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What makes a good product – Part 2 of 2

In the previous article, we discussed what we could do to help our islands improve their “weak” points and enhance their strengths.

We’ll continue this article by focussing on investing your time and determining the true product.

Second point: Invest time

Invest time in understanding how unique your situation of being a local living abroad is. You can see the island as a tourist, but it goes deeper; you are a local living abroad and want your island to succeed. 

What you will need to accept is that there are things that you envision for your island, and the reality is, no one ever thought of it. But if they did and never got the ball rolling, if you don’t do it, it will never happen. This is a good thing, though. People who are on the islands have their own challenges. They might have had the same idea, but because of local situations, they might have different priorities. It’s essential to understand this, because your island wants and needs you to help it progress.

You have lived in the Netherlands (or another country), that’s why you think differently. You tend to see things from an international perspective. You will also notice that when you communicate with people on your island, they talk about local subjects. The islands need both aspects to go forward. For us, who are living in the Netherlands, we should look for ways to apply our international experience to local matters. To add to this, finding ways to help out our islands from the Netherlands, helps you to create a network and relationships with people who can get you a job and help you return home.

Third point: You are a product

So, you know what makes a person a “good product”. This also means that you can ask yourself “Why would I buy this product?” and answer it honestly. You have to sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and get to know yourself. List your strong points. List the things that you want to improve about yourself and then go out and do something with them.
Some things you will be able to do on your own and other things you will need help with. Having an inventory of what you are good at and what needs to be improved will help you make decisions that match who you are. Having a personal opinion of what is a “good product” will help you meet the people that match you. You will either understand what makes the product that their company is selling is good, or you will know what needs to be done to improve it. In both cases, you will be able to stand behind your decision and understand why you are doing what you are doing. 

Some of us have settled with living in the Netherlands, which makes wanting to go back home a big decision. The financial consequences of doing so also play a significant role. You need to find work at a company that you can rely on, especially during your settling period when you return home. So understanding good products allows you not to underestimate what a good company is. Companies who don’t have a good product fail.

But how do you know if the product isn’t “good”?

First of all, if the employees don’t believe in what the company is doing, you can bet that customers won’t find the product good. Some companies sell products just to make money; they don’t care about the person buying the product. These are the companies that you want to avoid. How will you know if a company is this way? 

You can tell by the way how people talk about it. If one person says something bad about a company, it can be due to a personal situation, but when groups begin to say the same things, then you know something is wrong. 

Businesses that have a good product make it! These companies have employees that believe in the product that they are creating. The products that these companies create deal with the customer’s needs. These companies make money while helping people, rather than abusing them.

To reiterate, those who have experienced living in the Netherlands see many things that can improve on the island. “To get it done, you need to just do it”.

What makes a good product – Part 1 of 2


At UPG, we believe that (young) professionals want to return home after they have completed their studies. But returning home and knowing what steps to take are two different things. As (young) professionals, you had to learn how to live your life in someone else’s country and get used to its culture. For some of you, when you look at where you came from, you have no idea how you will fit back in when you return home.
At UPG, we want you to understand that the confusing feelings that you have are perfectly normal. For this reason, UPG is spending time finding ways to help you understand and overcome the barriers that are stopping you from going home. 

In our previous articles, we explained that we are putting our focus on companies because one of the top reasons why you don’t return home is because you don’t know where you will work. And if you can’t work, you won’t have the money to “live your best life” on the islands. So, we want to help you choose a company where you will feel at home. We first started by giving you an overview of what makes a good company. We then headed into, what makes excellent service, and now we are going to go deeper and jump into “What makes a good product?”.

What does my island have going for it?

Your island is a product. To make a difference, it begins with understanding what strengths your island has. We all came from the islands. In many cases, we know what needs to be improved because we see its issues and believe in the potential to enhance them. Now that we are living abroad, we see the islands from a different perspective. You are in an excellent position to see the island where you came from an outsiders view. It’s time for us to use that to our advantage. You are like a tourist and can see why tourists are attracted to your island. 

Why is this important? 

Because Caribbean islands make most of their money from tourism. The reality of this is, companies on the island cater directly or indirectly to the tourism industry. The islands have a desire to diversify their economies and are making steps in that direction, but at the moment, they are dependant on tourism, mainly from tourists on the island itself. Subconsciously, they think they don’t have another choice. If you look for a company that makes products for tourists, you are most likely going to find a company with lots of potential, and this is where you can make a difference.

How can you, as a young professional, make an impact?

Seeing that companies cater directly or indirectly to the tourism industry, means that there are many open doors when you want to return home. Many businesses need new ideas, for instance, to get them online to sell products via the Internet. Helping companies sell online will allow them to sell products to tourists before they even get to the islands. It also allows a tourist that loves a local product to order it online while they are in their respective countries.

A good example is Sint Maarten has Guavaberry liqueur. If you are living in the Netherlands and would like to purchase a bottle of Guavaberry, you will notice how hard it is to do so when you Google “Guavaberry kopen”. In my case, Google redirected me to a company in Belgium that exports Guavaberry liqueur to the Netherlands. On the one hand, I’m happy I can get my hands on Guavaberry, but on the other, it feels strange not getting that product directly from a company on Sint Maarten.

First point: What can I do?

The first step is understanding what your island’s strengths are. Getting an understanding means that you have to take the time out to attend events where people from your island are active. The more you keep in touch with people from your island, the easier it will be to keep up to date with developments. Being up to date will also help you to see opportunities, and most importantly, it will help you keep in touch with your network at home. So building a network is essential. 

At UPG, we spend time on helping our members find out what their passions are. For example, one of our members has an interest in products relating to the environment and sustainability. A better environment and sustainable development contribute to many things, including a better tourism product. These are ideas that are now under construction. So, we will look into ways to helping this member build a network of companies and organisations with similar interests.

We also have other members who see lots of potential in the restaurant industry on the islands, one who has experience in setting up webshops, another who sees things that can be improved in the area of healthcare, another who finds products that connect people with each other and another who sees potential with Sint Maarten developing its own financial products.

The different areas that were listed will help Sint Maarten develop. We encourage you to survey the island to see if someone is already active with an idea that is similar to yours. This way, you look for ways to improve the product that they have, and we can build on each other. There are many more areas that were not listed; these are the areas where you can contribute. We believe that if you create a network of people from our islands, we will keep up to date with what the islands’ strengths are and what they are doing to improve other areas. But remember, nothing happens if you don’t put in the work to do it.

When you have a great idea, it’s your responsibility to make sure it happens.

In part 2, we will discuss the second and third points: investmenting time and realizing what the main product is. Stay tuned!

What makes good ‘customer’ service?


Richard Branson once said, ‘If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers’. How often do we work for a company that has the opposite approach?

Some companies think in reverse. These companies have sayings such as: “The customer is always right”. Companies define customers as people who purchase goods or services from them. Although the customer is important, the biggest mistake a company can make is to put their entire focus on people on the outside.

The purpose of this article is to help companies prioritize and focus on the most important assets of their company. The first customers of a company are the employees. After all, if employees do not believe in a company, it will be foolish to think anyone else will. So this article will focus on true‘customer’ service.

One of the factors that discourage (young) professionals from returning to the island is not knowing where their next paycheck will come from. For the most, this feeling derives from not having job security. So, taking the time to study and highlight the important elements of companies, helps (young) professionals understand what they should look for and increases the chance of them returning. So, on one hand, we want to give them insight into the traits of good companies and on the other hand, we want to make it clear what kind companies UPG is willing to work with.

Below is a list of what makes good customer service. Companies who do one or more of these things have more satisfied employees and a good reputation. So, if you want to know if your future employer is providing good ‘customer’ service, read on!

Know your customer

Good service begins with knowing your employee base. Some employees feel invisible. They feel as if they are a replaceable piece of the puzzle. As if they can be replaced at any given moment. This happens when companies don’t invest time in getting to know their employees. Employees are people who have to deal with personal as well as professional challenges. Getting to know them and assisting them with these challenges will show them that you appreciate them. So, it pays off when companies get to know the skill-sets of their workers.

When it comes to strengths, there are different types:

Professional skills: This is the skill set that is needed to handle the job correctly. These are also known as hard skills.

Social skills: This is the ability to navigate social environments and build relationships with others.

Emotional skills: This refers to being able to handle pressure, to control your emotions and the ability to handle situations with empathy.

Helping employees develop their skills helps them function better and increases the value of your company. Companies need to remember that employees are not machines, they are human beings.

Think long term

A customer is for life. Developing your employees in a way that guarantees them a career within your company will keep them loyal. Not only loyal, but happy customers talk about your company to others which is always good. Because they feel appreciated, they will also show this in their interactions with their colleagues as well as the customers. Happy employees are also less likely to use passive moves like faking sickness to show dissatisfaction with their employers. In other words, happy employees are reliable employees.

Customer relationships

Have you ever called a company, explained your problem to them and then got transferred to someone else and had to do it again? How did that make you feel?

Most people find this irritating. Some hang up and never call back. This isn’t good for business!

A similar thing happens when an employee quits. The relationships that were created with that employee come to an end and needs to be continued by someone else.

If this happens frequently enough, the company will find itself losing its internal as external customers rapidly. But if you focus on making sure your employees are comfortable, they are less likely to leave, and your company will be able to benefit from their work experience and there will be a good work environment with positive energy. You need reliable employees to build reliable relationships.

Go the extra mile

First of all, it’s always important to do what you said you will do. This is the foundation for the services that are being offered. So, if you promise your employee a pay raise, then you should raise their salary if they did their part.

The companies that stand out, are the ones that keep their word and do more than what is expected of them. These are the companies that ask an employee for feedback and when they get it, create a new job description based on the employee’s feedback. These companies take the initiative and anticipate the next moves of their customers. Imagine working for a company that looks for ways to give you a promotion instead of making you beg for one? Would you want to work there?

Clear communication skills

Companies need to communicate clearly with their customers. Above, an example was given about giving an employee a raise in salary.

Good customer service means that the employer will be clear about the requirements to receive the raise.

  1. The company will take the initiative to set up a meeting with the ‘customer’.
  2. The goal of the meeting is to understand what the company can do better from the angle of the employee.
  3. The employer will then explain what the company can do to help the employee.
  4. The employer will also explain what the new salary will be based on the input of the employee. Small actions equal small pay increase. Innovate or creative actions equal a larger pay increase.

The goal of clearly communicating is to manage expectations. The employee has the freedom to adjust their job description. They will also have an understanding of what this means for their salary. If they are of the opinion that their efforts are not worth the pay raise, they can decide to remain doing their job. However, if they want more, they will know exactly what to do and what they will get in return.

Professionals (especially young professionals) living abroad have a lot to offer to their islands of origin. And it is also clear that they are not all returning. However, their views and thoughts change when they get help with choosing a company to work for, that wants them for what they are bringing to the table, and is also willing to invest in their ideas. These companies make a difference because they say “we don’t have the money to do something, but there is a way to get it done”. These are the types of companies who (young) professionals should look for. As for the (young) professionals, they can also use the list mentioned above to find a good company to work for. What we want to mention, is that not all companies do this, but by uniting as a group you will influence the business community.

The companies who are looking for good workers can use the tips mentioned above to help profile themselves. Companies who fail to adapt sooner or later, find themselves bankrupt. The companies who make a difference keep attracting the right ‘customers’.

So, as Richard Branson once said, ‘If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers’. Your employees are your first customers, so treat them right.

What makes a good company?


As locals of the Dutch Caribbean, living abroad, one of the main goals of UPG is to deliver acquired knowledge and improvements to the islands. There are many ways to do so but what we have noticed is that the best way to accomplish this is by working together with others. So for the year 2019, we plan to develop ourselves by understanding what is needed to work together. We want to understand what makes a company successful and then do what is necessary to do so.

Some people own and manage companies, and others work for them. What both have in common is that they both want to see the results of their efforts. Employees want to be part of a fun and positive environment, where what they say and feel matters.

A company is not only about a product or a service. Great companies have a positive culture. They create an environment where they can focus on and invest in their most valuable assets: their employees.

Company culture

A company’s culture is its personality. It is the environment in which employees work. This can be a fun environment. It can be a harsh environment. It can be a chaotic or well-organised environment. It can be many things. One thing is certain, employees enjoy working in a company that has a positive culture and atmosphere. Companies who invest in creating a positive work atmosphere are often the most successful.  What are the signs of a positive atmosphere?


Good Communication

A positive atmosphere begins with good communication. Employees should feel like they can voice their opinion without fear of retribution. They should feel safe when approaching colleagues, as well as members of management. Good communication doesn’t happen on its own. For this to happen, interpersonal communication is vital. It may sound old fashioned, but face-to-face interaction is the best way to find out about someone’s interests and goals.

Investing in employees

Good companies invest in their team, helping them grow. To do so, companies must know what drives their employees and what motivates them to excel. Most importantly, companies should help employees find their strengths. Employees are people, and the success of your company depends on them.

When companies help employees find their strengths, they become more confident in themselves and their personal goals. So, it is beneficial for them to invest in their employees by accepting and implementing employee feedback.

Listening to employees shows appreciation

It takes a lot of courage to speak your mind. Most employees only make an effort to give feedback when they care about and are committed to the company. The decision makers (management) should be approachable. Also, companies should be creative in how they create an environment where employees can speak freely.  

Helping employees transform their ideas into reality

Only listening to employee feedback isn’t enough. Companies should help bring these ideas to fruition because it shows that they trust and are confident in their opinion and are willing to invest time and money into their ideas.

A sense of humor

Last but not least, it should be fun to work for a company. All work and no play make people bored and looking for other opportunities. In most companies, management does a poor job at making sure that work is fun; this is better left to the employees.

A fun, healthy work environment is essential when it comes to creating a successful company. The most important thing that influences an employee is their motivation and happiness, and how productive and efficient they can be.

Why we chose to stay: Jennifer Hodge

What is your background? 

I did MAVO and then HAVO and in both years I was Valedictorian. I didn’t really take studying seriously, I used to do enough to pass and then I came to Holland and I did Nursing in Hogeschool Zeeland in Vlissingen, however, I did not complete that. I moved here to Rotterdam and now I’m working to become a Pharmacy assistant  

What do you find the biggest reason is that people do not return to St. Maarten?

The biggest reason is opportunity. There is no opportunity unless you know people that can get you a good job. I know there is the feeling of no place to go to develop their career and if they do its again with the vriendjes politiek and if you don’t know the right people, then you are not going to make it. And if that is the case, then why go back when you have something good here.?

I also think the cost of living is something to be considered.  People who make minimum wage, if you want to get brown bread it’s about  Naf. 6 guilders, or yogurt is like also high, so its like to get fresh fruit or veggies it’s very expensive down there in comparison with up here. You can just go to the market and you can get things you need. So, it’s a lot of things up here that make it more attractive to stay. St.Maarten is not giving you a reason to come back. I mean most people eventually move back because they have their family there and you to be with your family. If you have kids you want them to be around their grandparents and I believe that is one of the reasons that would make me want to go back, so that my son can be with my parents. But if we are talking about building a professional career and money, then it’s a No. Its not a prospect that St.Maarten has.

What do you want to focus on while in UPG?

Honestly, for me that has been something that  I have been thinking about. Right now, I am seeing UPG as more of  something that will help St.Maarten more than it helping me. When i’m thinking about “What do I want to do?” I am still not sure. My main goal is to help and be able to provide for my son so that he can do whatever he wants to do.  But how am I going to provide to do that, I am not sure as yet. So I’m hoping that in working in UPG will bring clarity or more ideas as what I can do pursue that.

  So at the moment, you just want to help wherever you can?

Yes, and if I’m getting help in the process then that is a bonus, but for now I just want to help.

How do you think your background will  help you to accomplish the goals that you have  set out for yourself in UPG?

Because my background is nursing and that is in essence helping people, It’s  helping to me help others.This is just an extension of the kind of help I can do, I can do physical help or help in other areas.

What do you want others to know about UPG, if someone where to ask you?

A group of young professionals who are from St.Maarten and are trying to make a difference in St.Maarten by teaching and giving people the tools become either business owners . entrepreneurs themselves.