Staying in Touch – in Surf, Sand and Jungle
Alexander Melville has business partners who do wild things. But this Finance and Information Systems Director for Chukka Caribbean Adventures still needs their input on the business – even if they’re swinging high above the jungle canopy of Belize, swimming with stingrays or riding horses in the Jamaican surf.
Chukka Caribbean Adventures – named after Chukka, a period of play in a polo match – is a family business that runs tours for the adventurous in Jamaica, Belize, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos. For anyone who wants it, Chukka will take them on a jeep safari, river tubing, dune buggy rides or any other memorable adventure on their tour list. The BlackBerry® smartphone means company directors can turn any place, even a river raft, into a mobile office.
BlackBerry Connection® (BC): Why was communicating a problem for your business before you had BlackBerry smartphones?
Alexander Melville (AM): You have to realize that a lot of our tours are deep in the bush and in very remote places. Sometimes there isn’t even electricity, so how are you going to plug in a laptop? Cell phones aren’t much help either because of the cost. We needed a way to inform our six directors about company business without having to call them all individually. Since we all travel a lot worldwide, those calls were getting very expensive.
We also needed to share paperwork like accident reports and monthly business statements. But finding a fax machine on the road wasn’t that easy either. Important decisions were being held up while we hunted for a way to send the documentation.
BC: How has email on the BlackBerry smartphone reduced costs?
AM: 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’. 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. That’s saved us between 15% to 20% on our cell phone bills.
BC: Does it help you make business decisions faster?
AM: It’s been unbelievable because you just send out one email and everyone is up-to-date and ready to act. It was much slower having to tell each person individually. We now use email to tell everyone on the executive team about important events and information.
It helps us maximize our time. Everyone is on separate time zones, but with a BlackBerry smartphone, the messages get through to everyone and people answer when they have a free moment.
BC: Have you used it to handle emergencies on the tours?
AM: About 150,000 people a year take our tours – occasionally accidents happen because you’re dealing with extreme activities and, sometimes, wild animals. In the past, we’d all eventually find out by the evening if an accident had happened during the day. With the BlackBerry smartphone, the minute something happens, we all know because we’re getting an email from whoever is onsite. Knowing simultaneously saves time so each director can start handling their area of responsibility, whether that’s operations, insurance or marketing.
A report on the accident also has to be written up and shared. Before, we had to try and send these by fax. Now those documents come as Microsoft® attachments on the BlackBerry smartphone that we can read then and there. That definitely helps us save time because we’re making decisions in hours versus days.
BC: What do your company directors like about the user friendliness of the smartphones?
AM: It’s a really user friendly device, with just a track wheel and keys. A lot of our directors are outdoor people – not very IT savvy, you know. They couldn’t believe how easy it was to type with their thumbs. It’s so straight forward, my brother can even use it! They all agree it’s much easier than using other PDAs that want you to touch the screen and then draw on it. If the BlackBerry smartphone hadn’t been so easy to use, our group wouldn’t have used it.
BC: Has it helped you spend more time with your family?
AM: I’m the one back home in the office, while everyone is off on the tours. 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. That lets me stay home for an extra hour in the morning with my kids before they go to school.