As the executive vice president of marketing and communications for Dart Enterprises, Pilar Bush gets to see the bigger picture of one of the Cayman Islands’ most dynamic companies.
“Dart in Cayman is best known as a real estate developer, but the company does so much more,” she says. “Dart is a company expanding into different industries across multiple countries, yet committed to sustainable economic growth and community development in the Cayman Islands, the chosen location of its global headquarters.”
In her current role, Bush is responsible for two broad sets of responsibilities. One set centres around Dart’s brand — brand architecture, marketing, communications and the digital marketing systems transforming brand communities. The other set of responsibilities focuses on helping shape Dart’s strategy, especially to support Cayman’s economic and community development in fulfillment of its purpose.
Bush believes the mission of marketing is to create and sustain successful brands.
“I share the view held in many global boardrooms that brands should be anchored in purpose and built to have a positive impact on people’s lives,” she says. “Commercial success is the reward for that positive impact in the lives of customers, employees, shareholders and stakeholders.”
In today’s digitally connected, multi-channel world, Bush says the brands that thrive are the ones that “operate with integrity and engage their brand community.”
Bush is Caymanian, a product of the local public education system who lived in South America as a child, attended university in Canada, and worked in New York City before returning to Grand Cayman to lead her own marketing consulting firm for seven years. She is no stranger to brand building; in the past she has served as the vice president of marketing for Cayman Airways and director of tourism for the Cayman Islands.
“In both roles, I worked to redefine the respective brands and create differentiated opportunities for business growth,” she says, adding that throughout her career, she has been described as someone who can see the bigger picture and then translate that into a business plan, turning good ideas into successful outcomes.
“I joined Dart, first as a consultant in 2008 and then as an employee in 2013, at a point when it was emerging from the discrete, private investment office to becoming known as the visionary real estate developer behind the town of Camana Bay.”
The culture at Dart was one of the main factors influencing her decision to join the company, she says.
“It is an entrepreneurial culture rooted with strong values; where you are expected to be innovative, to be industrious, operate with integrity, to demonstrate respect and to focus on quality results,” she says. “These are values our founder and shareholder expects us to uphold, and these are a strong reflection of his family’s Midwestern values.”
From as far back as 2003, when I first heard about his vision of Camana Bay, the thoughtful approach to placemaking stood out in stark contrast to other developers here and across the Caribbean. Pilar Bush
For most people, the Dart group’s founder, Ken Dart, is an enigma. Although he is very much involved in major decision-making with the company, he is a private person who maintains a low profile in the Cayman Islands. He entrusts the day-to-day leadership of the Dart companies to the CEO and a team of talented and capable executives. His commitment to Cayman was another one of the key factors that influenced Bush’s decision to join Dart.
“From as far back as 2003, when I first heard about his vision of Camana Bay, the thoughtful approach to placemaking stood out in stark contrast to other developers here and across the Caribbean,” she said. “If successful, his approach would bring long-term benefits to Cayman for residents and visitors alike.”
The Dart organisation, its culture and even its approach to non-profit endeavours have been shaped by the values and philosophy of its founder, Bush says, adding that by design, the world hasn’t heard too much about Ken Dart — something she hopes will eventually change.
“I look forward to a time when there is a broader perspective of Mr. Dart, to see the true breadth and depth of a man who, up until now, the world has largely seen as a sophisticated investor or a visionary real estate developer,” she says. “But there are other dimensions to Mr. Dart. For example, he has funded various kinds of medical research for almost 20 years. That’s not what people typically think of Ken Dart, but again, he just quietly goes about it, not wanting to bring any attention to it.”
The Dart organisation is also well recognised in the Cayman Islands for its generous support of hundreds of charitable community initiatives.
“Mr. Dart is strategic in the way he thinks about philanthropy and urges us to be diligent, to avoid the well-intentioned donation having the unintended impact of creating a dysfunctional dependency on the donor,” Bush says. “His approach is to avoid just ‘giving a fish’ and instead teaching organisations and communities ‘how to fish.”
Most importantly, Bush says Ken Dart wants to support sustainable community development.
“Part of his philosophy is that the best thing you can do for individuals, families or communities is to provide the conditions for people to work in good jobs, thereby giving them the means to have independence, to take care of themselves and to take care of their families with dignity,” she says. “If you do that, then they will, by and large, do the right thing in terms of what they need to give back to the community.”
Businesses have to be profitable, however, in order to be in a position to sustainably provide people with good jobs, and that is another part of Ken Dart’s philosophy, Bush says. “He’s very clear that in order for companies to offer good-paying jobs, meaningful benefits and career opportunities that offer growth and development, companies need to be profitable,” she says.
“Profit is a necessary condition for the economic prosperity that we want. It’s a necessary condition to be able to provide the employment and to support worthy causes such as education, sports, arts and culture, youth programmes and environmental sustainability.”
Ken Dart’s diversified business interests span the globe, but he has chosen the Cayman Islands as his corporate headquarters, the value of which Bush believes is underestimated in the community. Bush says that compared to other business units, headquarters contribute a larger set of economic benefits to their location.
“By virtue of their function, corporate headquarters typically hire well-trained, experienced professionals doing complex-knowledge work,” she says. “These corporate executives are supported by various levels of technical, administrative and creative roles. The presence of a HQ in your hometown directly and indirectly creates jobs and generates business for existing and new companies, contributing to economic stability and growth.”
Bush says that in recent years, many corporate headquarters in the world have moved from suburban locations back into big cities so that companies can attract and retain exceptional talent.
“The fact that we have, on Grand Cayman, a company such as Dart choosing to base its global headquarters here creates opportunities for Caymanians who are directly employed by Dart, but also for the Caymanians who are indirectly having opportunities at other companies because of the economic activity generated by Dart,” she says. “It is up to us as a community to prepare for and leverage those opportunities.”
Bush says the Dart group of employees are “smart, talented, best-in-class professionals committed to excellence whatever their role. If you are curious and want to be continually learning, this is a fertile environment.”
In addition, there’s a benefit known as the “corporate headquarters location bias for philanthropy,” which is the tendency for a company to give more where it’s headquartered than to distribute it evenly across its various locations of business operations, Bush says. “You also have the benefit of the volunteering and the personal giving of the employees of a corporate headquarters, and you can clearly see that here with Dart in the Cayman Islands.”
Part of Bush’s role is to help the group prepare Dart’s brand and businesses for significant growth and global expansion. “I play a part in helping the company define and articulate the core Dart brand: who we are, what we stand for and who we aspire to be, now and in the future,” she says. “It is a rare and exciting opportunity to be involved in that at such a pivotal point in a global company’s history.”
However, Bush knows she can’t do that alone.
“This type of initiative can only be undertaken with an exceptional team, and I’m very fortunate to be able to work with exceptional people,” she says. “Teamwork is part of the Dart DNA and teamwork is contagious.”
Bush says the work her team does now will have an impact on how Dart is perceived for generations to come.
“Brand is about how people think and feel about your company based on their interactions and impressions, and that’s a huge responsibility when your brand is attached to your shareholder’s name and his family’s legacy.”