He was at gunpoint.
I suppose most of us would do what we’re told.
Last week I had a rare opportunity to spend the afternoon with a man who built a multi-million dollar business from scratch. You might be surprised to learn he didn't create an app. No, he sells plants. Internationally. From Haiti.
Yeah, that's the rare part.
We spent about an hour touring the production facilities in Les Cayes. His company provides 27k families with jobs. Another example of how business builds communities. At scale. So I jabbed him questions about how he reached his level of “success” exporting plants. From Haiti. Here's how it went down:
"You're the model. Nobody else has been able to meet the global demand from this country. Coffee, sugar, cocoa, etc. You name the product. For whatever reason it just hasn't worked. And it's not because Haiti doesn't have the natural resources. I know this country was once a top three global supplier. But they got shut out from trade and never regained their footing. So how have YOU done it? How have YOU been so successful? How have YOU captured 80% of the world market for this product? For vetiver?"
"Where do you live?"
"New York City..."
"You're here in Haiti? To build business? You're a smart man. If you want to be a billionaire you have to move to the jungle. What do they have in New York? People?"
"Well, those people buy things. You need to move to the jungle to get the products they're going to buy. So you can sell it to them. I sell to big refiners in Europe. That's where the perfume industry is. You need to give your customers what they want. Except monopoly. Don’t shut them out just because one will offer to pay you for exclusivity. And don't tell one customer what you give the other customer. I grow 16 different types of vetiver. Each plant is different for each customer. They all have different perfumes to make! You see? I give them what they want. Except monopoly. And I ALWAYS make sure it’s of the highest quality. Consistently. That's it. Give them what they want, with quality, consistently. I'll fly you to Geneva. To Paris, if you want. I'll introduce you to my contacts. For your product. Would you like to come to my house for lunch? All of you. You can meet my kids. Some have two legs. Some have four..."
"...Yes, we'd love to! It's a Sunday afternoon. We have no plans until this evening. How many kids do you have?"
"Two kids, 17 dogs."
"Yes, but only eight of them are here. The others are at my other homes."
"Who lives here?"
He pulled out his third cigarette in as many minutes. "Just me. And my dogs. Come, let's have lunch."
We spent the rest of the afternoon eating pizza. I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering why he didn’t answer my question. How was he able to scale a global export business? From Haiti? Nobody else has reached this type of scale from this country in the last century. Maybe longer.
So, I did my research. I read this. Someone put him under the gun. Literally.
I guess we could all use a little kick in the pants. I guess we could all use some company, too...