When Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz beat Japan 2-1 in the 1998 World Cup final in France, a most unassuming man was seen handing out free GraceKennedy phone cards to Jamaicans, telling them to call home with the result of the match.
Few in the massive crowd of Jamaicans who swept over France like a tidal wave to cheer on the national football team would have known that the man, on fire with patriotic pride, was the chairman and CEO of GraceKennedy, Mr Douglas Orane.
These days, with characteristic modesty and little, if any fanfare, Mr Orane has been giving pep talks to young, up-and-coming businessmen and women, sharing his vast experience on how to face and overcome the challenges that would block their progress.
Mr Orane is a winner. He deliberately chose to join GraceKennedy in 1981 as corporate planner, going on to hold several senior leadership positions throughout the group of companies, culminating in his appointment as CEO in 1995 and chairman in 1998, from which he retired in 2012.
In his latest pep talk to young people looking to go into business, at the recent quarterly Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) ‘Lunch and Learn’ event, he chose another winner — the Caribbean’s leading hotelier, Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart — as his business model and the man they should emulate.
It was a breath of fresh air to see Mr Orane, as pointed out by letter writer Mr Johnathan Arlington (‘From one icon to another: Orane embraces ‘Butch’ Stewart’), expressing open admiration for another Jamaican businessman, albeit one who is at the top of his class.
The real takeaway from all of this is that in Messrs Orane and Stewart — the chairman of Sandals Resorts and this newspaper — Jamaica has two extraordinary individuals whose life stories serve as inspiration to young Jamaican entrepreneurs. This is important because we are actually quite good at looking outside for our heroes.
Among the life lessons Mr Orane shared with the young entrepreneurs, he listed integrity, excellence and optimism; and chose Mr “Butch” Stewart as one of the Jamaicans who best personifies those qualities.
“Integrity, because if people trust you they are more likely to do business with you; excellence and optimism in not seeing the glass as half-empty but rather as half-full,” Mr Orane said, and noted that Mr Stewart was one such person “who continued to do business and never quit despite the challenges”.
Mr Orane, who has an MBA from Harvard Business School and more awards and accolades than he can count, has nothing more to prove to anyone. Retired, but not tired, he spends much of his time pointing Jamaicans to the way forward and sees Mr Stewart as the model.
At 78 years old, Mr Stewart still works feverishly to expand the Sandals brand, one of the most recognisable hospitality brands in the world, and the top employer and highest foreign exchange earner in several regional territories.
Both Messrs Orane and Stewart share the well-known Jamaican spirit of generosity, never hesitating to reach out to those who need it most, believing that to whom much has been given, much is expected.