Mr. Parker, the general manager of Virgin Islands Motors, said that it seemed natural when he was growing up to follow his father Keithly Parker into the auto sales business he helped to found. The business today consists of 32 employees and includes car repairs, car rental and diesel fuel delivery. The company celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. Mr. Parker is also chairman of the BVI Electricity Corporation.
To start, could you tell me about the operation here?
Virgin Islands Motors was founded in 1966. My dad was one of the founders and I have worked with him since before I left high school, and the only place I ever worked was here.
What was your first job here?
My first job was selling gas. I was a gas attendant. After school I would come here and pump gas until 7 o’clock at night.
Why do you think that the business has grown so much over the years?
It was always family-oriented and customer-oriented. Over the last couple of years it’s been tough because we had no car sales. So we had to go back to doing the basics — tyres, batteries, filters, brakes — and that kept us alive. It was the recession that hurt our car sales.
What kind of vehicles are people buying now?
The consumer seems to be looking at more trucks. We have a number of trucks coming. We have the Toyota Helix on the way. We have Chevy full-size and the Honda Ridgeline.
Why did you decide to expand to Toyota?
It was offered to us and we’re trying to run with it. Toyota’s a top seller. They make good products. It’s a little expensive, but they last.
What’s been the biggest risk that you’ve taken in business?
The biggest risk was putting up this building in a recession. This is a new building. We put it up in April of 2008. … But it’s paying off.
What’s the best part of your job?
Multi-tasking. You know, dealing with car rentals one minute, being with a customer the other. Dealing with employees. I enjoy it. I enjoy this job.
What’s the most challenging part?
The challenging part is finance in a recession. Being able to borrow to improve: That’s a challenge. [Consumers’ difficulty getting loans also] has affected us in car sales. It’s slowly getting better.
How is the rental business going?
The rentals have been decent. There are a lot of rental car companies, but we’ve been doing pretty decent. One of our advantages is that we deliver, and clients like that.
I know you’re the chairman of the BVI Electricity Corporation as well. Why did you decide to serve in that position?
It’s a community-service job. You have to serve your community and try to get better service to your community, and you have to give back to your community.
What lessons from business can you take to a position like that?
There’s several. However, I think one of the greatest problems that BVIEC has is in human resources. I think the ability to have a lot of their employees grow — and the training — is the biggest task that they have.
What advice would you give to young people who want to be successful in business?
Do your homework. Go to the trade shows. Don’t just get into the business. Get advice from people who are running the business. … At each trade show you have seminars on how each part of the business works and what to do, and that is most useful when you’re starting a business.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Jason Smith.