Norman Christie - Champions of Business

T&T Chamber – Masters of Business

Remarks by Norman Christie

November 11

Good evening.

I would like to thank the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this evening.  It is a privilege to be here.  It was also a privilege to get a preview of the individuals being considered for the prestigious designation “Champions of Business”.  To say this is an accomplished line-up would be the understatement of the century.

When I consider the impact that these individuals and many like them in Trinidad & Tobago have had on the business community, on their communities and the broader country, I am left with two very strong impressions.

Before I share those impressions though, let me share a personal and deeply held belief about business.  I believe business sits at the important intersection of other essential institutions including educational, political and civic institutions.  It is not an exaggeration to say that a lot revolves around business.  For those of you who know me, you will understand that while I hold the institution of business at a very lofty level, I am not elevating business beyond its due status.  For example, my family and my church rank a whole lot higher in my eyes.  However, tonight we rightly celebrate an extremely important integrating institution and we rightly celebrate champions of that institution.

That’s enough about my belief.  Let’s return to my two strong impressions.  My first really strong impression as I reflect on business and the champions of business that we celebrate tonight is that there should be no surprise that Trinidad & Tobago has been the incubator of many successful businesses.  There should be no surprise because champions generate results and Trinidad & Tobago has business champions.  Don’t expect me to break out into Dwayne Bravo’s Champion song by the way.  I don’t have the matching moves, and as you know from the video, the moves matter a whole lot more than the vocals.  In the midst of economic downturns the absence of diversification and the ever present catchy negative headlines it is easy to miss the massive contribution of champions of business but that reality is not lost on me and I hope it is not lost on you either.  What these champions do is impressive and leaves a positively distinctive impression.

My second strong impression is that there is an opportunity for the successes of business to cross already established intersections with other institutions and cause a symbiotic process of growth that materially improves the lives of every citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.  The improvement of lives is why I am in business and I know that is the case for many of my colleagues.  The question is how can we have a much more material impact.  Now, I know there will be some who say fix your own house before you try to improve others.  Don’t cross the intersection.  Yes, the institution of business in Trinidad & Tobago is not perfect.  I know that.  But, who said we can’t improve both.  Doing more than the ordinary is what champions do.  I believe there are other essential institutions that need our active involvement.  We don’t have to bat in our crease, we can take a walk down the pitch and hit a six.  We don’t have to retreat and protect we have ground to take.  We have true visionaries. We understand the role of technology.  We instinctively understand risk management.  We know how to plan for decades not five years.  We know how to satisfy balanced score cards.  We know that Values and creating Value are not mutually exclusive principles.

Beyond my two strong impressions, I also reflected on the fact that many of the Champions of Business awardees past and present built their businesses during particularly difficult years in the country’s history. Through struggle and determination, sweat and tears, recessions  and many other challenges, they built successful enterprises in the riskiest of times. Not only did they benefit personally but their employees, their communities and the many NGO’s and other civic organizations they served also grew along with them.

It’s easy for us all to get disheartened by the many challenges facing us today – crime, recession, forex constraints - and to lose faith and confidence in our dreams and goals but the men and women that we will honour today demonstrate that despite all of these challenges that can sometimes bring you down, there are still businesses to build, employees to nurture and communities that need our help. Now more than ever the private sector needs to step up to the plate, we need to bring ideas to the table, we need to persevere and push past the naysayers, we need to get up and do for ourselves and not wait for others to get on board. We need to push the diversification drive, we need to make the investments, take the risks and help to grow the economy.

As we pursue our business goals we need to also think about how we can have a positive impact on those institutions I spoke about earlier – educational, political and civic institutions.  Closer to home, big businesses can help small businesses, many of us can serve as mentors, international companies can help local companies, and vice versa.  

So tonight, celebrate we must because we have true champions.  But let’s not stop there.  Let’s commit to taking a more emphatic walk across the intersections of institutions and make Trinidad and Tobago all that it can be for all.  And when the doubters and naysayers pop up – and they will – don’t be deterred.  There is no reason to doubt because we can all be Champions!

On behalf of BP Trinidad and Tobago, I congratulate all awardees tonight.

Thank you.