For many of us the animals in our lives are our faithful pals who keep us company and love us, no matter what. A man’s best friend is undoubtedly his dog, well in Kenny’s case — his dogs.
This week’s Q10 features Kenneth “Kenny” Benjamin, founder and executive chairman of Guardsman Group of Companies.
Kenny’s love for animals is the basis for the creation of his security empire, a business that started with just a pair of dogs. Guardsman Group of Companies is now the region’s largest private security conglomerate that operates in Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, while Guardsman Hospitality currently operates Puerto Seco Beach Club, Konoko Falls, and Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation in Jamaica.
Q10: How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
BENJAMIN: Success is a wholesome thing for me, and my description of success is not just to earn money, it is achieving things and making sure your community is a better place after you deal with your portion of it. It’s a passion; you need to work with passion. If you’re going to do something, you should be passionate about it. Everything I have done, I loved it.
Q10: What is the best advice you have been given in business?
BENJAMIN: My father, he was in the army, [told me] to always treat people how you would like them to treat you. I deal with everybody the same way — whether it’s the prime minister, my gardeners, or security. I am very respectful, even when I’m dismissing someone for cause; I never try to belittle you.
Q10: If you could compare yourself with any animal, which would it be and why?
BENJAMIN: I would say a dog. They’re loyal, loving and always serving whoever they are with.
Q10: What’s your favorite 90s jam?
BENJAMIN: What comes to mind is Shabba Ranks Trailer Load A Girls, [but] I like all Jamaican songs from the 90s because those were the good days for me. That’s when we used to party hard and the lyrics were clean.
Q10: What were you like in high school?
BENJAMIN: I went to high school in India; I was very popular but not very studious. I was a people person, I liked everybody and everybody liked me.
Q10: If you could go back and give your 21-year-old self a valuable piece of advice, what would you say?
BENJAMIN: I would say do the same things you already did; because it has worked really well for me. I come from a middle class background and I had no idea that one day I would be sitting at the top of a large empire. [I would] always use my passion and love for things to expand into a business.
Q10: If you weren’t the executive chairman of Guardsman Group, then what would you be doing?
BENJAMIN: I would love to look after the dogs and the kennels in the group, and [work with] people; I’m very good with people. I don’t have any problems with labour and I treat everybody the same way.
Q10: What are your goals outside of work?
BENJAMIN: It has always been to give back [to the community] — I do a lot of charity work. [Success] is no fun unless you make someone else, someone deserving, a little happier. I am the executive chairman of the Bustamante Children’s Hospital and have been for about five years; also the chairman of Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and I always help the police force and the army. I’m also a passionate builder, I like building and creating things.
Q10: What’s one quote/mantra that you live by?
BENJAMIN: [Besides] treating people how you would like them to treat you, the other one is that ‘Nothing comes unless you work hard towards it’. I started Guardsman Limited because of my love for dogs — there was a passion for it and the growth came after. I had to do other things that I wasn’t so passionate about but it had to be a wholesome company.
Q10: What are you learning right now?
BENJAMIN: I’m learning several things but not out of a book; I’m learning from experience. I started out with the beaches, we’re taking over two others, so I’m learning a lot about the sea — the seaweeds, the upkeep of beaches, why so many things are important to a beach, and how to preserve a proper beach. You can’t just dig up things and put what you like, it has to be properly done to avoid erosion. Even the seaweed that is coming in, we found a way to deal with it so that none of it comes up on the beach, as we have diverted it somewhere else.