“Had I known what I was going to be faced with, I would never have undertaken this. It’s a nightmare.”
As a retired commercial airline pilot, Harrison Bothwell no doubt has an appreciation for “pre-flight checklists” that ensure safety and compliance before embarking upon a voyage – or a venture. Accordingly, when Mr. Bothwell decided to open a jerk stand in George Town, he attempted to cross all his t’s and dot his i’s, including fulfilling planning requirements and securing valid work permits for his two cooks.
Everywhere he turned in the government administration, it seems, he received a similar set of answers, in the limited range of “No” to “It’s gonna cost you.”
Finally, after immigration officials proposed that he pay $1,000 on top of the $3,000 he had already spent, in order to extend a pair of temporary work permits for three months for his cooks, Mr. Bothwell decided he had had enough – he hung up his apron, and shuttered his business just two weeks after its grand opening.
A relevant aside: In the closing sentence to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech, “The Gettysburg Address” of 1863, he refers to the ideal of “government of the people, by the people, FOR the people” (emphasis ours).
The Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 reflects the same line of thought. In fact, the very first words of our Constitution are: “The people of the Cayman Islands …”
Well, Mr. Bothwell is one of those “people.” Cayman’s government should be FOR people like Mr. Bothwell, not AGAINST them.
In the U.S., in some of his first official actions in the White House, President Donald Trump signed a succession of executive orders that seek to tilt the scales of power from bureaucratic proceduralism in favor of the individual person standing, request in hand, in front of a government official. In the United Kingdom, we see hopeful signs, particularly in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit position, that our Mother Country may be heading in the same direction.
The current situation in Cayman is too often the exact opposite. Here, officials appear to look for ways to say, “No,” or at the very least to frustrate applicants (perhaps they see them as “supplicants”) in the process. What’s needed is a complete reversal in the mindset of too many (certainly not all) in the public service – starting perhaps with the required reading of the seminal text on negotiation, “Getting to YES,” by Harvard University’s Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton. Another outstanding book is “Customers for Life” by Carl Sewell and Paul B. Brown. (At Pinnacle Media, we buy this book in bulk and routinely hand out copies to new staff.)
The job of government officials should be to find out how to say “Yes” to people like Mr. Bothwell. In contrast to the labyrinthine rules and codes government currently has in place, it’s a simple and straightforward approach.
Actually, it’s the first lesson in Customer Service 101. In government’s case, the customers are the taxpayers and the voters. Mr. Bothwell is their customer, and he’s paying for their salaries.
While the plight of one entrepreneur may seem small in the grander scheme of things, we assure you there is not a single businessperson in the Cayman Islands who does not identify with Mr. Bothwell – the pilot, the jerk stand owner – and how the bureaucracy clipped his wings.