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Bello’s plan


Gercine Carter

Bello’s plan

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He can at one moment be the intense business executive, focused, concentrating on the business of managing the Caribbean affairs of the Virgin Atlantic Airlines.

In the next, Andre Bello transitions to the proverbial “Trini to the bone”. In typical Trinidadian style there are nuances of the fete influence and an upbeat light-hearted banter that energises the atmosphere around him, drawing in strangers with his effervescent personality.

He was recently selected by Virgin Atlantic to head its Caribbean operations and says, “I have to think of how I spend my day, and how I spend my day is with a company that I have grown to absolutely love for what it represents.

“As a company man, I see myself as being responsible for the people in my team, setting the direction for them and creating the environment in which they can succeed.”

This is indeed his primary mission. In his personal life he is also the family man “deeply connected to my parents who are still happily married and brother to my younger sister, who was born with some mental challenges and who has been a dear sweetheart to me my entire life.”

Asked to describe himself Andre began by saying, “I like to think of myself as a husband and friend to my wife first because every decision I make . . . ” (and after a brief pause he continued) “there is this little ceremony in the Catholic Church where you take the two candles and you light one candle and for me that is really a manifestation of what happens when you get married, so your personal decisions become secondary to the decisions you make together.”

An indication that this is no idle boast comes when in the midst of the interview a request is made for a photograph of him with his wife. He immediately reaches for his mobile phone and calls Frances at home – “Honey, I am here in an interview and they want to get a photograph of the two of us. Can you get dressed and come down – and bring my red shirt too, please”.  Minutes later, his attractive wife Frances, a psychologist, walks in, chic and ready to pose with her husband.

A former interior decorator in Trinidad, she moved to Jamaica with him when he took a job there.

Bello has had a varied career path. “When I think about life and I think about things, I recognise that there is a little movement in life where you realise the direction just changes.”

He supports this by telling his own story about being a rookie account executive with an advertising firm in Trinidad, being sent to pitch for a new account, which he is convinced to

this day he was given because his bosses did not think he could nail it. “They gave me the account because they did not think they were going to win it . . . they say ‘the rookie really can’t really mess up, so let the rookie go in and make a pitch”.

The rookie did make a successful pitch that secured the business for his company. Some months later he was recruited by the other company to set up its marketing department for the financial group.

“Just that one pitch that I made put me in the realm of financial services,” said Andre, who headed up the group as general manager of marketing for about four years.

Bello’s first degree is in zoology. He wanted to be an aqua-farmer and was pursuing a master’s in parasitology, studying the intestinal parasites of fresh water fish and had even formulated a plan to develop small farms for individual with a supportive cooperative.

But the fish plan was abandoned when a friend, a medical representative, persuaded him to get into the pharmaceutical business as a medical rep.

His passion for marketing is undergirded by the MBA he acquired while working in Jamaica. However, while engaged in a Harvard programme in negotiation, he discovered another passion now expressed in his book The Sword And The Spirit: A Negotiation Tale.

“My real mission with this book was to make negotiation principles easy for people to learn because I started to recognise that in negotiation, you negotiate every day – with your boss, your bank, your neighbour.”

It was “one of the proudest moments in my life,” he recalled, when he was later asked by Harvard to be one of its presenters among several well known negotiation trainers participating in a programme on teaching negotiation in Paris.

He has written a second book, Give More, Get More – Negotiate Your Way To A Richer Life.

The exposure from his writing and on the negotiation platform has propelled him on to another stage – as a [public speaker talking about negotiation. He has been on the speaking circuit, opening talks for the likes of actresses Jamie-Lee Curtis and Jayne Seymour, and has appeared as keynote speaker at women’s conferences.

In Jamaica when this  in-sync couple began to get that “itchy, travel bug biting feeling” they explored options for setting up a new home. Barbados won out over Antigua. The alluring beach life so important to them both, a lifestyle consistent with that they prefer, and a “good” international airport tipped the scales in Barbados’ favour.

“Barbados really feels like home. It is not about the physical place which we love anyhow, it is about the people said an ever-smiling Andre. “We have met so many people here.”

And sotto voce, he dismisses a claim often heard from other Caribbean people, remarking “There is a cliché that Bajans don’t invite you home by them. We found that totally not true. We find that people who like people find people who like people.”

When asked to weigh in on the current discussion surrounding the influx of Trinidadian businesses into Barbados, the frivolity gives way to a more serious Andre.

He begins, “I truly believe having lived in the three commercial centres of the Caribbean, Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica, I really consider myself a Caribbean man and for me we need to stop thinking about ourselves. We are far too small.”

“You need to get together and you need to start breaking down those boundaries and I believe each Caribbean island has a lot to add.”

“There is nothing I think we have in Trinidad that can touch Jamaica in terms of its creativity. In Barbados we look at all the good qualities you have in the work force, the high literacy rate, the strong education, stable political system and what happens is that I recognise having lived in the three countries is that we really have to come together and understand how to break the boundaries which are really based on emotions and work together.”

“We need to stop thinking about dividing the orange. We need to start thinking about getting a win-win situation within the Caribbean.”

It is more than a mouthful on the issue, spoken by someone who has observed how other international groupings have managed to make capital out of their unity.

But his attention soon diverts to the lighter side of Andre as he talks about his excitement in getting on a plane and seeing a new place, getting off the beaten path, meeting people in little back streets and sampling their foods.”

“To me it is about adventures, meeting new people,” the suave airline executive remarked.

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