“I was born inquisitive, so the inquisitive nature leads to things; you want to learn more all the time.”
That pretty much sums up businessman’s Ralph Bizzy Williams’ approach to life.
It also helped that his parents didn’t see the point in buying toys for their nine children, but instead encouraged them to make their own. While some children today may think it unfair, Williams saw it as his good fortune, as it allowed him to be creative.
“You know, desire will cause you to do things. So whereas my cousins’ parents and grandparents would buy them stuff, I would have to make my own,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“I have this feeling that the biggest mistake that parents make these days is to smother their children with too many store-bought toys. Because it’s a fact that easy come, easy go. If you don’t have to work for it, it means nothing.”
His creations included toy boats and trucks.
“In those days, trucks took sugar cane to the factory, so I would build trucks out of wood. We had a guy working at the place that helped me make these things . . . and I would load it up with grass to simulate sugar cane, and make the wheels with shoe polish tops and the front of the truck where the engine would be, that would be a corn beef can.
“I guess my mother would have been quite annoyed about the fact that her scissors kept getting very dull, but it was because they were cutting tin,” Williams reminisced.
As the last of nine children, Williams – as well as his siblings – had to make do with what they had, as there wasn’t much to go around.
“I cannot remember the number of times I must have cried to get a bicycle, but there would be no bicycle coming from my parents because they were trying their best to pay for some land that they had borrowed money to buy and they couldn’t afford to buy us stuff. So my eldest brother saw an ad for paratroopers’ bicycles. These were folding bicycles that paratroopers in the Second World War would carry on their backs when they were landing in Europe and so on to fight. So there were surplus bicycles and he imported a folding paratrooper’s bicycle and gave it to me. That was my first means of transport.
“It worked very well until one day I was trying to show off in front of a whole bunch of people who were in the yard at Foster Hall to receive money on a Friday evening. I came home from school and I thought it would be very appropriate to show them how I could come into the yard and spin around and do a trick and so on, and the damn bicycle folded up. So I hit the ground pretty hard. [There was] plenty gravel rash and plenty of laughing among the spectators. So things were interesting in my youth,” he recalled.
Williams spent his youth exploring and creating, which laid the foundation for his success as an entrepreneur.
He developed the local pleasure cruise business with the creation of the Tiami company. The catamaran business has since been sold and he no longer has any interests in that venture. He was also instrumental in establishing the Bushy Park race track in St Philip.
“After racing at Bushy Park, we had to shut down the track because of the tremendous hike in the price of oil. It didn’t make sense or good PR to be burning up a lot of fuel at a race track when everybody felt that the world was coming to an end and the oil would soon run out. So I turned to work. I just worked for years . . . and that’s how Williams Industries got developed.”
He ran C.O. Williams Electrical and later formed Structural Systems Ltd.
“We have exported buildings to every single country that has been hit by a big hurricane, and we have never had a failure in all the 40 years that the company has been operating,” Williams said.
He later started BRC West Indies Ltd and branched out to BRC Jamaica and Caribbean Metals in St Lucia.
His children, Stuart and Natalie, have followed in their father’s footsteps in becoming entrepreneurs themselves. Williams said he is proud of their hard work and achievements in their individual businesses.
Williams has won several awards for entrepreneurship, the latest being last Friday, when he was named among the recipients of the Barbados Jubilee Honours.
“The awards don’t mean anything really. My happiest day is when I can pay the staff a good profit share at the end of the year,” he said. “I enjoy helping to play a part in helping people to succeed.”