Thursday, July 21, 2011

Interview 10: Fanis Spanos-An Active Member

Fanis Spanos (FS) a young active member of his community is this week interview of Dubai Profile New (DPN) Blog. Combining business and politics is something not easy and through this week we will explore how this is achievable. Let’s check out how!

DPN: Fanis, you are at the moment a young politician as you were elected in the 4th place as municipal counselor of the 100,000 people Municipality of Khalkis in Greece. Do you see your future into politics?

FS: My experience in real politics is quite fresh and thus it is rather early to have a clear view on how I feel about politics and on how politics feel about me. I highly enjoy the ability and duty to do things and make decisions that influence the good of so many people. This is an indication about the former, whereas my election was a first sign about the latter. To conclude, allow me to delete the pronoun and rephrase: I see future in politics.

DPN: Tell us some things about the Municipality of Khalkis?

FS: The Municipality of Khalkis originated from the pooling of the city of Khalkis with four peripheral former suburban municipalities.  It is about sixty kilometres to the North of Athens. To avoid numbers and statistics, I only tell you that it is a beautiful place either to live or simply to come for vacation. Totally surrounded by sea, yet continental; very gifted from nature but in need of further care from all of us. The rest you are invited see in vivo!

DPN: Henry Kissinger the famous American diplomat said that “ninety percent of the politicians give the other then percent a bad reputation”. Comment us please that.

FS: Politicians give politics a bad reputation, I would outbid. Especially in our times there is no respect to the whole system. Reasons that led to depreciation can be found in both the public and the politicians, so there is not a single person or group to blame. Certain people elect certain politicians, so, to my opinion the most proper way to enjoy better politicians is to become more conscious ourselves. I agree to what communists used to say, “You can fight the system only from inside”. And in fact, this is one of the reasons that made me deal with politics.

DPN: Who do you believe is the politician who inspires you most from the world history?

FS: Referring to inspiring politicians, Pericles is the first that comes to mind. In modern times, Winston Churchill was great and the same I believe about Nelson Mandela. Domestically, Konstantinos Karamanlis, and to provoke you a little, Margaret Thatcher. To answer strictly to your question, I am most inspired by Charles de Gaul. The general whose vision, his will and his ability to apply it, changed the destiny of his beloved country.

DPN: Why many times politicians say lies?

FS: Biggest lies are said before the elections, during war and after fishing. It is easy to become politically attractive by promising and saying to people, what they expect from you to say. Obviously, it is highly unethical and one has no excuse to do it, but you cannot find many examples of people that were mature enough to elect a person that said annoying truths, rather than empty promises. In a recent example, the current Greek Prime Minister assured the Greek people that “there is enough money”, got voted by the great majority of people and only six months later his government introduced in Greece the International Monetary Fund. Finally, to suggest a contradictory parameter, the political environment is active and changing any moment. Thus, it is much wiser to adapt to the circumstances, rather than commit to an initial schedule that should not be applied. Unfortunately though, this important issue is fine print for many of the people and an easy excuse for many of the politicians.

DPN: Apart from being a politician you are a young businessman who runs the company SPANOS ARISTON that deals with concrete production, mining and construction. Tell us some things about it.

FS: Actually, I am mainly in business and secondarily in politics. Spanos Ariston is a family enterprise, which at the moment I am proud to run. Concrete industry is highly correlated to construction, which is in deep sh… oops, in recession in Greece. Our short term target is to cut costs, ensure liquidity and maintain the intangible capital of a strong local brand name.  Also we target to increase market share, although this does not imply higher turnovers by default. In order to achieve these, we focus on attracting new business and retail customers and on reducing inelastic expenses. Yet at any cost we wish to keep quality of the delivered product and service in the highest possible level. In such conditions it can be very disappointing to operate, but also very challenging. After all, it is an opportunity to challenge a company’s efficiency, utilize its strengths and allow oneself a leading position for better times in the future.

DPN: How easy is for a young businessman to stand among competition when other companies are being run from older more experienced professionals?

FS: All managers have strengths and weaknesses. The older ones are generally more experienced and become more easily accepted from the business external and internal environment. The latter was probably my biggest challenge. One the other hand we - the younger – are by average better educated and perceived as more conscious and moral professionals than the older ones. Hard work, low profile and passionate commission to the goals make the people I work with follow my choices and share my vision. And this is what makes me feel trusted by the customers and respected by the competition.

DPN: Who was the biggest influence in your life?

FS: In general I avoid creating models. I believe that every person has their own character and potentials. Nevertheless, I observe tactics, attitudes and behaviors and often try to utilize the experience, improve the practice and offer it to my potential observers. Members of my family and some teachers and friends have influenced me over time. I believe I have adopted the way my mother treats people and have been strongly influenced by my fathers’ detached wisdom. My grandfathers’ cold scientific blood and my uncles’ passion for development are also attributes that can be found in my personality. I believe though, that every single person we meet and consort with, leave their good or bad traces on us.

DPN: Living and doing business in Greece, being an active member of the country society, a country which is into deep recession, do you see any exit strategy of it from the current situation.

FS: Without getting deep into macroeconomics and finance I would say that the main problem today is lack of will. Individuals, investors and companies are reluctant to invest and consume, thus leading the economy to recession and lack of cash. In the same time, markets consciously overestimate the hazard of default and reflect this to the terms and interests they request in order to lend us money. Another chronic problem is bureaucracy and inefficiency in the public sector. This sums up both to reluctance of investments and to the terms of external financing. In order to exit the swamp government should focus on the real market. Capital markets are useful, but a healthy nation should be mainly base on real economy. This could be achieved by enabling flexible processes, by keeping a steady and fair tax system (high or low taxes is not that important as long as money returns to the tax payers through efficient public services and works) and by introducing healthier labour and insurance laws. In a shorter view government should focus on structuring a solid and respected profile. This would reduce fear and enable domestic investments and fair external financing. Obviously, most of the aforementioned thoughts are not innovative wisdom. Unfortunately though, common sense does not always seem that common...

DPN: In your opinion if a young person asked your opinion in which country to look for his future what would you recommend?

FS: In our traditional society there is high resistance to moving to a neighbouring city for work, fortiori to another country. Today, this is luxury that we cannot afford. Once we used to admire the so called “citizens of the world”. I believe that our generation should be ready to compose the “professionals of the world”. Regarding specific choices, this depends on the industry. For instance one could become an excellent professional farmer in Australia, a specialized shipbuilder in Japan, or a constructor in the Middle East. Furthermore, big opportunities arise in the so called Third World, in Africa, Afghanistan etc. This can be achieved either through companies or as entrepreneurship. Professional tourism shall be profit for the individuals as well as for the nation. Greece will be highly benefitted by attracting mental and material wealth created abroad by its own people.

DPN: What’s the most important lesson you have learnt in life?

FS: I feel it is early for me to answer such a question. Every single day offers me a smaller or bigger lesson. University offers lots of useful technical knowledge, but life lessons are usually more important. The most important thing life has taught me is the importance of people around you in everything you do. No matter how talented or passionate you are in something, you are not likely to achieve anything great if you are not surrounded by the right people. People are the most important capital. Friends, colleagues, partners, even competitors and enemies are the main factors that can help you create any kind of value. Only careful selection and thoughtful treatment of people around make you bigger and stronger. So to make a long story short... It’s all about people... And for me this is my main approach of things in any new attempt.

DPN: How would you describe Fanis with one phrase?

FS: Just a person who is dedicated to make his self and his environment little better than it is...

DPN: Business or politics is the next day for you?

FS: I make my living through my job and do not see politics as a profession. On the other hand, in order to deal with politics in a higher level than my current, one has to be highly dedicated to it. Up to now, I have been handling it without problems. In a future dilemma, I shall compare the potentials, take into account the conditions and the momentum and make decisions. So please, do not bring it down yet!

DPN: If you had the ability to turn the time back, tell us one thing that you would change in your life.

FS: If you asked me this question thirty years later, I would definitely have a list of things to answer. Today, what I would mainly change is that I would have been stricter with myself in younger ages, regarding personal and academic education. Probably I would have been more careful with people and conditions which I used to approach in a very unsuspicious attitude. Yet, in general terms I admit being satisfied with all that life has offered me up to now.