George Arthur Ramsay Sr (in photo frame) was an inspiration to sons George Jr and Gary. (Picture by SDB Media.)
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FOR DECADES, George Arthur Ramsay Sr wasn’t just the patriarch of his family. To his wife of 45 years, Zenaida, and his sons George Jr, affectionately known as Art, and Gary, who many know as Alan, he was also their root and inspiration.
Sadly however, August 25 Ramsay died suddenly at the age of 66, leaving his family to mourn his death but also celebrate his life. The patriarch had a life of many accomplishments, among them reconstructing a fledging family-run business called Ramsay Real Estate into a real estate empire with a reputation unmatched.
Ramsay’s father Glaviston founded the company in 1966. In the early 1980s upon his death, George advanced to the helm at just 20 years old and over the next three decades was one of the pioneers of the real estate sector in Barbados.
“My father was very big on technology. We [were] actually one of the first companies, if not the first, in Barbados to have a website for real estate,” Art boasted.
“That was my father’s ingenuity and his focus,” he said. “That people all over the world may want to see properties in Barbados and that was the forum that he thought would be the best way to expose the island, and the rest is history.
“Now every [real estate company] has a website and utilise social media platforms. Although he was in his 60s, he was always abreast of every form of social media or any other platform.
“He was always busy. Dad was never sitting down doing nothing. Whether it was church, or some aspect of the real estate profession [the Barbados Real Estate and Valuers Association of which he was vice-president when he died] he was always actively involved in trying to make real estate better and finding ways to educate the public about real estate because he believed it was one of the best investments you could make with your money.”
From the time the brothers could remember, they have always been a part of the business. In an interview with EASY magazine at the company’s office in Welches, St Thomas, the two laughed in unison as they reminisced about their adventures accompanying their father to work.
This involved going to different sites and helping to measure houses for evaluation, or even to clean houses for showings. For the two, their father was a charismatic man and so they simply wanted to be around him constantly.
In fact, Alan maintained pretty much anyone who knew him wanted to be around him also.
“The knowledge he had, the fun he had, he was just a great person to be around. And then being around your father, getting time to spend with your father that was a no brainer, plus you get to see the country, meet different people and friends,” he quipped.
Art was the first of the two to get directly involved in the family business. Initially he wanted to venture into the fashion industry. Upon graduation from the Christ Church Foundation School, Art enrolled in the Barbados Community College to pursue that desire. But by the end of the course, though still passionate about fashion, he had a change of heart about whether he wanted to pursue it as a career.
Art recalled a subsequent conversation with his father about these feelings.
“I said to my dad, I am not sure this is something I want to do fulltime. I always wanted to do what my father did but I didn’t know what he did and so I told him I wanted to come into the business.”
Ramsay obliged, but indicated Art would not receive any special treatment and he would have to, essentially, start from the ground up.
“Basically he taught me the rules and rudiments: real estate law, valuations, property management, everything and basically threw me in on the deep end,” Art said with a reminiscent smile.
At one point, in spite of his lack of experience, he was instructed to manage several properties on his own, although his father was there to oversee and give guidance where necessary.
“[But] he basically said, ‘I want you to be able to get this thing on your own and see how it is to be able to do these things’. And once he thought I was capable, more responsibilities were handed to me,” Art recounted.
Art was only about 21 then and today he is managing director of Ramsay Real Estate and celebrating more than 20 years as a realtor. On the other hand, while Alan has been involved in the business in one aspect or another, interestingly enough it was just last year he decided to play a more active role in the company.
After discussions with their dad and Art, and with a master plan to restructure the company, Alan came on full-time to fill the position of director of operations.
Today, Art and Alan intend to continue their father’s legacy.
That’s because they said senior Ramsay equipped them with the knowledge, experience, and the tenacity to be successful in the business
Intimidated they are not. For them, the process is not foreign but rather a continuation of that process started by their father many years ago.
“We are ready,” Alan stressed.
“As I said, it is something that was always ingrained in us. I don’t want to say it will be relatively easy, because his are big shoes to fill, but in terms of the processes in place, the standards that he has set, we definitely have a big base to build on. We want to continue to improve as individuals [and] as a company. That is what he believed in, that is what we believe in. In terms of maintaining his standard, that is par for the course and we obviously will seek to improve the standard. That is nothing we are fearful of.
“It is a major loss in terms of personally and professionally but at the same time, in a strange way, over the couple of weeks it has become obvious that we are prepared even though we relied on him. He has put things in place in us . . . to be ready for the future,” he added.
Art interjected that though their father’s death still feels surreal, he knows his father would want them to carry on with the people’s business needs.
“He would be the first to tell you that it is a loss yes but you go on, live life, and in living life you go on and execute.”
As director of operations, Alan revealed that he has many fresh ideas to take the company forward and this is expected to be the main focus in the not too distant future.
He explained that they were exploring better more effective and efficient ways of enhancing the customer experience and well, diversifying their portfolio.
“Right now it is still at baby steps because we are restructuring but dad had always said to us, ‘There will be a day that I wouldn’t be here and I want to make sure that when that day comes, you are ready for whatever is there’. He lost his father early in life and he always said he wanted us to use all the benefits of having him around. He was 20 when he lost his father and he would always say, ‘I was young. I was not focused enough, did not know what to do so I had to start from scratch. I want to make sure that when I close my eyes, you are ready to take up the mantle’. And I am ready and Alan is ready. We have been groomed well,” Art said.
“August 25th changed all our lives because it was a shock, we did not expect him to die so suddenly. We did not expect he would go so quickly because he was not sick. For us, as much as the shock it brought to us. . . [we] stepped into action and decided these are the things that have to be done, these are the things that will have to be sorted because we knew that this day would come at some point. It has been a major task to get these things done but as Alan said we are actively restructuring and putting things in place to move forward. We are mourning his loss, . . . but now it is back to business, back to the focus of carrying his legacy forward. By no means is it over,” Art declared. (SDB Media)