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Cocktails With... Maxine Miller-Burkett

Sunday, July 01, 2018

“Experience is everything” is the mantra that guides the daily operations of the Black Ink Marketing & Event Solutions Ltd staff, led by company CEO Maxine Miller-Burkett.

The Montegonian and American InterContinental University alumna is also a Rotarian with experience in hospitality administration/management, public speaking, microphone and equipment technique; and grooming and deportment. She is also fluent in German. Under her leadership, Black Ink has copped several awards. How does she manage it all? We lean in for the dish.


What is your favourite sip?

I occasionally pair a glass of wine with my dinner. My favourite is a medium-bodied Merlot. I will try different brands depending on where in the world I am.


Which campaign has been your most successful to date?

Well, to date, all our campaigns with all our clients have been successful. To God be the glory!!


How would you describe your style of leadership?

I am a stickler for time, and paying attention to detail is my specialty. My team, by now, knows the two phrases that roll off my tongue…. “move with alacrity” and “pay attention to detail, as the tiniest detail can make or break an event”.


What sparked your interest in charity?

I know that my purpose is to fulfil God's will…and that there is Divine providence in “giving”/doing”. God wants His people to make a difference in the world. Therefore, as a part of our corporate social responsibility, we are supporting the Food for the Poor “Make a Difference campaign” by donating a house to a needy Jamaican. We also have our Breast Cancer Awareness Initiative, which came about because the spouse of one of my staff members was stricken with the disease, and the experience at the time weighed heavily on my heart, so this was something we needed to get involved in. We had to help to spread the word that early detection saves lives. Our women are the fabric of our society and we need to get into life-preservation mode.


What is your guiding philosophy?

I have a plaque in the office that reads “Smooth seas don't make good sailors”. This translates to my five guiding principles:

Embrace challenge and change.

Hard work breeds success.

All hands on deck is the most effective way to get a job done.

Honesty is the best policy.

If people don't doubt your ability to achieve your goals, you aren't thinking big enough.


A day at home or a day at the beach?

Both…but most days I prefer spending time at home, where I just chillax and enjoy my space by doing nothing. Then there are other times I will catch up on chores. I travel a lot, so I always have laundry. I like to tend to my backyard garden and get my hands dirty. I plant okra, sweet peppers, tomatoes, sow callaloo, and I will spend the day weeding my lawn, or I will rearrange the house by moving furniture around or my wall art pieces.


To date, which award or accomplishment has been most significant?

All our achievements thus far have major significance to our business. Having won the BID International Star for Quality Award; Socrates Award for Best Enterprise, and Manager of the Year; and earning a NCB National Builder nomination for Innovation is indicative of our relentless commitment to quality and excellence, confirming that we are a reliable partner in the Caribbean. This aligns with our core values, mission and vision statement. There is no time to slack off. We have to live up to the recognition by upholding high standards, underscoring why we are deserving of the awards that have been bestowed on us.


10:00 am or 10:00 pm. When are you most productive?

At 10:00 am I am responding to a string of e-mails and at 10:00 pm I am fast asleep. I believe in being two steps ahead of my team, so between 2:00 and 4:00 am I am most productive. I am up preparing for the next day or even the week. This is when my brain is well rested and churning out ideas.


Which bit of technology can you not do without, and why?

My cellphone. It keeps me connected with my family, clients and staff.


Where would your dream home be?

Somewhere in the hills in either Portland or St Ann with a river that runs through the property and land for farming to escape the hustle and bustle and just to connect with nature, reconnect and recharge.


What advice would you give to your younger self?

In high school, I had to choose between World History and Spanish. I should have done Spanish because decades later I am realising the sheer value of being bilingual. Seventy per cent of our clients are from the LATAM region. Even though I understand bits and pieces of the language, I really wish I was as fluent in Spanish as I am in German, where the words roll off my tongue without thinking. Well, thank goodness for Google Translate and Rosetta Stone!


When did you first know that marketing was what you wanted to do?

It was just a natural progression, by simply packaging my competences as a guest relations manager to public relations manager, then as entertainment manager and sales executive, to customer marketing executive…all being positions I held back in the day.


From your time spent in Germany what lessons still guide your everyday interactions with clients and staff?

I missed an exam and I had to pay dearly to resit. I was a day late getting back to Stuttgart from Düsseldorf. My friends had left me at the Bahnhof train station well ahead of my scheduled 10:00 am train departure. I felt I had enough time to browse the shops downstairs before going up on the platform. At 10:00 am on the dot when I got to the platform my train was already pulling out of the station. I tried to hop on, but they would not let me because the train was already moving; I could not understand why they would not let me hop on! At that time I was not as fluent, so I did not understand all that was being shouted at me. Well, after I shed quite a bit of tears because I knew what the consequences of missing my train would have been. One of the station workers said to me that they had stopped allowing persons to hop on, even though the train's movements looked slight, because some two months earlier a Russian ballerina had lost her leg. It was a group of them who had come over to Germany to perform and while rushing to get to another theatre, and similar to my situation, the train was already moving out of the station, and the conductor allowed them to hop on, but this lady miscalculated the movement of the train and one leg slipped between the ramp, and the rest is history. So, to this day, I have maintained being ahead of time. I am impatient with people who do not respect time. Truth be told, I have had to dial down my expectations of persons being on time given our laid-back Caribbean culture, our “soon come” mentality. So as not to risk our events we just tell our suppliers an earlier time than the slated time, to avoid the issue of them being late. Sure enough, this strategy works every time. Our delivery to our clients must always be on time and in full. My team knows all too well that this stance is non-negotiable.