Our overall management system at Kremandala is relatively loose. In a sense, it’s as if everyone is his or her own boss. The system works well for some individuals, who flourish in the atmosphere of freedom. Every now and then, however, there emerges an individual who is afflicted with tunnel vision, which is to say, that individual only sees what he or she wishes to see, ignoring the peripheral side of things. Such an individual can get out of control when management allows too much individual initiative.
At the newspaper, individual freedom is automatically regulated by the assembly line reality. What I mean is that most workers must complete their specific assignment in order for another worker to begin work on the unfinished product which will become the newspaper you read. For example, the journalist has to research and write/type his or her story before the copy editor and the proofreaders can go over the material. That material, after editing and proofreading, then goes on to the pagemaker people, who use computers to set up the page dummy. This is proofread again, following which it is photographed by the lithographer in the darkroom, developed on film which is prepared on a light table by a technician before burning on a metal plate by the printers. After the printers roll the press, the pages go to the folding room for packaging by the collators. The newspapers are picked up before dawn on Tuesdays and Fridays for delivery to the main distribution depot, where independent vendors purchase at a wholesale price and then hit the streets to sell you at a retail price.
In radio and television, most of the work is not assembly line. Personally, I’ve never worked at the radio or television station, except for stints as a deejay some years ago or a talk show host. I know, nevertheless, that the managements at radio and television are different in history and structure from that at the newspaper.
Overall, Kremandala has lost some jobs recently. At few months ago, we had to shut down a nightclub being managed by the radio station. The newspaper is pretty stable, but the business downturn has made things tight at both radio and television. The African and Indian (Indigenous) Library is subsidized by the newspaper. Our security personnel are jointly paid by the newspaper, the radio, and the television.
We had a problem recently amidst all the various processes. An individual emerged who was working on a pretty good concept. His freedom became such that he actually became his own boss. An emergency developed last week, and when I had to intervene personally to straighten out matters, which I did reluctantly, that individual rejected my authority.
Such a situation could never have reached the point it did in the late Ismael Gomez’s company. I have told you before that his Mosul Street office was a model of discipline and efficiency. I used to visit there in the company of the late Charles X Eagan in 1969 and 1970. Justice knew Melin, an Orange Walk native, from the days before he became a wealthy businessman.
One of Mr. Gomez’s workers was Guillermo Cuthkelvin. “Cuttie” was a classmate of one of my younger brothers at St. John’s College, and played on our Diamond A football team in both the 1972/73 and l973/74 seasons.
Cuttie, an accountant, visited us on Partridge Street recently. The victim of a stroke some years ago because of an undiagnosed blood pressure condition, he has lived in the United States for almost three decades.
I questioned him about his time at Mr. Gomez’s office, and my impression was that Mr. Gomez’s businesses began to fold in the early 1980s. Mr. Gomez had expanded into a flour mill, a significant investment, and I suppose this was where the problems began, as opposed to the basic import commission business he had built around the Nestlé agency.
If what Cuttie said to me was correct, the Ismael Gomez businesses collapsed before the United Democratic Party (UDP) first came to power in late 1984. The time frame would have been logical, because once the UDP came to power they would certainly have tried to help Melin, even though he was closer to Dean Lindo, the first UDP Leader, than he was to Manuel Esquivel, the first UDP Prime Minister. Ismael Gomez had been a major financier/supporter of the original Dean Lindo-led UDP, which was established in 1973.
The UDP was widely expected to win national power in the 1979 general election, and this would have benefited the Ismael Gomez businesses big time. I believe he was more committed to the UDP than Santiago Castillo, Sr., a more wealthy man than Melin. Melin was far more brusque than San Cas, and he would have alienated the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) much more than Mr. Castillo would have.
There are no guarantees in business, you know, even though in the old days here it seemed as if Belize business circles constituted an “old boys’ club.” From the outside, we always thought that the Pickwick Club elite looked out for each other. If that was indeed the case then, it is hardly the case now, because the merchant economics of The Jewel in 2014 features many new Asian players. Nowadays, everything seems like “dog-eat-dog.”
The story of Ismael Gomez, almost a Greek tragedy, has always intrigued me, because he was so big. He seemed, as the saying goes nowadays, too big to fail. His story intrigues me because I don’t know the facts and the details. I am always trying to hear more. And his story intrigues me because his business operation had a totally different philosophy from mine. I always thought that his model had to be the way to go. My opinion now is that his model was not the problem: Ismael was, ultimately, more likely a victim of Belizean party politics.