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Bollers always ready to meet a challenge

Bollers always ready to meet a  challenge


This month, we feature Martin Bollers, Country Manager, Digicel St. Vincent, and President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

• Q: What is your background in business?

• A: I have been working for 12 years now. I was on a management programme at Scotia Bank, I don’t want to let you think it has all been glorious, that did not work out. I was fresh out of school. Then, I went to the East Caribbean Flour Mills. I left the Flour Mill after two years and went to work with Cable & Wireless. A good or bad thing happened, which was the Union strike, like a month after I joined. {{more}}With no experience how to handle that, and again, one can argue that I was thrown in at the deep end, it helped my exodus from Cable & Wireless. Not only mine, but others.

That whole strike was unfortunate and in hindsight, it could have been avoided and persons like myself were affected. I then moved on to Frank B. Armstrong at the age of 28 to manage that Company. The Managing Director at the time had also just come into the position, and he was in his early thirties. He gave me an opportunity that I can’t forget. He allowed me uninhibited movement in my job, in terms of bringing out my ideas. And basically again, the overall objective is to make money, and I think I am very good at that. And I had good teamwork from the staff there, and I would like to think that subsequent positions that I have been offered or got were dependant on the good word being spread in the Vincentian community amongst customers or suppliers who were doing business with me on what I was about. Also, I work hard and conscientiously. So the foundation I came with to Digicel is dependant on my historical past. It hasn’t been all glorious, it’s been challenging, learning. I went from jobs making x amount of money to jobs going the other way, and having to learn how to live again on a reduced budget, to keep going like that.

Unfortunately, there are some persons who might only paint a wonderful picture of their ascendance to certain positions, but mine is varied.

• Q: Who has had the most positive influence on your life?

• A: Of course, my parents gave me a grounding in business and my mother, she took a risk with her own business and it has paid off. I would say that my mother is more of a business person. In all the jobs that I have had before DIGICEL, I would not say that the people who have inspired me the most were the leaders of the companies, it was actually the people who supervised me, and the struggles I had to go through with them. I have actually learnt from people who might not like me very much or care for my style of doing things, but I have learnt how to work with people in those positions and persons who you may classify as wanting to keep you down. So it is a combination of people like that and persons who yes in the country or the wider world are success stories, people like Bill Gates. But those people did not form my values, it was the problems that I encountered in various positions or jobs that made me learn. I tried to turn the negatives into positives. It is a continuing process. When you are in a business trying to make money, it’s an ongoing thing, so I have to pay homage to those people, they may not know it, but they are the ones who taught me the most business skills. Also, my loving wife Sharda is a great inspiration to me.

• Q: Are you living your professional dream?

• A: Yes. When I entered University I originally wanted to study law. However, I never entered Law School as I always thought I was a business man first. Having said that, having a clear understanding of the laws within which the business operates is a definite advantage, an advantage I would want to acquire in the medium term.

• Q: Does this mean you will be returning to school to study law?

• A: Yes. More and more, there are two things in my job now that I need to enhance my knowledge of. It’s not only in this job, but I feel that I need more of a solid grounding of the laws in which the business operates. I would also like to complete an MBA to give me some more analytical financial skills that I normally would not pick up working on a day to day basis. I would like to formally go back to school and not by distance learning, I want to be a student again, before I am forty. That has to be within the next six years.

• Q: What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

• A: The most enjoyable aspect of working for Digicel is undoubtedly dealing with the customers. We’re the number one cell phone GSM operator on the island, and hence I have a lot of customers to deal with. A lot of ideas originate from the customers and the challenge to me is listening to the feedback I get from my customers and putting those suggestions and recommendations into place. I value totally the feedback I get from the customers. They are a major part, why Digicel continues to be number one in St. Vincent and will be forever.

• Q. What challenges you most on the job?

• A: Leading a diverse team. Managing situations is easy, leading a team is much more challenging as you deal with people who are diverse.

• Q. How do you spend your weekends?

• A: The weekends for me are a little bit less taxing. When I was at Frank B. Armstrong, I used to work on Saturdays visiting customers ensuring that things were done. I still do that at Digicel, but not for the entire Saturday. I try to have a cut off period around 12. On Sundays, I try to relax totally in a non business environment, either going on my friend Erica’s boat or visiting other friends. I try to visit my parents at least once per week, which would either be on Saturday or Sunday. I have more free time now, because my wife is away studying for a year, so I try to do a lot more visiting, and I cycle, every day on the weekend. I get my energy from outside, not from within, so I need to keep interacting with people so as to keep thinking, getting new ideas on how to improve the business at Digicel and my personal life as well. I live off the energy of the people around me.

• Q: Where would you be on a Saturday night?

• A: If I have no social or work commitments, I would be at home, at the movies or out on the town.

• Q: If you are given the power to change one thing in the world or in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, what would it be?

• A: Without a doubt poverty, I don’t want everyone to be able to afford everything that their heart desires, but, to see the type of life that some persons have, always moves me to ask the question why are some persons’ quality of life better than some? In some cases I am so moved, I try to help. This accounts for my involvement in the Rotary Club South.

• Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 – 10 years?

A: Working in St. Vincent or any other market Digicel operates in would help me to attain my personal goal of maintaining my integrity as a hard working businessman. One last thing – Always remain humble, no matter how successful you become in life. Too much Pride hastens a fall.