Deree Business Week
“People who give it a shot will know if they are made for it. 9 out of 10 who attempt it, fail”
Deree Business Week is an annual four-day business forum organized by the Academic Societies of the School of Business. Its aim is to bring together industry professionals and experts from different fields of business with Deree students, faculty and alumni. This year’s theme “Young Leaders Grow(ing) Greece” showcases the growing trend and importance of young leaders in business and how they can flourish in Greece.
On Monday the 12th of March I was invited by Marketing Professor Ioanna Mitropoulou to attend the final rehearsal before the big day. It was practically a run through of the timeline and program of the entire 4-day event. The student volunteers were split into their respective groups and alongside their coordinators, they put the finishing touches to make sure everything was in order. The whole process appeared to run smoothly and with no surprises, which itself is not a surprise since everyone involved, students and professors, were personally invested and very attentive to every aspect.
This year’s keynote speaker was mission Chief for Greece at the European Commission, Mr. Declan Costello. Since the onset of the economic crisis, he has actively been involved in efforts to devise an economic recovery strategy, as well as negotiations on economic governance in EMU especially on competitiveness and macroeconomic imbalances. In October 2015, he was appointed Principal Adviser and the European Commission’s Mission Chief for Greece for the Third Economic Adjustment Programme. I was given the rare opportunity to secure an exclusive interview with Mr. Costello right after his speech.
Before he took the stage, a small group of students met with Mr. Costello, President David G. Horner, and Christos Gofas, Mr. Costello’s associate, Senior Expert of Structural Reforms for the European Commission. “Little bit of organization, would go a long way.” Said Mr. Costello when we briefly discussed the situation in Greece.
President David G. Horner and Dr. Annie Triantafyllou, Dean, School of Business, delivered the opening remarks and introduced Costello. He is confident that Greece is on track to complete the program as scheduled. For him, the real question is: “Is Greece on track towards a sustainable future?” His sentiments over our country’s growth and sustainability are positive. He believes in Greece’s competence and intentions. He recognizes how much the Greek people have had to sacrifice over the past years and how hard it has been to remain positive through this austerity. As I said before, Costello believes in Greece’s capability to power through and not only survive but thrive, but warns not to be fooled by the first sign of economic growth and not misinterpret positive signs of economic growth as “mission accomplished”. Our mission is not accomplished yet and won’t be for many years to come. As Costello puts it “the next 5-10 years are crucial for Greece”. How we govern our country for the decade to come could be the last chance we have of finally being able to recover and start evolving for the better. Costello remains optimistic if Greece is sensible.
After his speech, I had the chance to obtain an exclusive personal statement. When I asked him how crucial he deems my generation’s involvement in current affairs, he responded: “The current generation of students will be essential for the growth in Greece in the next 5-10 years. I think that they will not repeat the mistakes of past generations”. Well, he is not wrong. Repeating the mistakes of the past is a sore spot for most Greeks. It is no secret every generation wishes not to make the same mistakes and do better. Let’s hope that we will indeed not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Many distinguished speakers from the business world, including Dr. Aggeliki Kosmopoulou, Executive Director of A.K. Laskaridis Charitable Foundation, and Mr. Paul Kidner, General Manager of The People’s Trust, addressed several issues with regard to the opportunities and the potential young leaders can currently find in Greece.
Aggeliki Kosmopoulou, The People’s Trust Representative, is an “expert in failing and moving on”. She has changed many careers but regrets nothing. She has failed multiple times but she never gave up. You will question why. Well, because through her failures and successes she faced her fears and came out a winner. As she puts it “failures often lead to successes”, so do not be intimidated by taking a risk. And if you are afraid, face that fear. Worst case scenario: you will learn something valuable about yourself. When it comes to personal evolution and development “the fastest way to change yourself is to change the people you surround yourself with”. When she was asked what advice she has for students that are graduating and about to join the workforce, she responded; “never stop learning and trust your gut feeling”.
For Stavros Tsompanidis, PHEE company founder and one of Forbes 30 under 30 List 2018, the hardest move to make is to begin. You need to start from somewhere to reach your goal. “Just begin”. When it comes to selecting a team to work with he believes in “hiring people that are better than you”. He warns that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. So naturally, I asked him who is it for. He replied; “People who give it a shot, will know if they are made for it. 9 out of 10 who attempt it, fail. Someone needs to try to figure it out”.
Students from left to right Elena Grigoriou, Tsungirirai Madume , Nikitas Marinos, Eleni Markopoulou, Nikos Stergiou w/ Declan Costello minutes before the opening of Business Week.
For Paul Kidner, The People’s Trust Representative, “it is not about the money!”, because money comes and goes. “Knowledge is the true commodity”. Failure and elimination are paramount. When it comes to working with colleagues, he views disagreements as a good thing. They are the basis for the best ideas to be born. It is okay to disagree if you share the same vision in the long-run. And of course, as long as you actually enjoy spending endless hours working alongside your colleagues. You must have the tenacity to persevere if you want to stay in the game. One must “try and take risks.” You are accountable for the work and the effort you put in, so inadequate preparation means falling behind. He advises to be adequately prepared and not feel bad for not having all the answers. We can’t have all the answers because we do not know all the questions. So, we must “Always Seek Knowledge!”
When I spoke with Nikos Minoglou, CEO & Founder of Ancient Greek Sandals, I wanted to know what he thinks about young people taking part in initiatives like Business Week. He answered, “I am very impressed because they seem like they really care. They ask questions and they are active, which is really important”.
The speech of Panos Bassios, Head of Digital Excellence at OPAP, was centered around how “digital is transitioning the way we do business”. He also spoke about the way he deals with competition in a working environment. I wanted to know about the future of OPAP and the business world in the digital age. He responded; “In a market that is not 100% regulated, like online gaming, OPAP has a very small percentage in that market. Exactly because we realize that people prefer to use digital technologies for games and bets as well, we are trying to strengthen this betting platform in multiple ways; technologically and the product itself. This will not only benefit OPAP but the entire business community because it will lead to regulations. This way we hope to become a competitive force in this market and steer the way towards a way of doing business digitally”.
These are only some of the distinguished guests I had the pleasure of interacting with. Overall, the event ran smoothly, even with some scheduling mishaps that are only natural to occur. It was the first time I was attending this particular forum, and I have to say that I am very impressed by its turnout. Its organization including securing speakers of distinguished caliber, and the devotion of the students that participated through volunteering. It was undoubtedly a memorable experience and one I recommend to all students!
Do not forget to take risks.