Service manager for life
THE term service is more than a buzzword for Jacqueline Carter. It is her life, and so it comes as no surprise to those who know her that she is the first female to ever take on the post as the service manager for Appliance Traders Limited (ATL).
"I have spent my entire life serving people and that's what I believe in. Whether it's working for an NGO as a volunteer or chairing a committee, whatever it is, that's just me," she said.
As a service manager, Carter supervises a team of about 80, but only about 10 per cent of that group are females. Given the fact that many of the men are several years her junior, she finds herself at times having to make the transition from the attentive mother and mentor to the frank and ultra professional boss who doesn't easily tolerate excuses for slacking off on the job.
"They will come and tell me anything that happens outside of here. If a birthday is going on for a daughter, I know about it. So I play a mother role for some, for others a sister, for others a friend, but I think the relationship is much more than that of a boss, because they wouldn't be fearful in coming in here to share something outside of work," she said.
Carter first joined the ATL team at the age of 24 after an older cousin of hers encouraged her to apply for a job there. She started out as an administrative assistant to the then general manager of the company, but soon after joined the sales department on the advice of her boss.
"One day he said to me, 'Jackie, you have all the attributes and you would make an excellent sales rep'," she recalled.
"I used to just mother them, even though they were a bit bigger than I was. I used to just take control, take charge and I said to him, 'I couldn't sell anything to save my life, that's not me' and he insisted. He said, 'Go. If you fail, I promise you could have back your job'. And with that, I packed up my stuff and I moved to the showroom floor and it has been wonderful, I haven't looked back since."
Carter spent 19 years in sales and during that time copped a number of the top prizes in this area. She was also promoted to sales manager eventually.
"I have had some really wonderful experiences. I can say that I have grown up with clients and their children who are now doctors and lawyers and who are studying abroad. Nobody buys from just anybody. We tend to buy from our friends basically, and I can safely say that I have forged quite a few of those relationships over the years," she said.
"My whole thing is just about building relationships, building good, solid relationships. I have had clients for as long as I have been in the business," she said.
Selling products is quite different from selling a service, but Carter said she and her team try to set the bar very high so that they meet their clients' expectations.
"I don't want to use the word difficult, but it is different to sell a service than it is to sell a product, because persons can touch and feel the product, while for the service, you basically have to go off of your track record or sell the advantages," she said.
Even when she took a two-year break from ATL to pursue other areas of focus, Carter still continued to be one of the company's unofficial ambassadors, and so she would respond to questions from clients who still had her number and wanted to purchase a product from ATL.
Although she did pretty well in sales and has been duly recognised for her work in that area, Carter said her proudest moments with the company were the two years she won the Miss ATL competition which she described as a "huge thing", given the level of prestige the event holds.
Giving service for Carter goes beyond just ensuring that her clients' needs are addressed and in fact has taken her beyond the realm of ATL, as the service manager is also the chairman for the Friends of the Bustamante Hospital for children. This 50-year-old NGO is well known for the work it does in securing funding and resources for the children's hospital, which is the only one of its kind in the island.
"We do fundraisers for them; we built a hostel for nurses some 10 years ago when nurses used to come in from Cuba and had no place to stay. We partnered with the Kiwanians and built a hostel for them," Carter explained.
Apart from helping people, Carter finds happiness in tending to her garden and playing football with her five-year-old nephew who is very dear to her.
For retail therapy, she goes shopping for watches. Her focus now, she said, is to help her team grow and develop.