Know this is not going to last. One thing that history teaches us is that we have been through this many times in the past and we have always ended up fine. It amazes me to see that in all of this uncertainty there are so many great examples of kindness and solidarity amongst neighbors and strangers.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stefanos Makrymichalos.
Stefanos obtained a bachelor’s degree in international business, and a Marketing degree from Otterbein University, Ohio. Shortly after his graduation, he moved to London where he resided for four years, and started his career in marine insurance, specializing in the risk management and claims management of mega yachts. In 2005 he co-founded one of the leading yachting companies in the East Mediterranean. Stefanos is currently living in Fort Lauderdale, USA. With his wife and son. He is a partner and the CEO of IYC.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Ilike to start by thanking you for reaching out to me so we can have this conversation.
I’ve always been curious and inquisitive and never feared of venturing into new things, especially when others told me I could not. I never regretted the mistakes I made. Instead, I learned from them and kept trying until I eventually succeeded. From the late 90s till 2004 I was employed in the insurance sector. Out of a series of coincidences I ended up working for three companies, all of which were in some sort of distress and I was on the teams that were tasked with restructuring the firms to get them back to profitability. By the age of 30,bnb ghI was eager to start a business of my own, but it was not until I was 35 that I wrote a business plan for a company that would offer a selective range of services to UHNW yacht owners. This was the roadmap for what is today the International Yacht Company, IYC. My vision from the beginning was for IYC to be the leading international company in yachting. I saw an opportunity to enter the very competitive space of yachting by offering specialized yacht insurance solutions and then progressively expand into other product lines (namely Yacht Management, Charter Management and Yacht Sales). By 2014 we had reached our growth potential and were by far the largest yachting company in the East Mediterranean with offices in Malta, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece and Turkey. It became clear that if we were to continue growing, we had to expand to the west. To do so, it made more sense to acquire a company with presence in the new territories we wanted to expand in, rather than grow organically. That is when we came across the opportunity to purchase INTERNATIONAL YACHT COLLECTION a U.S. company that was in trouble, but still held a stellar reputation. The acquisition took place in May 2015 and the new company that emerged carrying the IYC brand has since then quadrupled in size.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I enjoy reading books and try to read several in a year on many different topics. Biographies are by far my favorite, but I also love books on history. I turn to reading when I am looking for guidance or inspiration, but always keep an open mind. You never know when something you read can help you find a solution to a problem which is completely irrelevant to the topic of the book you read. For example, I have found wisdom on solving business problems from history books as well as in books on how to grow your garden. One of the books that I recommend is THE INNOVATOR’S DNA by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clay Christensen. The book looks into the underlying qualities of certain people who turned an idea into a successful business. This book gave me inspiration to think outside the box and the motivation to challenge the norm.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
So much is said and written every day about this new pandemic that is starting to make some people depressed and others indifferent. In my opinion, this is not going away, and it is just one more thing that we will all come to terms and learn to live with. As Michael Crichton wrote in his book JURASSIC PARK, “life will find a way.” It always does. I am by no means an expert or in a position to make a prediction on how and when we will return to normality, but if there is one thing that I am absolutely certain of, it is that we will.
- Quality family time. I have been so busy with work during the last five years, constantly traveling and in meetings or conference calls every day, until late hours. I had lost touch with my immediate and extended family. This is the longest period I can remember myself staying at home with my family, having three meals together, playing board games, talking and just being with each other. I came to realize how much I had missed this, and I am glad that I am given the opportunity to reconnect.
- Time to take a break. We are now entering week three since IYC implemented its “work from home” policy to our 14 offices around the world. Although I truly enjoy spending quality time with the family, I have to confess that the first few days I was very frustrated with everything that was going on. Staying at home added to this frustration. By the end of last week however I came to realize that I had become obsessed with all I was reading or hearing, and my focus was getting “muddy.” It was then when I decided the time had come to take a break from all the noise. I switched off the TV and just read the latest news developments once a day. I now spend the rest of my time on other matters and predominately on being creative.
- Discover new opportunities. Staying home does not mean that I am not still working with my team. To the contrary, this situation has given us more focus and we now have the time to look into new directions that we had not in the past. We are developing new connections and through these connections, new opportunities arise such as our exclusive business partnership with MAGELLAN JETS one of the leading private jet companies. Joshua Hebert, CEO of MAGELLAN JETS and I recently connected and we’re both pleased to discover how much our companies share in common. We quickly agreed on the principal terms of this partnership and now IYCs’ and MAGELEN JETS’ marketing teams are working on some very exciting new projects that we will be jointly launching. I would not have thought of looking in this direction at times when “business as usual” absorbs much of my focus.
- No more procrastinating. I decided to put together a list of the things that I have been putting off such as assembling the new shelves in the garage to store loose items, or trying out the new restaurants that recently opened up in my city, visiting my best friend from collage in Nevada, or taking that yacht cruise to the Greek Islands (believe it or not it has been years since I did this last). I came to realize that ALL of the things on my list I could have done before this pandemic broke out, but I did not because I procrastinated. This has now changed. Maybe I cannot try out new restaurants, visit my friend or go on a yacht cruise now (I am definitely going this summer), but at least I have put up the shelves in my garage and fixed countless other things around the house.
- Know this is not going to last. One thing that history teaches us is that we have been through this many times in the past and we have always ended up fine. It amazes me to see that in all of this uncertainty there are so many great examples of kindness and solidarity amongst neighbors and strangers. Even in a business where it is natural to compete, I have witnessed more support and camaraderie amongst rival companies than I am used to.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I have done no reassurance on the matter, but from experience I can say that there are literally dozens of things that one can do to help those close to them manage the anxiety that we are all naturally feeling at times like this.
- It starts with taking care of ourselves. We need to first be in a good place to help others and to do so we need to take a break from all the noise in order to focus on the solution and not on the problem.
- Communicate frequently and listen. Let others talk and do not interrupt. Then offer advice on one thing at a time. People who are frustrated have a very short attention span.
- Be a friend. Make a gesture of good will to those you know need help. We have a lovely lady that comes to our home once a week and helps with the housework. We continue to deposit funds in her account every week although she is not coming to our house. We expect nothing back.
- Keep them occupied. In my experience, there is nothing worse than having nothing to keep your mind busy. Give those people around you tasks or projects and have them work collectively. It is important to set a deadline by which time they must have completed each project.
- Read a book. Getting into the habit of reading books is like starting to work out. The first seven days is hard to get motivated, but then it becomes addictive. Books are a good distraction and have positive side effects like learning new things.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
I am by no means qualified to answer this question, but what I have found is that a true friend is the best resource to manage anxiety. Someone that you can confide your fears and who will listen without judgement. Sometimes just talking about it helps more than the good advice you might receive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I think that it was Seneca that coined the phrase, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” and it is what drives my business decisions. It is easy to be impulsive and keep chasing “opportunities” without being ready to harvest them, which moves you further from your goals. I came to realize this when I was in my 30s. Until then I was chasing the entrepreneurial dream in every direction and no matter how much I wanted it or how hard I tried, I could not make it work. It was after I stopped chasing the dream (believe it or not) and focused on that one thing that I knew that I was really good at, that it started coming together. I kept honing my skills and educating myself until I became an authority. Then I waited until the right opportunity came along. Those who gave me the opportunity trusted me because I had the experience and a proven record of successfully completed projects.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are many great people out there already doing amazing things. Clearly the one thing of focus is giving back to the planet what we have been selflessly taking away since the industrial revolution. We live in an unbalanced ecosystem at this is not sustainable. So, to answer your question, I don’t want to start a new movement; but I do want to be involved in some form of helping the environment. It amazes me to read what people are doing to raise awareness from the little-known young Madhav Subrmanian all way to the world-famous Greta Thunberg and Leonardo DiCaprio.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
I think the best place to find out more about me and IYC is on our website www.IYC.com.