The success of any business is reliant on how its staff is treated and valued, says entrepreneur and 2021 business hall of fame inductee Angela Lee Loy.
"Angie," as she is known, told Business Day her success was not achieved by the amount of effort she put into her business ventures, but rather the commitment that was placed on people.
Lee Loy is regarded as one of the most profound and reputable business leaders, visionaries and women entrepreneurs in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean, but she does not see it that way.
Rather, she explained that her successes were because she believed that doing good unto others would find a way to bring rewards in the long run.
Starting from her childhood, Lee Loy said she never thought of herself as anyone special or one who could make a difference.
Born in the 1950’s and growing up with six siblings in Barataria, she said she always struggled with her academics and described herself as a slow learner.
Despite their family challenges, she said her father Leolin, a health inspector and mother Elaine, a clerk, provided for their needs as best as they could and ensured they kept a close bond.
“One of my siblings was diagnosed with Down syndrome and eventually passed away at age 64. He taught me about different qualities, such as patience, understanding, likes and dislikes. As family we are close, and I had a happy childhood. I did not realise we did not have money, but the fact is, it was never something to be concerned about.
“Parents' involvement in their children determines their personality. And my parents were exceptional to us. They never put expectations on us to be anything but supported us to do our best at whatever it was. They’ve thought me to be a peacemaker and find the balance and medium in any situation.”
Lee Loy said during her primary school days at Nelson Street RC, she dreaded the day test results were being handed out because the teachers would call out them to the entire class.
So when her Common Entrance results came in and it was announced she had passed for St Joseph’s Convent in Port of Spain, she was shocked and wondered if the results had been mixed up.
“There were 30-something children in class and for sure my name was at the bottom. I honestly thought they switched my results, and I had a valid reason to think so. My mother prayed a lot, and I am convinced that was her prayers and the Lord’s intervention that I got those results.
"Then it dawned upon me ‘What am I going to this school for?’ I was scared.”
Lee Loy said nevertheless, it was there she decided to settle in and apply herself to the work and develop her skills.
“I always say attitude is a hell of a thing. In the first two years I came in the top ten of the class, except in art.”
She explained her upbringing has followed her throughout her adult years into her private and professional life, in which one of the most valued attributes to be successful was honesty. Whether it was a business deal or addressing a family matter, she said the key to a successful solution and outcome was being respectful enough to be honest with the people it impacted.
“Honestly is absolutely the best policy. Your everyday conversations are powerful. We take our temperature from the quality of conversations we have with people, and it doesn’t matter who it is or what medium is used to do it.
“Encouragement is also important, especially for youths today, who are the leaders of tomorrow, and it is how you encourage them to be the best they can be. It doesn’t mean you don’t correct them when you see things going wrong, but I do think people appreciate honesty.”
She also added that building relationships was important: family, romantic, business, friendships cannot happen with putting in the work.
Added to that was prioritisation, which was important to prevent burnout and stress, especially in today’s world, where everything that was routine and taken for granted has been uprooted, Lee Loy said.
“No matter what you are doing, those moments are precious. You have to build the family you want and the relationships you want.”
These concepts, Lee Loy said, were transferred to her staff and in the way she conducts her businesses, which has led to fruitfulness over the decades.
She pointed out that good leadership does not only come from making rules and delegating tasks but also adhering to those same rules and principles as the leader.
Mentoring young people, Lee Loy said, was similar to breathing for her, because it was through this avenue she was contributing to a good society, good people and brighter future for the country.
“The fundamental to mentoring is really trying to make them the best they can be, and this can only be achieved by speaking the truth. If you’re doing rubbish, then you will be told, and when you’re doing something good, you will also be told. Simple appreciation and praise and recognising that people are doing a good job is important.”
Knowing your staff, Lee Loy said, not just in the work space but rather the things that make them tick, helped to maximise their potential and achieve success.
“It is about keeping in touch with what is going on – and always be happy for the betterment of an individual.”
As for operating during covid19, Lee Loy said it should not be used as an excuse by any employer or anyone to limit meaningful conversations and connections.
Finding innovative solutions to keep staff connected was critical, she emphasised, since many people have differing ranges of mental stress and managing private life with work.
“Covid19 limits certain things. What is so difficult in picking up the phone to talk to someone or a (Microsoft) teams meeting or zoom? It isn’t but we create barriers that aren’t really there.
“Being in touch with people is important. Work is work but have fun with your staff. The focus is play hard, work hard. You need to treat people the way you would like to be treated. People also need to be accountable.”
Lee Loy said the current work environment in TT has become volatile since the onset of the covid19 pandemic, but believes normality can be achieved if everyone exercises responsibility.
The Government recently announced that by mid-January, all public servants and employees of state agencies, including National Security, will be required to be vaccinated to go to work or else choose to stay home without pay.
“I am going to be guided by what is legally correct. Whether it can be forced is a different kettle of fish. I do think conversations with individuals can cause a change of heart, except if there is a medical condition.
“Everyone who is not vaccinated may have their personal reason. The most that you can really do is bring information to them and that is happening. I am not one to legislate, but I can take precautions. The worst thing to do have someone do something against what they believe in.”
With the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority (TTRA) Bill passed, Lee Loy said it was about time such an institution was up and running, because for too long tax collection was done in an ad-hoc manner.
“We really need to have an efficient tax system. The authorities have to have the authority to do what is required for people to pay their taxes. There are people who are not paying the required taxes. There must be a reality between what you have and what you are paying taxes for.
“The TTRA hopefully has the educated manpower to do is required. How is this country going to get the revenue that is required to hopefully recover?
"The TTRA took long to reach, and it’s the same with the property tax and I don’t know why the hesitation.”
On property tax, she said, if it was kept at the old rates, there would still be injection of funds into the country's revenue that could assist at this time with covid19 recovery.
“It is the same with subsidies. We have to stop it. My point is, we have to make the sacrifices to get the country to a place where it needs to be. We can’t be freeloading.”
About Angela Lee Loy
Lee Loy is the chairperson and founder of Aegis Business Solutions Ltd, a business consultancy throughout the English-speaking Caribbean, headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago. The company was founded about 19 years ago and offers services for the financial, industrial, energy and manufacturing sectors. She is also chair of Eve Anderson Recruitment Ltd.
She is a fellow of the UK Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and has 40 years' professional experience in auditing and business advisory services with Aegis and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Lee Loy holds a board member position and is a non-executive board member at several other leading associations. She is also past president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Caribbean (ICAC), past president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of TT (ICATT), and former TTd representative of the International Assembly of Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
Her portfolio is large and included accolades and awards such as being a 2021 inductee in the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce Hall of Fame and also the 2021 St Joseph’s Convent Hall of Excellence.
In 2002, she was inducted into the International Association of Business Leaders and in 2004 she was selected as an honoured member of the Who’s Who of Professionals.
Her advocacy work has been with the National Aids Co-ordinating Committee, the Music Literacy Trust, and the Social Justice Foundation, among others.