I just came across the News that my old Employer Jolly Beach Resort Antigua closed down and did not even pay its staff. A covid-19 casualty.
This prompted me to look back at my long career and see which employers survived and which did not.
If you like to bear with me I go through my whole career. As I have reached retirement age now it is a bit long. Skip some parts if you like. Or if you like more details go to google and enter ‘Glimpses into the life of a global nomad, part one to part ten’.
1961. After my commercial college I contacted a Hotel Manager, where I had worked a bit as Assistant Waiter during my holiday before, and he offered me the job of Front Office Supervisor (one and only staff at the Front Office) of the Hotel Handeck in Grimselpass in Switzerland for the summer season. It seems to be still working. https://www.grimselwelt.ch/en/hotels/hotel-handeck/restaurant/
1962 – 1964 Swissair Zurich and Paris. I just walked into Swissair and asked for a job. They told me I could start next day in the Central Finance Accounting Division as a Data Entry Clerk. That was the start of my Accounting Career. If Swissair would have told me that I could start next day as a Steward I would have had a career on board a plane. (what a change to today, when after studies job seekers apply to hundreds of online vacancies!). SWISSAIR went bankrupt and was taken over by the Lufthansa Group. For a Swiss that is as monumental as 9/11 for an American.
1965 – 1968 Ed. Zueblin AG, Civil Engineering Contractor, Marala Barrage, Distt. Sialkot, Pakistan. Secretary to the Project Manager. While in Paris I met a Deputy Director of WAPDA, the West Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (an Ahmadi-Muslim). He said to me ‘why do you not come to Pakistan’? I said ‘why not, but how’. He suggested that I write to Ed. Zueblin AG in Germany who had submitted the lowest tender for a construction project. I did so, saying that my friend in WAPDA told me … They were so surprised to receive my letter as the contract was not even signed yet. And happy that I had good relation with a WAPDA Deputy Director. I got the job immediately. I was too stupid and innocent to ask for a good salary. My friend told me that 1000 Rupees is a good salary so I asked for that and got a contract as a local staff. Luckily after a while my boss, being happy with me, changed the contract to International and increased my salary to 1800 DM (plus free housing etc). Ed. Zueblin AG is still going strong. Pakistan however has gone down the drain a bit in the meantime. (seems to happen to most places after I leave).
1968 – 1972 Afghan-Swiss Trading Co.Ltd. Kabul, Afghanistan. Chief Accountant. When the construction work was nearing completion I wrote to the Swiss Honorary Council in Afghanistan whether he knew of any jobs there. He answered that his Chief Accountant was leaving, whether I could do the job. Of course I could. Now-a-days Mr. Brunson of Virgin Group of Companies says that if you are asked in an interview whether you could do something always say yes. What you do not yet know you can learn. Without knowing his advice at that time I did reply in the same way. What is a new balance sheet? Take the old one and put in the new figures and you have a new balance sheet. Ah, poor ASTCO Ltd, it became a casualty of the Soviet Invasion.
1972 – 1973 Union Trading Company of Ghana Ltd. Accra, Ghana. Managing Director’s Assistant. Department Store, Opel Representatives, Textile Whole Sale. In-charge of whatever the boss wanted to give me. Permanent duties Housing for the 40 plus expatriate staff and renting out surplus housing. Calculation Office of all sales items in the Department Store. Obtaining crucial import licences. Supervision of legal office etc. After one year the job came to an end because the Ghana government wanted to reduce the expatriate quota. The UTC group of West Africa was more than 100 years old. It did well in Nigeria during the beginning of the oil boom years. With surplus cash they purchased the Swiss Department Store Jelmoli. Having experience only in Africa they made a mess of it, went bankrupt and closed down. (all after my departure).
1973 – 1983 Panalpina Nigeria and Zurich Switzerland. Director of Finance and Administration. The jobs in Ghana and Nigeria were a result of about ten letters that I wrote from Kabul wishing to change the climate a bit. Those were the days. Ten letters and two jobs. Now-a-days job seekers apply hundreds of times and still are not sure if they get a job offer. (Job seekers please note: Practically all the jobs I got were never advertised. Do not rely on published posts. Who wants to compete with hundreds of other?). After my departure Panalpina Nigeria was involved in some bribery scandal and closed down. (Can’t you do anything right without me?).
1983 – 1986 Jolly Beach Resort Antigua. Director of Finance of this 465 room resort. In the first year I made a balance sheet of a million dollar loss, the second year break-even and the third year a million dollar profit. When I arrived this Hotel did not even have a working account system. It was interesting for me to start from scratch. Unfortunately I just learned that Jolly Beach Resort has become a Covid-19 casualty and closed down and is up for sale. My boss at the time used to come to Antigua to go fishing. He would put out 3 nets in the eveing and pull it in at 6 am next morning. Sometimes I joined him. He died and may be his son does not enjoy fishing and simply put up the hotel for sale. I thought they might survive as they did not have any bank loans. But I suppose the 12 hotels in Majorca are suffering similarly due to the pandemic. Ah well, all after my days.
1986 to 1989 Felix Matthy Group of Companies. Group Financial Controller. Zurich and Lagos. Got the job because of my Nigeria experience. Mr. Matthys also owned the largest construction company in Nigeria. The guy was good in making deals but lost money again by not being able to handle all that he obtained. He did not listen to my advice and then went bankrupt, luckily after I left. Alhamdolillah. Allah saved me in time.
1989 – 1999 Rehau Ltd. Bangkok, Thailand. Director Finance and Administration. Arranged the construction of a new factory in an industrial estate, moving the old small factory to the new establishment. Saved funds during the Asian Financial Crisis. The company is still there but Thailand, under its new King, is worrying …
1999 – 2002 Caritas Switzerland in Kosovo, Chief Delegate. Interesting projects, main project reconstruction of about 3000 houses which were burned down by the retreating Serbs during the 1999 war of liberation. Yes, as an NGO offering humanitarian assistance this organization is still going strong. I joined Caritas first as Financial Controller and sort of slipped into the Chief Delegate position when my predecessor needed to leave. Being a Muslim in a Catholic outfit was sort of unique. The Bishop of Kosovo was a kind man and only after my departure he said to my successor Î could never understand how Caritas Switzerland could make Mr. Rafiq the Chief Delegate’. Ah, how he must have felt when my very Catholic successor converted to Islam because he wanted to marry a beautiful Iranian girl that he met while helping out at the Iranian Earthquake! Anyway, we had many nice cups of Turkish coffee together, the Bishop and I.
2003 – 2011 The International Organization for Migration, Kosovo, Cyprus, Iraq, Jordan, Libya. First as Financial Controller, then as Chief of Mission Iraq and Jordan and later as Consultant Baghdad and Benghazi. Interesting days. Of course this organization is still going strong, now as UN Migration Agency. More migrants now than ever.
2013 – 2016 Humanity First Jordan. Country Director. Incorporated HF in Jordan and started two projects in the Education Field. I found that all other field were fairly well covered by UN organisations, but education was lacking. Glad to know that Humanity First Jordan is still going strong after my departure.
Therefore yes, Swissair went bankrupt and was taken over by the Lufthansa Group. Ok, ok, I was junior and just a data entry clerk. If I had been still with them I could not have helped them in any way.
Afghan Swiss Trading Company. A war casualty. Again, even if I had been there I could not have made any diference.
Panalpina Nigeria. I do not know the details of this bribery scandal that cost them their licence in Nigeria. It seemed to have been a large scale thing involving oil companies. Probably actually handled by the Head Office or at least with their knowledge.
Felix Matthy Group of Companies. Ah, nice guy Felix Matthys. Interesting comments from both his personal secretary in Zurich and Lagos ‘I wonder why he has such crooks as friends’. (Poor guy has died so I can say now). It does not sound good for a Finance Director to say ‘he did not listen to me’, but he did not. When I showed him that in the gravel quarry in Switzerland we would make more money by letting the customers collect the gravel, even if turnover was lower, than by delivering the gravel. So he did not tell me until he did it. Purchase 6 expensive Mercedes lorries for delivery of gravel. But that is not why he went bankrupt. He bought a good small company with real estate in the city that moved the factory out of town. The real estate in town was now ready for redevelopment. Sounds good, except that he overloaded it with mortgages and lost the money in a European Business Satellite TV channel, which never took off. Alhamdolillah, I moved on to Thailand before he went bust.
What can we say: I would say that Allah has protected me at all times from difficulties, wars and bankruptcies. (and rockets in Baghdad).
For more details of my career you may go to ‘Glimpses into the life of a global nomad, part one to part ten’.