Running the Business from Kitchen Table to Jungle
Alexander Melville is the Finance and Information Systems Director for Chukka Caribbean Adventures, a family business that runs tours for the adventurous in Jamaica, Belize, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos. He has more than the usual challenges staying in touch with his business partners. When he needs them, they’re most often working on a jungle raft, in the surf with stingrays or riding a dune buggy. Find out how his BlackBerry® smartphone helps him wrangle the adventurers he works with and still have time to say good bye to his children in the morning.
Alexander Melville has the unenviable job of having the office job while his co-directors frolic in the sand and surf with the company’s adventure customers. Communicating with people working in remote places was becoming a major frustration for him. There were no fax machines in the jungle. Cell phone bills were very high and signals were not always easy to get. And time zones got in the way of making immediate decisions.
Melville also has three young children who he wanted to spend more time with. But being available on his co-directors’ schedules cut into home time.
When he, and his partners, began using BlackBerry smartphones, his life became a whole lot easier. Plus he was able to balance the books better since cell phone costs dropped by 15%-20%. “I used to have a Sony Ericsson P900 handheld, but nothing beats the way the BlackBerry smartphone handles email. I don’t have to hit ‘send’ or ‘receive’,” he says. “It’s so simple. And we’ve been able to cut down on how many phone calls we make because we can send emails instead.”
He didn’t even have an issue getting his partners to try the device, which could have been a tough sell for him in his Information Systems Director’s role. “A lot of our directors are outdoor people – not very IT savvy,” he says. “They couldn’t believe how easy it was to type with their thumbs. It’s so straight forward, my brother can even use it!”
The biggest change for him is the ability to inform everyone at once if there’s an accident on a tour. With 150,000 tourists a year taking the Chukka tours, things can happen. When they do, Melville needs to update everyone at once. “With the BlackBerry smartphone, the minute something happens, we all know because we’re getting an email from whoever is onsite,” says Melville.
When a report on the accident has to be written up and shared, these documents come as attachments on the BlackBerry smartphone, such as Microsoft® Word, Microsoft Excel and Adobe® PDF. “That definitely helps us save time because we’re making decisions in hours versus days,” he says.
But the biggest relief to him is having more time with his family. He no longer has to be in the office to check for email that might have been sent overnight. Now he can run the business from home while he gets his children ready for school. “I really like that I can send a few emails when I get up in the morning and I don’t have to rush into the office,” he says. “That lets me stay home for an extra hour in the morning with my kids.”
While it might not be as exotic as swinging from the jungle canopy, Melville finds the ability to run the business from his kitchen table just as freeing. Thanks to his BlackBerry smartphone, he reaches his hard to find partners, keeps business on track and still keeps his family priorities straight.