Monday talk with Christopher Levy - No time for analysis paralysis
Neville Graham, Gleaner Writer
Gesticulation, lively eyes and a boyish grin accompany Christopher Levy's delivery when he really gets going in a conversation.
That only slows down to an introspective, purposeful look when he talks about relationships - his relationship with the team at Jamaica Broilers; his relationship with his wife, Sally, and their three children ages 12, 11 and 6; and a close personal relationship with two men in his life - father, Jamaica Broilers Chairman Robert Levy, and "the man who orders my life ... Jesus Christ".
"My early relationship with my dad was ... acrimonious, it was damaging, it was ... ."
Levy's voice trails off as he feels for words. "Things really didn't start coming together until I first recognised my dad's authority as a father." 'What about now?' "Well now (the boyish grin and animation return), now he's my confidant, my adviser, my ... my best friend."
Levy gushes as he is being interviewed at All Media Studios in New Kingston.
Levy wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to talking about Jamaica Broilers, his relationships and his deep Christian beliefs. Left to talk long enough and he will evangelise on any of those topics. That is not hard to understand as his whole teenage and adult life has been shaped by those associations.
At age 13, working during the summer, his job was to vacuum-clean chicken dander (fine hair from hatchlings) from all the machines in the Jamaica Broilers hatchery.
"By the time I was finished, I'd be totally covered in the stuff," he recalls. "Then I had to turn around and hose down the place and make it spic and span."
That was good experience because throughout his 30-odd-year formal association with Jamaica Broilers, Levy has had to learn all aspects of the business from sales and marketing to meat processing to feed milling.
"That has helped me in my present role because I have an appreciation of what it takes to get the job done," he said.
The all-round experience coupled with a solid education (from Munro to Harvard Business School) pretty much defines Christopher Levy. Once he got settled from being the "arrogant" handful of a young man, Chris became impatient.
"I was in a big hurry to get school out of the way. I really wanted to work ... . I wanted to apply myself."
Sure enough, Chris Levy finished a two-year master's programme in one year.
"The Harvard experience was good though. I got to sit with some very smart people."
The other part of the development of Christopher came through what he saw in businessman R. Danny Williams.
"If I'm to say there is somebody I really look at and admire and be inspired by, I'd say it's him ... and my dad of course."
All of those influences have come to bear on Chris Levy's leadership credo, "I'm all for inclusiveness but at the same time decisiveness, there is no time for analysis paralysis."
At the heart of his leadership style is people. "We have to consider how our decisions will impact families. That's true for your workers or contract farmers or other stakeholders ... people's lives are important. When we do that, it benefits everybody."
The perfect plan
While being at the top of a successful company and having made the right moves, Chris Levy ponders only for a moment what he could have done differently.
"Yeah, I sometimes wonder if it would have been different if I really settled down ... y'know ... held it together earlier in life ... but I never question the Master (Jesus). He brings order to life. He has the perfect plan."
Earlier, Levy had related the story of a local business school student who had come to interview him about leadership.
"She was really asking all the right questions ... very bright and she asked me about the culture at Jamaica Broilers. That one stopped me for a minute and I just turned around and took up a book off the shelf and put it down before her and said, 'All our company's culture and values are in that book, the Bible'."
There is one thing to be sure of when talking with Chris Levy. The conversation will be engaging, animated and it will always turn to the very core of his inspiration; the relationship with his immediate family, his work family and the way it is ordered by a deep Christian belief.
'She was really asking all the right questions ... very bright and she asked me about the culture at Jamaica Broilers. ... I just turned around and took up a book off the shelf and put it down before her and said, 'All our company's culture and values are in that book, the Bible'.'