Business View Caribbean interviews Eladio Walker , CEO of Quality Dealers Group , as part of Best practices in Kingston, Jamaica Business.
When it comes to the make-up of the business – Quality Dealers Group – for which he serves as chief executive officer, Eladio Walker is at least trying to make the best of it.
Walker said Jamaicans pay an average of 40 cents per kilowatt hour of energy use, a rate far higher than the 10 to 13 cents averaged throughout the United States. As a result, he said, residents and businesses are compelled to invest in innovative approaches that include green roofing and solar water heating.
The company is well-positioned with its line of roofing products, which, Walker said, have actually been raising the quality bar on housing in all price ranges for several years. Projects with which the company has been involved include the Leitham Townhouses, the Palomino Townhouses and the Mi Casita Apartments, a 22-unit, two bedroom, Mediterranean-styled complex in Kingston.
“I’m looking forward to innovative designs that I would like to bring to the next development we do,” he said. “We worked on projects that were considered affordable housing as far back as 2005.
“It wasn’t a radical design by housing standards, but it was a step up in that price point from what was being built on the island. When we do more, we would like to step it up again, with far more efficient systems and intelligent designs that include everything from house orientation, water collection, energy efficiency and security of the neighborhood or design. Anything that gives people better bargain for their money.”
A new venture with the company’s primary banker, First Global, will enable Quality Dealers Group to become the island’s exclusive distributor of True Value hardware and lumber – and provide yet another method to extend the reach beyond its existing grasp.
“It’s a pretty exciting time for us,” Walker said. “We’re re-energizing ourselves in the marketplace with a focus on our core business, and I’m encouraged by the outlook for the future. If we continue to make strides toward becoming more efficient, then if there’s a struggle we can survive and if there’s a boom we can take advantage and participate.”
The first segment of the multi-faceted family business – QD Roofing Ltd. – sprang up in 1972 and was followed 10 years later by a real estate and development arm: Tony Walker Construction Realty Ltd. Quality Dealers Wholesale is the newest appendage, with a stated mission to provide high-quality products for hardware distributors and building contractors across the island of nearly 3 million.
These days, Walker works together with his dad, Tony, who’s now the company’s executive chairman; and his brother, Jason, who serves as a director. Together, he said, the three men blend the fundamental ethical principles handed down with the modern business practices that will help keep the entity thriving.
“It’s a mix of styles,” he said. “We depend on my dad’s experience in the marketplace very much, and at the same time he’s counting on us for ways that we can bring the business into the next generation by utilizing the technologies and efficiencies that will keep us ahead of the curve.
“There is definitely a real recognition of the values and the respect, and it works both ways. He looks at the observations we make as the younger generation and, at the same time, we respect his experience and learn from it.”
That combination, in Walker’s words, will create some big possibilities.
Among the potential items on the agenda going forward are taking the private company public, or at the very least investigating ways to incorporate a profit-sharing arrangement the existing staff of 100 full-time employees and another 35 to 50 on the sales team.
Quality Dealers Group has branches in Montego Bay, Mandeville, Port Antonio, Ocho Rios, Junction and May Pen and is continuing efforts to expand its reach through branches at strategic locations, with a long-term aim toward continuing a pattern of growth, development and excellence with great emphasis on housing, manufacturing, exporting and the creation of employment for the Jamaican people.
It all stays true to the mission statement, in which the company dedicates itself to “the principle and philosophy of being the leader in the roofing, hardware, real estate and development industries” and strives to “exceed the requirements and expectations of our customers by continuous improvements.”
A planned rebranding and freshening of the overall presentation is a particular pet project for Walker, who holds degrees in architecture from both the University of Florida and the University of Miami and labels the transitioning process as a “rebirth.”
“It is an interesting dynamic and it’s been learned along the way,” he said. “I’ve certainly learned how choices you make in life can take you in different directions. I saw the need to help out more in the overall administration of the company to see where we could maybe make improvements.”
Those improvements, he said, will be driven by a leadership mandate to create a leaner organization that’s better equipped to handle a turbulent economic environment in Jamaica. Among the ways to do so are by consolidating a bloated administrative wing and considering various ways to refinance operations that will enable the organization to operate in the event of a sudden downturn.
“We were big in a time in a time when it was impressive to be big: bigger offices, bigger spaces, bigger this and that,” Walker said. “But now it’s all about being lean and more efficient, and to trim all of that fat is hard work. For us, now it’s about streamlining our operations, focusing on our manufacturing, looking at whatever new product lines and areas we want to step into and enhance services.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Quality Dealers Group
WHAT: Group of three companies comprises – Quality Dealers Roofing Ltd., Q. D. and Ace Hardware Ltd. and Tony Walker Construction Realty Ltd.
WHERE: Kingston, Jamaica