Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 16th 2017 Contents 6|intheseat
July 16 . 2017
Q: How many years have you been in business?
A: My first real understanding of business was
when I joined Sterling Drugs in 1967. It was at Ster-
ling that I understood the process of identifying a
need, defining a product to fill that need and all
the stages that take place to the end objective of
consumption. Sterling manufactured, distributed,
advertised and promoted so it was a comprehensive
experience. The cost, size, price, packaging and com-
petition were all elements of the mix that contribute
Q: What has been your biggest success?
A: I worked with Arthur Lok Jack at Sterling Drugs
and joined him at Taurel & Co in 1969. We then
formed a distribution company in 1971 called United
Marketing. In 1974 I joined Charles Candy, the choc-
olate company that Arthur and a few investors ac-
quired. The plant was still under construction so we
had the challenge of getting the project to the opera-
tional stage. Then, in 1977, we built Sunshine Snacks.
I spent a great deal of time there before we consoli-
dated the two plants. After exhausting our opportu-
nities in Carifta we began to explore extra-regional
markets. In 1981, I relocated to Malta to take charge
of a chocolate factory and a pasta factory. We later
built a biscuit factory. My experience in Malta was
in a different country, culture and product range. I
revisited the factory in 2014, and thirty years after
leaving, it operates successfully today. So I consider
that to be my greatest achievement in business.
Q: Have you ever failed at any endeavor?
A: Of course. On several occasions. We built a
plant in Malaysia and acquired a public company in
France both of which did not turn out as we hoped.
The experience of both of those ventures was invalu-
able to all of us. I have also had several other smaller
investments that were unsuccessful. Fortunately,
never have any been disastrous.
Q: What makes you decide whether you want to
enter a new venture?
A: The venture must make sense. The product or
service must be something that adds real value. The
venture must add value.
Q: Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: You can achieve more in twelve hours than in
Q: Have you ever felt like you could lose it all?
A: I once read an article that quoted the head of
a Fortune 500 company that went like this: Give me
my team, and we will be successful if we started all
over again today. I am not obsessed with anything
that I have except my family and friends. I am con-
fident that I will always be able to sustain an enjoy-
able life. I also like to believe that I do a proper risk
analysis and so it never occurred to me that I could
lose it all.
Q: What drives you?
A: I am motivated by success, not money. The
pleasure that one derives from doing a job well. That
is a personal thing not based on public recognition.
It is always done collaboratively.
Q: When did you recognise that you’d “made it”?
A: I don’t recognise that I have made it. I have been
part of some successes and failures. I am always
weary of the term “failure” because there is always
something learned in the process. Maybe disap-
pointments is a better term.
Q: What do most people think about you that
may or may not be true?
A: I want honest and genuine feedback from all
associates. I don’t want support based on loyalty. It
should be based on principle. I believe that ethics
must trump everything, including law.
Q: What do you believe are the key factors to
succeed in business?
A: Ethics, analytical thinking and hard work.
These are the key factors according to my definition
of “succeeding in business”.
istening to Wilfred Espinet speak, one
gets the sense of a man at peace with his
place in the world. That said, at 73, Es-
pinet has no intention of slowing down.
The thrill of the next deal keeps him going. As the
chairman of a cement company (TCL), a shipping
and logistics company (Aeromarine International)
and a regional cosmetics retailer (Mayfair), Espin-
et certainly has a full plate. Sunday Business sat
down with Espinet to get a sense of business and
life through his eyes.
PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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