Going the extra mile to boost Island’s prospects
Dale Jackson is proving the value of going the extra mile to help secure new business for the Island.
Fulfilling a concierge role with the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA), he has put to use his background as an engaging “people person” with organising, scheduling and liaison skills.
Those attributes were honed from years of experience with organisations as diverse as the Bermuda Police Service, Government and the Bermuda Basketball Association.
As one of the BDA's business development managers, he is a front line figure in its efforts to attract new business to the Island.
And he can testify to the positive feedback and results the proactive approach has achieved since the BDA was established last year.
“We are getting phenomenal feedback from those who have actually visited Bermuda. Some of them are surprised by how sophisticated we are in our business environment. Once they go back home they send e-mails saying ‘That was a wonderful experience, I did not know Bermuda had so many products',” he said.
The mission of the Hamilton-based BDA, which is located in the Maxwell Roberts Building, on Church Street, is to encourage direct investment and help bring new business to the Island. It does this by promoting the jurisdiction overseas and acting as a one-stop shop to connect potential new clients with professionals, regulatory officials and key contacts in Government.
The agency is primarily funded by Government, which it works closely with, particularly the Ministry of Economic Development. It also has its own focus groups made up of practitioners in the relevant industries who volunteer their time to share ideas. All those efforts are aimed at stimulating growth in the international business sector.
Once the BDA team has developed a rapport with a potential client who is considering locating to or placing some business in Bermuda, Mr Jackson's concierge skills are brought into play to move things forward as smoothly as possible.
He explained that the prospective client may want to visit the Island to experience Bermuda's culture, community and business opportunities.
“We help them plan the trip, from giving them flight details to making hotel reservations for them to transportation from the airport and confirming with the hotel staff that we have a business concierge client staying,” he said.
That heads up for the hotel helps ensure the visiting client gets the best treatment.
The BDA produces a schedule for the visitor, providing them with information and the opportunity to meet with the people who can help them as they decide whether Bermuda is the right fit for their business.
“We are really a one-stop shop so that the process is clear and easy for them,” said Mr Jackson.
By asking a client about their business, the agency is able to use the information to prep for meetings, passing on the details to the service provider they will be meeting. This helps to ensure that the right people are in the room when they get together with the client.
Such attention to detail pays dividends, with Mr Jackson reporting “great feedback”.
“They have been impressed with the level of service we are providing, the sophistication of our framework, the professionalism of our service providers,” he said.
Mr Jackson gave an example of how going the extra mile to fulfil the needs of a prospective client has left a positive impression with one potential prospect who is considering redomiciling a business to the Island.
“We had a gentleman down from Asia and we had literally 24 or 36 hours to meet with nine different people. So we had to chase people up to confirm meeting times,” he explained.
“I had to walk the gentleman to the meetings because there was such a tight window that if we had missed one meeting it would have changed the whole trajectory of the day.
“So I had to keep him on time, get him to the meetings and follow up with those he met to collect materials that he might need to take back with him.”
The visit was a success and afterwards the client wrote letters of commendation about the concierge service he had received, and the professional approach of the BDA.
A look at Mr Jackson's career background reveals where he has gathered the social and organisational skills that are now proving so rewarding for the BDA.
He studied sociology, criminal psychology and anthropology at Dalhousie University in Canada.
After that he spent 7½ years with the Bermuda Police Service, performing duties in nearly all departments. However, he found his time with the community policing division particularly rewarding. It was there that he was able to assist young people and families and work in the school system.
He then moved on to work as an educational therapist at CedarBridge Academy.
“We did some great programmes for young men. It was a fulfilling position,” he said, explaining that he was able to instil in them business and educational principles.
Working with others and offering support to help them meet their goals is something that features prominently in Mr Jackson's life.
“I love working for people, that's my passion. I enjoy engaging with people,” he said.
An example is his involvement in the Basketball School of Excellence, which he founded and which provides mentoring for young men.
“I had maybe 20 young men that I put through the programme who are now at university,” he said, explaining that one programme particularly close to his heart is called “Go to High School, Go to College”.
“I identified some men in our community that just needed some extra push to make university or college an opportunity for them,” said Mr Jackson, who is a former captain of the Bermuda national basketball team and former president of the Bermuda Basketball Association.
“I took them to Canada where I went to school and they had the opportunity to play football for coaches and trial for basketball teams. I took them around and introduced them to academic counsellors and basketball and football coaches so they could maybe get a scholarship opportunity.”
He did this for five years, in his own free time and personally covering the expenses.
Mr Jackson is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which is involved in many community programmes, from Big Brothers Big Sisters to a mentoring programme for young men in the community, and the “Go to High School, Go to College” programme.
Although not involved in the political environment, Mr Jackson was offered and accepted the role of chief of staff to Premier Dr Ewart Brown in December 2009, and later fulfilled the same role for Premier Craig Cannonier following the OBA's 2012 election victory.
Both stints provided him with opportunities to hone his skills scheduling meetings, developing business and travelling the world to represent Bermuda.
“I got a good feeling for the inner workings of the civil service and the political wheels. I had an opportunity to go to Russia to negotiate the air registrar. I went to India to promote the hospitality industry in Bermuda and to Saudi Arabia, regarding a hotel development with the owners of Elbow Beach,” he said.
“I had an opportunity as a young man to travel as an ambassador for Bermuda and deliver the Bermuda story and the Bermuda value proposition.”
He added: “I worked in Cabinet office alongside three fabulous Cabinet secretaries who showed me a lot when it came to the civil service and policies and the inner workings of government. The intellectual capital of the civil servants is really something to commend.”
Mr Jackson was also involved in National Security's gang intervention initiative before moving to the private sector with his own business concierge venture. He said: “I was doing a lot of private client stuff, concierge work, helping companies relocate to Bermuda and domicile here. I was working in that space as a private entrepreneur.”
That led to meetings with Ross Webber, who last August was appointed the BDA's first chief executive officer. The two men knew one another from the time they had worked in Government. Mr Webber was a former Permanent Secretary, and they had worked together on a number of initiatives.
“He explained that he was really trying to find the right person to manage the concierge service,” said Mr Jackson.
“It deals with people and being an ambassador for Bermuda. It deals with understanding the Government regulatory framework and it deals with business and entrepreneurial spirit. All the characteristics that I thought were needed for this position, I had.”
Four months into the role, he reflected: “We have a great staff here, everyone's motivated. They are all really engaged on the task in hand, which is job growth and growing the economy and making Bermuda a favourable place for those looking to do business — really creating the environment for those interested in domiciling here.
“If you look at it, a lot of people are coming to Bermuda for the first time, they are really interested but they do not know where to start. So the BDA gives them a starting point and we can connect them to any service that they might need.
“We could not do this without the support of both our public and private partnerships.
He added: “We need our Government partnerships to ensure we have our legislative and policy framework and understanding in place, and we have private partners — the business community support and the professional and intellectual framework there to support them — and it has been really working out with the concierge service.”
Improving Bermuda's standing as a competitive international business jurisdiction is something close to Mr Jackson's heart.
“I'm a family man, I have a young daughter, Kaylia. She's my angel. That's one of the major reasons why I took up this opportunity,” he said.
“Working with the BDA you get the opportunity to work directly with growing the economy and growing jobs in the community, and wanting to make Bermuda a better place for my family, so there are opportunities and jobs when she's at age and needs to grow her career.”
He said that having the opportunity to grow jobs, to help the wider community, gave him a great feeling, and he feels the community recognises the value of having an agency such as the BDA providing a service to those interested in doing business in Bermuda.
“Everyone is coming together for one task, for the betterment of Bermuda and to try to create jobs for Bermudians, so that's a great feeling that you are part of that. You put in the extra hours because you know you are doing something good.”