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A Vision for the Future of Business
Another first at this conference was an open discussion in the form of a forum, titled “A Vision for the Future of Business”. Moderated by George S. Tsandikos, the meeting featured three Greek-American giants in business and philanthropy, George D. Behrakis, John Catsimatidis, and C. Dean Metropoulos. The Business Forum was designed by Leadership 100 Partners primarily to provide younger members with guidance in their careers. Participants asked questions ranging from such specifics as how to market a brand product to consumers and how to deal with rules and regulations that encumber business development to how to balance a career with family life and church and how to successfully network to get started in a career.
George D. Behrakis, a Chairman Emeritus of Leadership 100 and a pioneer in the pharmaceutical field, as well as a renowned philanthropist in medicine and health, higher education and the arts, spoke of the advantage of being raised in a tight-knit Greek American Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, where the church inculcated values while he learned early about business and making a profit by working in his uncle’s restaurant. He spoke of the risks and benefits of going into business for himself after a successful career working at Johnson & Johnson.
John Catsimatidis, a member of the Leadership 100 Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, is the Chairman and CEO of the Red Apple Group, which has holdings in oil refining, retail petroleum products, convenience stores, real estate, aviation, and supermarkets, with investments in both medical and industrial technology. He described his early success in expanding from one store to ten as due to developing trust and integrity with the people with whom one does business and that the key to success in his own business expansion was investment in real estate. Catsimatidis, who finished second in the primary race for the Republican nomination for Mayor of New York City in September of 2013, emphasized the unique opportunities in America as a land of opportunity and that successful business people had to set good examples for youth in working hard at what they do.
C. Dean Metropoulos, a long time L100 member who was recently elected President of Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy & Hellenism, is Chairman and CEO of Metropoulos & Company, a boutique acquisition and management firm with offices in New York and Greenwich, Connecticut, which has acquired and repositioned more than 300 brands worldwide, with more than 78 acquisitions involving over $48 billion in invested capital. He said that beyond hard work, businesses need vision and a clear mission in order to succeed and that in the many acquisitions he had undertaken it didn’t take long to determine whether or not there was excitement and passion in management. When that is present, he said, it will release the creative energy of a workforce. He also said that research and development were becoming increasingly important with respect to consumer goods in offering alternative choices.
All members of the forum agreed that while younger members beginning their careers had to be sure to exhibit perseverance and determination, those who have become successful should find more innovative ways of opening up opportunities through institutionalizing networking within the Greek Community.
In a poignant conclusion, each of the participants spoke of overcoming difficulties in their careers. Metropoulos said that the energy and personality it takes come from beyond oneself as one learns to persevere through discouragement. Catsimatidis said he learned early to remain calm when things weren’t going one’s way; find out what one was doing wrong and fix it. Behrakis emphasized again the importance of faith and family as support. They agreed that we live today in a more complex and challenging social environment with greater global competition but that the young Greek Americans they encounter possess the talent and energy that characterized previous generations with the added benefit of greater education in an America that remains the land of opportunity.