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Monday, 06 April 2015 21:06

SUCCESS STORY: ROBERT LEVY CD

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Case Study: Robert Levy  CD

 

Robert Levy: Entrepreneur

Sex: Male

Age: 74 (at the date of interview)

Age at start of business: 18

Firm: Jamaica Broilers Group of Companies

 

Areas for consideration included: ethnicity, family background, financial capability, experience, marketing, technology and resilience.

 

Family Background and Ethnicity

 

Mr. Robert Levy’s father, Sydney Levy, was an entrepreneur. In 1957 he started Jamaica Broilers Limited (JBL),  a small family business that imported baby chicks from the United States.  Mr. Robert Levy, much like his father, and uncles  possessed an entrepreneurial spirit. He was able to transform a small family business into one of the Caribbean’s leading agro-industry successes. Robert Levy married Judy McDonald and together they have four children: Christopher, Wendy, Amanda and Stephen.    

 

Sydney was one of five brothers better known as the Levy brothers, who together seeded several entrepreneurial ventures. They operated a successfully company, Levy Brothers Limited . One branch of the Levy family hailed from Portugal.

 

 

This study contemplates:

 

a)      Response to Market Demand

b)     Financial Capability

c)      Application of Technology

d)     Christian Influences and Right Attitudes

e)      Challenges and Resilience

f)       Experience

 

as determinants of success/failure of any business venture, i.e., how variables impact failure or success of small and medium sized business ventures.

Mr. Robert Levy shared factors that he considered important to his success; these factors are ranked according to priority:

 

1.      Response to Market Demand

 Robert is quick to share with all who will listen that every entrepreneur must understand “the market”:

·        What is the market demand today and how can an entrepreneur anticipate future market demand?

·        What segment(s) of the market will the business serve?

·        What is the spending habit of the market?

·        How can your business satisfy any unsatisfied demand?

·        What is the price point that will maximize profit?

 

 The Company’s primary objective was the identification of the potential demand. The team thereafter had to create an awareness of the product that could stimulate this demand.   Robert believes that all entrepreneurs must focus on the market, which, he said, is the most critical factor for entrepreneurial success. His father, in starting the business, identified a need for the delivery of processed chicken to the market at a time when only ‘live chickens’ were offered. The consumer had to purchase, kill and pluck each chicken before it was ready for the pot.

His father observed during his travels outside of Jamaica that processed chickens had become readily available in shops and supermarkets.  He recognized the added value and ‘convenience’ afforded shoppers.

Robert is adamant that before any decision is made to start a business, the entrepreneur must:

i)                    assess the current and future needs of the market;

ii)                visualize how the potential business will satisfy market demand ; and

iii)                develop a plan of action to transform vision into reality. This plan is more popularly called a business plan.

 

2.     Financial Capability

At the commencement of operations, Jamaica Broilers had three main shareholders, who together invested approximately fifteen thousand pounds sterling as start-up capital. This afforded the business the opportunity to import baby chicks that allowed market penetration and the growth of the business.  

To enjoy success, the entrepreneur should budget for the capital needs of the business. Robert’s mantra with respect to budgeting is “hope for the best, plan for the worst.” This simply means that,  no matter the outcome, the entrepreneur should be able to respond. A shrewd entrepreneur will always leave room for error and be prepared for the unexpected.

Robert also believes that cash management is crucial for the survival of any business. The entrepreneur should employ suitable and effective measures to reduce risks and to prevent loss.  At JBL, technology has been utilized to increase accountability of employees dealing with cash or kind, thereby reducing the risk of theft. Robert stated that the business had developed a cash law where every employee dealing with cash or kind must prepare a full lodgement daily. For example, truckers transporting Jamaica Broiler’s products are given handheld computer devices that are used to: scan product barcodes that are sold and distributed, record transactions and print lodgement slips. It is true that every system has flaws, but a system utilizing technology, coupled with appropriate checks and balances, comes closest to achieving efficiency.

3.     Transfer of Technology

A successful entrepreneur must have vision. The entrepreneur should constantly challenge existing standards in order to improve processes and ultimately impact product delivery. Robert said he had visualized the expansion of Jamaica Broilers without the need for loans. He set out to restructure the company to make this a reality. 

In the early years, baby chicks were imported from the United States and shipped to chicken houses. After maturity, chickens were ‘put down,’ then dipped in kerosene drums over wood fires to loosen feathers for plucking at a small processing facility on Bond Street.  This sluggish and old-fashioned process has been long upgraded  and today Jamaica Broilers conducts operations at a state-of-the-art processing plant. The company also supplies much of the raw materials necessary in the production process.

The business currently owns two “breeder flocks” outside of Jamaica, one in Miami, Florida, called Wincorp International Inc., that sources and ships mainly poultry-related products to Jamaica Broilers and to other poultry operations throughout the Caribbean and Central America. The other, International Poultry Breeders in South Georgia, produces fertile hatching eggs. That facility supplies about 50% of Jamaica Broilers' production needs, while the remaining 50% is produced in St. Ann, Jamaica.

4.     Energy

JBL  made an investment in a Co-generation Plant that produces all the energy needed to operate the company’s plant. The excess power is sold to Jamaica Public Service. This ground-breaking move was followed by an investment of US$20 million in JB Ethanol Limited, where more than 45 million gallons of fuel grade ethanol was produced for export. This generated over 6 billion dollars in revenues for the group.

5.     Diversification

Robert played an instrumental role in the diversification of the company’s products and services. Today, JBL’s lines of business are dependent not just on chicken and poultry derivatives, but include cattle rearing, beef production and fish farming, along with the development and marketing of other value-added products for both local consumption and export.

 

6.     Management

Management of the facilities is of paramount importance. Robert stated that in the poultry division, the first sign that chickens are getting sick is that the water consumption decreases. However, plant manager must also take into consideration variances as a result of environmental differences. Water meters are utilized to control each department, and every chicken house is monitored daily. Observation allows management to isolate and correct problems. Robert believes that business can never achieve maximum efficiency without the application of technology.

7.     Christian Influences and Right Attitudes

Robert credits his achievements to “what the Lord Jesus has done” in his life.  After he became a Christian, every aspect of his life changed. This significant change appeared to attract business success.  In the operations ofJBL, God is placed first in all decisions made. He places his trust in God to direct the right people, with right ideas and attitudes for the organization. Robert admits that in his organization, “the right attitude is sometimes more important than academic qualification; qualification may be acquired through training but having the right attitude is part of the core of an individual and difficult to change.”   Robert also stated that from time to time Pastors are invited to conduct bible study sessions; this has contributed to the feeling of harmony and the family-like atmosphere within the organization.

 

 

 

8.     Challenges and Resilience

During the early years, the company struggled with poor sales of the ‘white fowl’ at a time when the ‘brown fowl’ and the peel neckwere preferred. R14 Undaunted, management succeeded in changing the attitude of many Jamaicans by marketing the ‘white fowl’ at ‘all you can eat Barbeques.’ Robert said they were able to convince many people that the white fowls really tasted tender and good, compared with the Jamaican peel neck and brown fowl. 

 The company in later years faced a significant challenge with the diversification into aquaculture. The project failed. Scores of employees were laid off and the company lost millions of dollars in export earnings. JBL’s Directors took the decision to cut losses. Robert believes that tenacity bolstered by Christian faith are important attributes that are crucial to overcome adversity.

Current challenges include the increasing cost of inputs, because of consistent price increases in the price of grain. The business is at times forced to absorb some costs to maintain stable prices.

9.     Experience

Robert joined Jamaica Broilers in 1959 and worked under the supervision of the company’s first employee and his role model, Mr. Andrew Wildish.  During the first year, he fast- tracked his knowledge of the operation by working in three key areas: the field, the Hatchery and the Processing Plant. By 1978, he became the Director of Development. In that year the group formed the Jamaica Poultry Breeders Limited. The vision was to achieve vertical integration that would ensure a supply of fertile eggs. In 1994 Robert was appointed joint CEO; he became CEO and President of the company in 2001. Robert relinquished these positions in 2009 to his son Christopher Levy who is now at the helm of operations. During his tenure, Robert not only transformed Jamaica Broilers into the Caribbean’s leading poultry provider. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Caribbean Poultry Association for the promotion of Caribbean Broilers and table egg industries.

 

 

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