De­serv­ing recog­ni­tion for Butch Hen­drick­son

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

BE­CAUSE IT’S a pri­vate com­pany, we are not privy to the ac­counts of Con­ti­nen­tal Bak­ing Com­pany, which pro­duces the Na­tional brand of breads and other baked prod­ucts. But the way that Gary ‘Butch’ Hen­drick­son gives away money in ‘good cause’ do­na­tions, we can only as­sume that Con­ti­nen­tal is a healthy and prof­itable busi­ness.

In­deed, for the way that he mod­ernised and ex­panded this seg­ment of the fam­ily busi­ness, since it was ceded to him two decades ago, Mr Hen­drick­son would well de­serve in­duc­tion into the Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ja­maica’s Hall of Fame, which hap­pens for­mally at a ban­quet on Oc­to­ber 26. In­deed, Con­ti­nen­tal has the lion’s share of Ja­maica’s mar­ket for breads and buns and other do­mes­ti­cally man­u­fac­tured baked prod­ucts.

But then there is Mr Hen­drick­son’s philanthropy, like the J$150-mil­lion, state-ofthe art early-child­hood school he and an­other cel­e­brated busi­ness­man, Cari-Med’s Glen Chris­tian, fi­nanced in the in­ner-city com­mu­nity of Union Gar­dens in south­west­ern St An­drew.

“Hands down, the Union Gar­dens project is the most ex­cit­ing one I have done,” Mr Hen­drick­son told this news­pa­per ear­lier this year. “I think it will change the way chil­dren will go to school.”

Well – if he says so. Of what there is no doubt is Gary Hen­drick­son’s pas­sion for ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially at the early-child­hood level, and how deeply he pushes his hand in his pocket – via his Na­tional Bak­ing Com­pany Foun­da­tion – in sup­port of the sec­tor.

He is, for ex­am­ple, a ma­jor fun­der of Crayons Count. This project pro­vides learn­ing ma­te­rial to ba­sic schools, those gen­er­ally un­der-re­sourced, com­mu­nity-based early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions where the bulk of the Ja­maican chil­dren get their start. Fur­ther, Crayons Count lo­gos are painted on many of Na­tional’s de­liv­ery vans, giv­ing project vis­i­bil­ity and pro­mo­tion to the cause.

“Frankly, if I could rid Ja­maica of one so­cial ill, it would be il­lit­er­acy,” said Hen­drick­son in that Jan­uary Gleaner in­ter­view. “In fact, if I were to go into full-time vol­un­tary ser­vice, early-child­hood de­vel­op­ment would be it, be­cause it is the most ef­fec­tive. I don’t be­lieve in a sit­u­a­tion where you have to fix a prob­lem down the road; I would rather avoid that by hav­ing a good base to be­gin with. Help­ing chil­dren to get a re­ally good start means a world of dif­fer­ence to me.”

Yet, while early-child­hood ed­u­ca­tion is at the cen­tre of Mr Hen­drick­son’s char­i­ta­ble giv­ing, it’s not his only fo­cus. Or­gan­si­a­tions such as Mus­tard Seed Com­mu­ni­ties, Mis­sion­ar­ies of the Poor, St Pa­trick’s Foun­da­tion, Talk Up Yout!, and Bus­ta­mante Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren know, too, of and ben­e­fit from his gen­eros­ity.

What, though, may be unique about Butch Hen­drick­son is that he has been able to fash­ion cor­po­rate philanthropy into some­thing of a busi­ness model that ben­e­fits other firms, with­out ob­vi­ous re­turns im­me­di­ately to his com­pany.

The norm in the busi­ness world is for lit­tle firms to fear big ones – the big com­pany run­ning roughshod over the lit­tle guy. How­ever, for sev­eral years, Mr Hen­drick­son and his com­pany have op­er­ated a project called The Bold Ones, in which start-up, or small com­pa­nies that could not oth­er­wise af­ford to par­tic­i­pate in the Ja­maica Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion/Ja­maica Ex­porters’ As­so­ci­a­tion bi­en­nial trade expo have their costs met by Con­ti­nen­tal Bak­ing. Their prod­ucts, too, are of­ten pro­moted on the Na­tional trucks.

This is a project, in­deed, Mr Hen­drick­son’s en­tire busi­ness, that is wor­thy of a case study in busi­ness schools in the Caribbean and else­where. For it ought to earn in a place in any busi­ness hall of fame. The opin­ions on this page, ex­cept for the above, do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of The Gleaner. To re­spond to a Gleaner ed­i­to­rial, email us: ed­i­tor@glean­erjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Re­sponses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all re­sponses will be pub­lished.

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