneurs to go for their dreams - like he did. "Whatever time you start, you will be faced with challenges. The key to success is to have the drive and determination to succeed and progress. You have to inform yourself in the area you are going to concentrate on and work hard to achieve the goals. Success does not come quickly and easy, but is sometimes a long and slow process, but stick with it and results will come," he said.

Chin currently serves as chairman for:

LASCO Distributors Limited

LASCO Manufacturing Limited

LASCO Financial Services Limited

East West (St Lucia) Limited

Summit Development Limited

Charco Limited

He is past chairman for:

Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation (JIDC)

National Productivity Council

Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA)

National Industries Development Company

Bureau of Standards Foundation

Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP)

Founder and Past Chairman:

Jamaica Shippers Council

Past Director:

Bureau of Standards - Standard Council

National Commercial Bank

Ex-Im Bank

Island Victoria Bank

Institute of Sports

Current Director:

University of the West Indies School of Nursing Advisory Board

King's House Foundation