RBC Caribbean Business Growth Series
We’ve put together stories from business owners, like you, to share their valuable tips and inspiration. Enjoy the stories of what they’ve learned from their own families and mentors. From their experiences come lessons that may help you and your business grow and succeed.
As a child, Daniel (Danny) Scott had no idea that the company his parents started in the living room of their home would grow into the thriving business that stands today. Daniel is the Executive Chairman of AP Scott Trinidad Limited, family-run a food, pharmaceutical, hardware, and manufacturing company employing over 280 people. Educated in Canada, he’s been part of the Trinidad-based business for over 30 years.
On Humble Beginnings
The company is going to be 50 years old next year.
It was started by my mom and dad. Just two people who started selling out of their home. My dad sold his car and he bought a delivery van. He would drop us to school in the delivery van and then go and do sales and deliveries and then pick us back up in the van. The storeroom/warehouse was actually our living room. It seemed normal to us.
My dad passed away 25 years ago. I learned from my dad it’s about treating all people the same way. That was a big plus for all of us growing up. My dad was like the salesman and he was very charismatic but it was my mom who ran the business.
But Mother Knows Best
She’s very much an operations person whereas he was a sales and charisma guy. They were an excellent combination. She was always based in the warehouse. That’s the guts of the business and her office was always in the warehouse. My mom has been the real business guide for me. She is still the chairman of the company and very involved on a strategic level.
What I’ve Learned from Others
Not so much in business but I have a spiritual mentor – a very important person who has guided me in my life – a guru from India. He has made a major impression in my life. It’s made me a better person. So in business, it’s helped me look at the human side of business.
The Human Side of Business
It’s all about people. To me, your suppliers are probably as important as your customers. Your employees are important. People are first, second, and third. That’s all I can say.
It’s more important than anything else. I always say that a business can have a nice building, good products, a great delivery fleet, the best computer system but the people are way more important than all that. People are the most important part of any business.
Diversity is extremely important. Having the same kind of people is terrible. If you surround yourself with people who are like-minded, that’s not good at all. If we have a new idea and I’m saying “Oh we can do this,” my brother will list every reason why we can’t and all of the things that can go wrong. It’s excellent because he brings up the things we should look out for.
On Not Letting a Family-run Business Run You
My four brothers work in the business. We have a family forum every six months where all family members, including in-laws and kids 15 years and over get a report from the company. We go through the new stuff that we’re doing; they ask questions and we teach them about the business.
We get along well. We spend time with each other outside of the business. And one of the things we also do is the whole family (all 30 of us) goes on a vacation for one week every year.
On Working with an Outside Consultant
We have been using a family consultant for about 10 years now. She has written guidelines for how the family interacts in the business. For example, most of our senior people are not family members. It has to be for the good of the business. We do it by merit and ability. Even our kids have to work two years full time somewhere else. They have to see what it’s like to be a normal employee at another company before they come here.
Words to Live By:
My mentor says, “Try very hard but don’t worry hard”. I try not to care too much if the results are good or bad, once we do all of the right things. But it’s also very hard not be tied to results when you put in a lot of effort. It’s a discipline and a balance.
If I Knew Then What I Know Now
I have zero regrets. I don’t feel there’s anything I would do different. Some people know different now and still don’t make the right decisions. They do everything as a habit. Life is all about the stroll, not the goal.
There are two sides, you borrow and you give credit. Credit can be difficult to manage. You have to be very careful. You can be a profitable business and the credit you extend could sink you, especially as a small business.
RBC has been very, very good and we’ve had a close relationship for many years – 40 years or more. In banking it can come down to the best interest rates but RBC has always been very, very good and continues to be. They work hard at the relationship.
On Working Capital
Our aim is to always borrow as little as possible. To not go to the bank. But our business depends on it. The U.S. exchange rate isn’t always in our favour so we have to depend on Working Capital. And we may borrow a lot but we utilize that money to make more money. If borrowing wasn’t good, no one would borrow.
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