Quality Assured with Sheryl Anderson
We at Flair Magazine love interacting with phenomenal woman, who have broken barriers and erase the status quo of what it really means to be a woman. Each week, we bring inspiring stories filled with the obstacles and trials that have not only promoted growth, but led to the tipping point in each individual's life.
This week, we had a one-on-one with possibly the most vibrant and energetic chemist we've ever come across - founder and managing director of Quality Systems Solutions and Initiatives (QSSI), Sheryl Anderson, who gave us the inside story of what it takes to be a traditional mom and the head of a major organisation.
From the initial sit-down, we knew Sheryl's story was going to be amazing as she walked into her fuchsia and cream office, decked out with a plethora of trophies and not to mention mountains of paperwork. Her prim-and-proper demeanour quickly vanished, as she passionately spoke about her brainchild QSSI. It is a consultancy and training organisation that helps companies attain certification according to international food safety and quality standards. Companies must be certified before they are allowed to export to other countries.
"Once companies want to export and sell their product in top-brand companies such as Walmart in the United States, they need to be certified according to international standards," explained Anderson. Her company provides courses and training which gets the company ready for audit by an international third-party institution.
If it sounds really technical, we assure you it is. By the time she listed the different courses and types of training, we started to wonder how could this one woman create this company, and what sparked the interest? She took us back to when she just started at Bureau of Standards Jamaica as an inspector. Her eight and a half year journey within the corporation allowed her to grow from inspection to project management and finally the manager of the certification body. "I basically helped to set up the system there and saw a need to help the companies get up to standard. There was a fear associated with the Bureau of Standards and many of them were unable to qualify for certification," she said.
Anderson saw a niche and went after it with an exuberance that can only be described as incredibly risky yet inspiring. She left a job that paid approximately $300,000 each month, to start QSSI in 2012.
"In my first month, I only made $27,000 but I was incredibly proud of myself because every single dollar was mine," she laughed as she spoke to Flair Magazine.
The company started off in the guest room at her house, where her handful of employees would do their work on the bed. "And not to mention drink off the condensed milk in the fridge which was always a problem," she whispered.
"I knew I was not going to get a substantial income within the first three months, so I saved every dollar I had towards my expenses. I paid my mortgage, light bill, three months in advance so I would not have to have that stress to worry about," she explained. Her transition was mixed with excitement and trepidation, but she was optimistic and fearless about her decision. "I wasn't going to stop until I got the business (going). I had a laser focus on my goal."
Keeping a focus on building a company is no easy feat. For Anderson, she explained that documenting her procedures and having a 10-year plan is crucial to staying on track.
"I've set up a system where I am held accountable, and that is also a driving force to always stay focus. I created a board that I have to answer to," said Anderson.
Running a business is one thing, but imagine having to raise a child and running a household at the same time. Anderson's very core is based on the traditional values she experienced growing up.
"I did not start to put a lot of effort into my business until my daughter was old enough to get her footing. I needed to be there for her during those teenage years," she said. She made an interesting point when she stated that there is no such thing as balance. There will always be instances when your job needs you more than your family and vice versa. "You have to ensure that the people around you are understanding and supportive. My family, especially my husband, is very supportive. He is the person I go to bounce ideas off and I will always hear the truth from him,"
QSSI has been recognised by several international corporations and has the trophies to show for it. They are the recipient of this year's National Quality Award which is endorsed by the Bureau of Standards. They are also the winners of the JMEA award for Champion Exporter for Services which highlights the company's contribution to national development. QSSI is also apart of several boards which vote on systems surrounding cannabis.
In order to not become too overwhelmed Anderson stresses the importance of "me time". "I have to travel a lot for work, so I ensure that I go site seeing when I am away," she said. She also indulges in simple pleasures such as going to the beach and spending a lot of time with her friends and family.
Her advice to young entrepreneurs is to get a board that will keep you accountable to your goals, find good quality persons to work with because people make or break a company and you cannot do everything by yourself. Finally, create an efficient system which makes you more flexible. If left unchecked, your business can consume you.
We got the chance to take a tour of the quaint QSSI head office at Unit 9 Pegasus Commerce Centre located at 49 1/2 Upper Waterloo Road. Its turquoise walls consist of a large training room and small offices for Anderson's roving employees who are always on location working with clients. Her vision of developing her own company not only materialised but is currently one of the best quality institutions on the island.