When you've been tasked with running one of the most prestigious private-sector bodies in the country, you must be ready.
That's the challenge at the able feet of corporate Jamaica veteran Gail Abrahams, who is the new CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM). Her first day had her meeting with representatives from AMCHAM Abu Dhabi. And since then, Abrahams has been, and will be, busy making connections with AMCHAM members and companies who can give benefits to members. One of her first goals is to raise public awareness of the organisation.
"The fact that we are the largest federated international business organisation, it is something that needs to be out there a little more," she said. "AMCHAM can help, it can grow your business. But we need to know you. And I need to know what your needs are." Abrahams is very passionate about her new job and believes AMCHAM can benefit Jamaican businesses, especially the small and medium ones.
"When I look at AMCHAM and I see that international connection ... the organisation provides that avenue for them to grow internationally," she said, noting that she has worked with AMCHAM for years in her previous fields. "On a personal level, I want to make an impact on not just businesses, but my country and I think this is the avenue for me to do it," she said.
Abrahams, who was most recently at Flow (and stayed after the merger) has more than 20 years experience in various fields including media, finance and telecommunications. Before Flow, she was assistant vice-president of corporate communications with the GraceKennedy Financial Group and prior to that, a senior manager of marketing and public relations at First Global Bank.
"Becoming CEO is actually a new phase for me, it's a new journey," she said. "I can make a little more impact for the Jamaican businesses." She's given herself a 30-day timeline to really get moving.
"That's my style, so I have 30 days to just go and see what I can do, now," she stresses the last word. "I'm also very aware that we need to go fast, even to start pushing the awareness of AMCHAM, pushing the benefits and start seeing how much we can gain some revenue." She lauded former CEO Becky Stockhausen for her stellar work.
"She has handed over the baton and it's just now for me to take it further," she said. "It should be an interesting journey. I've received a fabulous welcome from the board and Ron Mckay, the president has been extremely supportive. It really is good to be part of a team with whom you're on the same page and that the commitment is so strong to Jamaica." Abrahams believes her work experiences have helped to prepare her for this job.
"I think I have a vast knowledge of most companies and industries, and so I understand what makes them tick," she said. "I'm not going to take anything for granted; I'm going to meet with them, see how best I can help and see what we can do in partnerships." She understands the role marketing plays and how to align communication goals with gaining revenue. It's no different with AMCHAM.
"So anywhere I go, I am always aware of that (adding revenue)," she said. "I ask, 'How can I add to the bottom line'? How can I create that value'? The opportunities that I see for AMCHAM to leverage the linkages that AMCHAM can provide, to member companies, I am excited." Her initial contract is two years, and looking ahead to year one, Abrahams said she wants member companies to be able to say they have seen growth because of AMCHAM. She also wants to see an increase in foreign direct investment in the country.
"I want us to impact a lot of growing businesses ... foreign investment, trade, employment and also be an advocate on various issues that are affecting our member companies," she said. "And that our members will know their benefits and of course, that our membership will grow tremendously. That is what I want, that's my target."