“ There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.” Words made famous by Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and repeated by Managing director of FLOW, Stephen Price, set the tone Thursday afternoon at the Spanish Court Hotel, The Worthington, for the final gathering of this year's Applaud It! series. Price and senior members of his executive team feted 12 students of Hampton High School, St Elizabeth, along with their teacher in an almost magical utopia of inspiration further enhanced by gold transluscent wine glasses, lush pink and turquoise roses. Gift boxes sat atop the luxe tablescape, each place setting complete with name cards and menus.
In between the Jacqui Tyson four-course fusion offerings of Indian Papadum meets the Chinese Spring Roll with a 'suss' from Jamaica, Blue Mountain lettuce wrap filled with a pop of smoked pimento chicken; croque-monsieur, deconstructed lollipop of grilled brown sugar-glazed ham served on a fondue of fontina cheese with toasted hard dough crisp and grilled pineapple confetti came the first question from Brianica Randall. “How did you become the managing director?”
“I became managing director through hard work,” was Price's immediate response. “That's really the key to how I got here, through the guidance of great mentors. As you go through life, find the persons you want to emulate, ask them, 'Could you guide me?' and have a monthly or fortnightly discussion,'” he suggested.
There was more, “Lift up the people within the organisation. If you create the best team around you... you will build a strong team and, remember, don't ever own victories for yourself because you have to remember who got you there.
“Plus, in the corporate world today you find a lot of virtual top-down relationships. I try to engender horizontal relationships where I understand my colleagues and know their problems. It's easier to manage when you understand a team member's challenge. I'm also proud that I have a strong gender balance; you should hear the vigorous debates! I'm happy that I have a team that challenges me.”
When asked about his biggest challenge, Price highlighted the 2015 FLOW and LIME merger, citing cultural differences as a contributing factor. However, he spoke glowingly of his all-Jamaican team who faced every obstacle with fierce tenacity.
The ladies wanted to know how he balanced family life — three children, a wife and the job of MD. Balance, he explained, had kept him in control. “Make sure you have that work-life balance. Protect and focus on the most important things in your life first! Your family, your children, your job. When you lose the work sometimes, it's [your] family that's there to take care of you.”
The palate cleanser was timely, a rose sorbet served on a bed of roses that prepared the palates for the entrée, ribbons of fettucine in a twirl topped with St Elizabeth jumbo shrimps and lightly dusted in a sage Parmesan butter. There was also a grilled salmon option. There was lots to absorb in between mouthfuls of intoxicating flavours. Artificial intelligence, for example. The digital revolution, gender balance, a smart approach to career options. Price shared, listened and met the next generation exactly where they were. The adage 'When the student is ready the teacher will appear' was evident as he left them with the words, “It's your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude.”
The master class continued over dessert: fresh fruit pavlova. The facilitator this time was Rochelle Cameron, FLOW's vice-president, legal and regulatory, who started her conversation with the ladies by explaining how small changes can make a major difference in people's lives.
“There was this scientist doing [an] experiment with wind changes[...] They were making small changes with wind speed to see how much effect it would have. When graphed, it came in the shape of a butterfly, and they realised that small flutterings of the wings of butterflies together can cause powerful tornadoes from one country to the next. Sometimes we are loooking for those significant changes [when] it's just one thing that we need to change[...] It may be waking up 15 minutes earlier, the difference between a C and an A [...] Ask yourself what that small change will be,” she said. Each word was carefully chosen to uplift; indeed, shoulders were straightened, eyes sparkled and smiles creased the students' faces. “You are beautiful, bold, perfectly made, there were no mistakes. We have in our midst future leaders. You were all made for greatness.
Cameron, like Price, met the students head-on. Eliciting laughter as she turned the selfie obsession on its ear as she shared how she never missed an opportunity to look at her fabulous self in any mirror. This caused much laughter, but full comprehension of the power of self-belief. Each student was pulled further into the conversation as they turned over their name cards and read aloud the words of motivation on each: “Your own words are the brick and mortar of the dreams you want to realise.
Your words are the greatest power you have. The words you choose and their use establish the life you experience.” — Sonia Choquette.
“There's something so special about a woman who dominates in a man's world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer” — Rihanna
“A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman” — Melinda Gates
“There are two ways of spreading light. To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it” — Edith Wharton. The feel-good element was palpable. There was more to come. The ladies were each presented with Arm Candy bracelets by Gianna. The word HOPE formed the pendant. This would be their daily dose of tangible motivation.
The cutting of the Applaud It! celebratory cake followed. Then Price presented a symbolic cheque in the amount of $100,000 for the school's guidance and counselling department.
As he brought the formalities to a close, the company head shared his hopes for continued change in the lives of the students. He remarked that he had already been asked to become a mentor. “I am ready to do my part. In fact, Novia sowed a seed today in suggesting that we host an all-female high school summit. That could be an interesting option for us next year [...] We have always been a company that advocated for real gender equality.”
As students, teachers and FLOW executives lit sparklers and bade fond farewells, it was evident that a bond had been formed. The bus now boarded, with 12 young ladies heading back to Malvern, St Elizabeth, “Summa Virtute et Humanitate” reminds Kayon Wallace, director of corporate communications and stakeholder management, herself a past student... We can hardly wait to see their contribution to Jamaica.
Applaud It! continues next year!