By Dance Aoki
President of Atkins Kroll Inc.
Guilty pleasure: A good bottle of wine
Favorite app: WhatsApp
Morning routine: A latte with an extra shot from Guam Coffee Co.
Desmond Graham, president of Atkins Kroll Inc., is sometimes called Mr. Grim. The nickname is a playful twist on his last name. He says people sometimes get the impression that he is a stern guy.
On the contrary, the transplant from England had much to celebrate this year. Graham, 52, is at the helm of one of the longest-running corporations in Guam and last year helped to usher the company into its 100th year in operation with a series of community-focused, charitable campaigns.
Atkins Kroll celebrated its centennial anniversary with an initiative that provided the island’s neighborhood watch programs and the Guam Police Department with much-needed vehicles. Last year the “Community Matters” program allowed customers to choose nonprofit organizations that would receive monthly donations.
In 1974, the company was acquired by the Inchcape Group, an auto distributor based in London. Before Graham moved to Guam to take the reins at Atkins Kroll, he was the director of Inchcape’s Advantage program, a global training and business development program.
Graham moved to Guam two years ago to assume his role, which he says he sees as an extension of the Advantage program.
“The thing I get my biggest enjoyment from is making people better,” he says. “Education is a key challenge for us, to make sure we try and grow our people.”
There are about 260 people working at Atkins Kroll, and they are the most important asset the company has, Graham says. In addition to managing the finances, marketing, logistics and operations of the dealership, ensuring his employees are taken care of is a priority for him.
“It’s not just the people, it’s their families,” he says. “The people responsibility is the biggest the president takes on.”
For more than 30 years, Graham has worked in the auto industry, honing his expertise. Atkins Kroll is an opportunity for him to prove that the knowledge gained from his years of experience makes a positive impact.
“It’s given me a vehicle to prove that what I know actually has value,” he says. “The business has grown since I’ve been here — fairly substantially.”
Aside from watching Atkins Kroll’s business and human resources grow under his stewardship, Graham says it is exciting to be involved in the car business, “an industry that reinvents itself every two to three years.”
Even though Graham works “a million miles an hour,” he says his life isn’t all about the job. He earns what he needs to stay in good health and live a life he loves. Graham stands by this philosophy and advocates for it.
“As an employer, we ought to do more, and I do try to encourage people to eat healthier and go to the gym more, just to have a better life balance,” he says.
For Graham, a healthy work-life balance means being very productive during working hours so he can cook a delicious meal, purchase a well-crafted pair of shoes or indulge in an expensive bottle of wine.
“Food and wine are my pleasures in life,” he says. “I love wine; therefore, occasionally I’ll spend more than I should on a bottle of wine.”
Graham doesn’t think of himself as a “massive career person,” but he says he would like to retire before he turns 60 years old. Though he won’t be leaving Atkins Kroll soon, wherever he goes next, it will be to a place that affords him the ability to travel with the kind of ease he was used to in the United Kingdom.
“I love to travel,” he says. “Wherever I go next, it won’t be so remote.”
The Hertfordshire native makes it a point to stay connected to his parents and siblings, even though his home is now in the remote U.S. territory of Guam. Though he longs to travel more, most of his vacation time is spent visiting friends and family in the United Kingdom.
In the next few years, he expects he will be very productive — and perhaps upgrade his Porsche to the Aston Martin of his dreams.