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When you hear the name “Pat & Max” if you didn’t know better, you might think it’s one of those big four accounting firms.  However, Pat and Max has long been a part of the business landscape of Trinidad & Tobago and more specifically east Trinidad.  We had an opportunity to sit with the powerhouse duo, behind the Pat and Max brand, sisters, Marsha and Melissa Senhouse. They talked to us about business legacy and how they continue to evolve the Pat & Max brand in the face of Covid 19.

PMag: Give us a sense of what it is like working in business and leadership? Specify your position.

Mel S. : I am the Managing Director.  Business is surely not for the faint hearted, especially in the era of Covid-19.  In 2019 we created our plan for 2020.  However 2020 has been an exceptional year with lock downs, loss of business etc.  This year is truly testing and revealing one’s character.

Being in business and leadership allows us the opportunity to serve.  We are able to serve our clients and team members.  I love seeing the faces of entrepreneurs when they see their brand displayed.  I like to believe we’ve helped them in some small way to move their business forward.

As MD, the position allows me to also serve our team.  There’s never a hesitation to dive into the trenches with our team.  Being in a leadership role, has truly allowed me to learn more about myself, my strengths and weaknesses as one has to be curious, with a strong sense of personal responsibility.

Do I get it right all the time? Does anybody? Hell no, but you learn every day, once you are open to it.

PMag: Tell us about Pat & Max and what you all provide? Share some history. Explain how you serve the business community.

Mel S.: The business was founded by our father, Max Senhouse.  You may be familiar with the slogan, “we need the money”.  He was originally in furniture, but changed direction in 1984.   The printing business was started at our home and  eventually moved to the current location at 110 EMR, Tunapuna.  Screen printing was the first product to be offered, followed by rubber stamps and employee identification badges.  We assist our customers in making it easy for their business to be identified.  Some of our products include identification cards, rubber stamps, business cards, signage, and laser engraving.

PMag:  Describe what it is like being women at the helm of their business (being in charge) where there may be a lot of males (assuming that there are a lot of males working with you).

Mel S.: We have a team of predominantly women with a few good men.

Mar S.: As women we are all looking for the answer in terms of tools and techniques for becoming a successful leader.

PMag: What has been the biggest advantage of being sisters and women in business?

Mel S.: Trust is usually developed over time between persons, however with my sister, this is not an issue.  I trust her with my all.  She knows me, so it’s easy to freely communicate, no judgement or condemnation.  There is balance as where I am weak, she is strong.

Mar S.: To add to that, I wish I had a step by step guide on how to lead, influence and communicate, while still being human and having empathy. I try to keep these words close to my heart on being human and having empathy.  As the legacy holders to the Senhouse name, we have some really big shoes to fill after our fathers passing. What many do not know is that Melissa, was groomed by our father after finishing her degree to take over from him. He made sure she was verse in every position within the organization, “she is the chief cook and bottle washer” as the saying goes. I myself came into the business after a career in banking of 14 years. When I joined back in 2007, I went straight into the accounts department, learning the day to day runnings. I believe true authentic leadership comes from within; it comes from the strength of purposeful vulnerability when you step courageously into what is possible for you. As sisters, we have each other’s backs. We balance each other off. We disagree at times, but we always move forward for the greater good.

PMag: What if any, are possible disadvantages being sisters and women in business?

Mel S.: When Marsha puts on her stern voice, as the older sister. Urgh. Lol.

PMag: If you have to name one thing, what would you say is your secret sauce for success?

Mel S.: Being blessed with a good team.

Mar S.: The secret sauce for success I believe is integrity. What you say with your words must transcend in your actions.

PMag: Given the fact we are in a digital age and embracing technology to improve and keep business viable. In what way has your business adopted digital tools and technology to make the business more efficient? Some businesses have been around since the 80s but have not lasted. So how have you all managed to maintain and thrive through time?

Mar S.: We’re in the process of redeveloping our website to a fully functioning e-commerce site.  Diversification as well as being customer service oriented, we seek to assist our customers, even if it is a product we do not offer a recommendation would be given, it is about serving the customer. Utilization of various software programs which assist in communication, which is important in every relationship – team and customer.

Maria Ransome

Maria Ransome

Maria Ransome is a visual artist and content creator based in Trinidad and Tobago. Her work focuses on visual branding, graphic design and content creation for personal branding and social media.