CARRERAS' MAN OF STEELE
When Marcus Steele took over the reins of the cigarette company, Carreras Limited in March 2013, he had reached yet another impressive milestone in a very dynamic career. This latest move by Steele belies his humble beginnings in the turbulent Payne Land, an inner-city community off Spanish Town Road in Kingston, where according to Steele, his family literally fled in the middle of the night amidst the violence of the 1980 general election.
I first reached out to Marcus in February 2013 to interview him for an article in a brief. His response, as I was to soon find out in true Marcus Steele fashion, was immediate. He explained that he was still in Trinidad, but as his schedule freed up when he returned to Jamaica, we could meet. Thereafter the logistics was left up to his assistant, Angelique Virtue and me. Apparently his schedule is so structured that even his morning fitness routine, which begins at 5 am, is included.
We finally settled on a time to meet. I indicated that I would need about an hour and she informed me that he was expected to be at a luncheon in New Kingston, a gentle reminder that an hour is the maximum for which I had. At the appointed time of 10 am and I am at the reception desk, a simply adorned area, much like the rest of the Carreras complex. Angelique the Assistant comes out to greet me. Quite not what I expected, she looks more likely to be strutting on the runway at CFW rather than the effective gatekeeper to Steele -- guardian of his schedule and essentially his life. She is wearing a stripe blue and white fitted shirt blouse and a similarly fitted charcoal grey skirt, with frames that’s perched on her face to conjure up the image of the sexy librarian. She leads me into a nondescript office with glass panes for walls. The only thing that sets it apart from the other offices is that it’s the proverbial corner office. But it is spartan as it is utilitarian – bleached blonde furnishings that’s matched with and matching floors. There standing and waiting to meet me was Marcus Steele looking every bit the look of physical perfection in a European styled Zara charcoal suit and a lime green fitted button down shirt. He would tell me later in the interview of his weight loss from 250 lbs to his current 172lbs. He smiled smugly when I exclaimed at this.
The Early Years…
A graduate of the University of the West Indies and an MBA from Florida International University, Marcus’ rise was anything but smooth. After his family fled Payne Land in 1980, they relocated to Grange Lane, a community in Portmore where they built a wooden structure on a plot of captured land. It was after that traumatic experience that a young Marcus, at 9 years old, decided that he did not want this to become a cycle of disappointment for his own life and decided that education would become his way out of poverty.
So when his mother, out of frustration of her current situation, left the family to search for a better life, once can imagine that young Marcus was crushed. When I asked him about this time and how he felt. He said that he understood why she had to do it. But it was when his father determined that Marcus had to earn his keep by denying him from going to school and staying home and assisting with chores, that he decided to run away from home and reunite with his mother. This, according to how Marcus saw it represents the selfishness that was typical of his father, having fathered 25 children with 9 women and not working a day in his life. Steele went on to say that, “I finally resolved my issues with my father after he had died and one day I went to the grave sat there and told him all the things that I couldn’t say to him while he was alive.” I asked him if perhaps it wasn’t typical of Jamaican fathers, who believed that their sons shouldn’t be coddled. But he quickly responded that, while at St. Jago, he saw other classmates’ interaction with their fathers at the various PTA and sporting events proving that statement wrong. He lived on the streets for a short time by begging to survive until he eventually found his mother.
His intensity is legendary. After all, you don’t get to being the head of one of the largest companies in the Caribbean without a great deal of intensity. According to a recent candidate for one of the senior positions at Carreras, “Marcus is one formal and intense character. I felt like I was in an MBA class with his vast knowledge of not just his company but the industry on a whole.” But this should come as no surprise because Marcus’ secret ambition is to eventually explore opportunities in academia in the future. “I want to conquer the world. And so the next milestone for me is to get my PhD and become a professor”.
Carreras approached him after he was interviewed on Ian Boyne’s Profile on TVJ (he would later go on to be interviewed two more times by Boyne). He had recently completed his qualifications as a chartered accountant and was obviously ready to for the next challenge. In addition to his accounting qualifications, Steele also holds a BSc. in Accounting from the University of the West Indies, an MBA from Florida International University, and completed an Executive Programme in General Management from Harvard Business School, a far cry for the boy who was once placed in the dunce class.
When I asked Steele about his fitness routine and his obviously chiseled physique, he roared with raucous laughter and then quickly went back into teacher mode and said, “Listen carefully and make sure you get this correctly, every morning I run 2.5k. After which, I return and do 1000 sit ups. Everyday!” His nutritional regime is just as intense (there’s that word again). It is a regime that consists of 5 small meals consisting of a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. He simply decided that being at 250 lbs was unacceptable and made a conscious decision not to only lose the weight, but also making it a healthy and structured lifestyle shift. So now he eschews most indulgences. In a quick Q&A he lists his favourite dessert as a fruit plate.
Marcus Steele the family man is completely devoted to his children, Marquis (and Sonique. I asked him if his experience growing up with a “rammy” father had any impact how he is as a dad, for which he answered somewhat candidly in the affirmative. It was however obvious that it was a subject for which he did not want to dwell on. I did get, however, that he is attempting to break the cycle and has tried to provide the stability for his children that he never received from his father. “When I was in Trinidad, their mother and I agreed that it would be best to maintain stability for the children by having them stay in Jamaica. But I would visit Jamaica at least once every four weeks”. And when I asked if they are happy that he is back home, he replied that they haven’t fully accepted that he is home yet. But once they have passed the 4 weeks mark then they would know for sure that he is home. Typical Marcus Steele…it has been decided and so shall it be.