Michael Alexander is an energetic car salesman by day and an avid entertainer who electrifies dance floors and keeps a party crowd grooving by night. The Libra-born, father of three has spent more than two-and-a-half decades in the car industry as a salesperson at F.W. Vlaun and Sons and even more years as an entertainer. He tells us about himself in this week’s Hot Seat.
Who is Michael Alexander?
“I wear many hats. I’m a family man, a car salesman by day and a singer/entertainer at nights/weekends. I go by the stage name “Singer Mike the Entertainer.” I hail from the Kalinago territory in the Commonwealth of Dominica. I became involved in music at the age of 10, when I entered several calypso competitions in Dominica. Back then, I went by the name “The Mighty Brown Bread.” I was crowned overall Champion of the Junior Calypso Competition in the Kalinago Territory for “Carib War.” I competed in other junior competitions while attending high school in Roseau.”
How would you describe yourself?
“I’m a self-made man, who is always on the move. I try to stay positive and focused. Whenever I’m not engaged in my job or my music, I enjoy quiet time at home, relaxing, watching a movie or spending time with my family. I enjoy simplicity.”
You were born in Dominica, how did you end up in St. Maarten?
“Years ago I came to St. Maarten as a visitor, and although I returned to Dominica several times, I opted to stay in St. Maarten after a while.”
Where were you educated, what did you study and why?
“I studied at Dominica Grammar School and then I moved on to Sixth Form College.
When I relocated to St. Maarten, I did some training with Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Chevy, Suzuki and a few short courses at University of St. Martin. I loved cars and I was always curious about them. My curiosity led me to seek out more knowledge about them during my free time.”
How long have you been at F.W. Vlaun and Sons and how did you end up there?
“I have been working at Vlaun for 26 rewarding years. I was working at Great Bay Beach Hotel when an American man, named Mr. McDougal, who had come in to manage F.W. Vlaun and Sons and who had been staying at the hotel, called me with an offer to work at Vlaun. He took an interest in me when he saw me engaging with customers or reading a book, with which I used to walk around, as I was taking a correspondence course. He invited me for an interview and the rest is history.”
How did you groom yourself to work in this field?
“I was trained by several auto giants, coupled with my natural ability to apply myself and my willingness to learn new things.”
What differentiates you from other car salespersons?
“I offer customers a complete package. I believe I project the right attitude that such an environment requires. If I don’t believe in what I do, I don’t think my customers will believe in me either. I have a sound knowledge of the products I sell. I am hospitable and I try to be very efficient and offer excellent customer service skills. In addition, I have built up my clientele over the years and when you offer good service to one customer, the word gets around. There is no advertisement like word of mouth. I also believe that my customers have been able to trust my judgement and that is very important. Finally, I believe my years of experience count for something.”
What are some of the challenges you encounter in this field?
“Everything has challenges. Some days there are difficult customers, difficult financial institutions, red tapes, tight economic conditions, some persons choose to import their cars and there is a lot of competition these days, which forces you to work harder.”
How do you think the car industry can be improved?
“I think if the financial climate improves and our market is exposed to a variety of other models, then the car industry will automatically be better.”
You’re around cars all the time, what’s your all time personal favourite vehicle?
“I don’t have a favourite car. I love all cars, all colours. I am always afraid that if I develop an attachment to one model, then I might want to sell only those; therefore, I stay away from the favouritism. I presently drive a Suzuki Grand Vitara.”
Dream holiday venue?
“Anywhere that keeps me in tune with nature. I am a nature lover.”
Message for youngsters?
“First of all they need to have the right attitude, because attitude is everything. They need to have good customer service skills and learn how to treat people with respect. Additionally, knowledge of the product is key, along with a belief in self and in what they do. The bottom-line is that if they don’t learn how to win their customers, then chances are they will never get paid.”
What else are you involved in outside of cars?
“I love music. On Sundays I can be found at Pedro’s Restaurant and Bar in Orient Bay, where I sing and entertain. I don’t have a specific place in the week. I play at weddings, birthdays, office parties etc. and sometimes my singing job takes me off island for overseas gigs.”
How do you relax and unwind? Hobbies?
“I go for long drives with the family or do some early morning exercises, which normally culminate at the beach. I also enjoy watching movies or I spend time practising new songs to add to my repertoire.”
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
“Perhaps as a big time entertainer or a retired car salesman… I believe in working hard for what you want, because laziness cannot get you where you want to go. I also believe that it’s possible to reach beyond the skies once you believe.”
What’s your favourite type of music – what artistes do you listen to?
“I have no favourites. I enjoy all genres as long as the content is positive or conscious.”
If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party who would they be and what would you cook for them?
“I would invite Sarah Wescot-Williams, Charles T. Vlaun and Tony Donker. I would cook Sanchoche with crabs (native Dominican Creole dish).