Fri | Jul 3, 2020

A silver spoon but not a silver platter for Nicholas Kenneth Benjamin

Published:Sunday | April 26, 2020 | 12:00 AMKajamba Fitz-Henley and Kareem LaTouche - Outlook Writers
Kenneth (right) and Nicholas Benjamin.
Nicholas Benjamin (third right) prides himself on the fact that his workplace is an environment that is positive and uplifting, Here he poses with present and former colleagues (from left) Kenny Benjamin, Carol Rhoden, Clifford Greenland, Caryll Reid, Robbie Epstein and Lieutenant Commander George Overton.
Benjamin and his wife, Yasmin, on their honeymoon.
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Nicholas Kenneth Benjamin might have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but his iconic father Kenneth, founder of the security company, Guardsman, is not one who believed in handing his son life on a silver platter.

He had to earn his keep, and on his way to becoming the director of operations for the Guardsman Group, no job could be too menial. The young Benjamin had to roll up his sleeves and clean dog kennels, as well as work as a security guard in the family business.

“Working my way up through the Guardsman ranks is probably the single largest contributor to any success I have had,” says Benjamin who is also managing director of Marksman, a member of the group.

“There are lots of clichés about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, but I can tell you it is real. [It is] only once you have done something yourself, that you can truly understand what it takes to get the job done,” he argues.

“I was exposed to Guardsman and its people from a very young age and developed a real loyalty to the company, not just because it is a family business, but because so many employees were like family to me, especially when I was a child. So I always knew I wanted to contribute to Guardsman in a big way,” the 34-year-old Benjamin shares.

The decades-old flagship Guardsman has blazed a trail in providing private security to firms in Jamaica and several other Caribbean islands. For more than 40 years, the organisation has expanded into a conglomerate of more than a dozen companies, catering to truly diverse sectors – from pest management to tourism.

Benjamin’s role as head of Marksman Limited and group director of operations overlaps, which he finds advantageous. “Wearing the two hats actually makes it easier and more efficient for me. My role is very broad, but incorporates quality control in a substantial way, so that we can ensure the service we are offering is of the highest standard,” he says.

FINDING HIS PATH: BUSINESS OR ENVIRONMENT?

Growing up with parents who were not only animal lovers, but advocates for environmental safety and animal protection, fostered Benjamin’s interest in nature and ecological security. Consequently, he ended up taking some environmental courses during his first year at university.

However, alongside his love for the environment was the equally persistent interest in business. Eventually, it was decided that one love would have to facilitate the other.

“After my first year of university, I took some business classes to see if it was something I could pursue. I took to the subject material well, and at that point decided that I could have a greater impact on the company and the country with business expertise,” he tells Outlook.

“At the time, I reasoned that I could use the insight to drive environmental responsibility, both within the company and the country.”

BALANCING WORK AND HOME

With such a commitment to work, it’s no surprise that Benjamin would embrace the inevitable long hours. He admits that it can be a challenge to find a balance between spending time at work and at home. But with an understanding partner, the balance is often found.

“I have a wonderful wife, Yasmin, who is very understanding of the business demands. When I get home at 8 or p.m., she knows that it is not by choice, so she is patient with me. I try to maintain boundaries, but that is sometimes unavoidable in our line of work. Yasi and I try to make up for it on the weekends. We both enjoy similar hobbies, so we try to get a ‘breeze out’ as often as we can.”

As Benjamin continues to grow his company, he is already planning to create space to grow his family.

“We don’t have any children yet, but when that day comes, I will have to make whatever adjustments are needed to ensure that the balance shifts, a least a little more to home.

“I don’t think children get to stay up until 9 p.m., do they? Guess I will find out soon enough!” said a beaming Benjamin.