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Irene Notias

In spite of having grown up in New York and having worked for American multinational companies, Irene Notias decided to come back to Greece and launch a company that relates to bunkers at world-wide ports. Several years later, she talks to "Bridges" about her decision, about the factors that made her career "blosssom" in Greece, and also about her collaborations with Greeks abroad.

Businesswoman

Founder and Director of Prime Management Services

She came back to Greece to launch her own business

 Tell us about the company you run, "Prime Management Services" and your responsibilities.

 I service the Greek Shipping fleet with bunkers at world-wide ports. This means I have to source vetted fuel suppliers and establish trust between the customer and the supplier of fuel and sustain this relationship for all for win – win. This is a very competitive business, which its pricing method is basis many variables that fluctuate continuously according to the crude futures and as often as the sea waves go up and down. 

You lived abroad for quite some time, yet, you decided to return. What were the reasons for your decision?

   I was raised in NYC since I was 5 months old and returned at 33 years old to Athens, my birthplace. I wanted to experience the life my parents had but little did I know.  I was always safe and secure, and all was organized in NYC. I came back to live a life of beauty and freedom in what I pictured was Greece.

 

Given the course of your career over the years, do you feel your decision was the right one? Has the crisis which has "hit" Greece in the last few years made you consider leaving the country once more?

This is a key question. My career blossomed because the ingredients were just right and ripe.  I was in my environment by being in shipping which is internationally governed.  I was capable to offer a service which stemmed from being well organized, clear minded and open to new ideas and ways. I offered a very organized and transparent service that I learned from working in American multi-nationals that were too big to fail yet.  We didn’t need ISO in offices in NYC because we worked with organized efficiency and were effective. I brought this experience with me to Athens Shipping. 

Tell us, based on experience of the company you run, and more generally, how you see the conditions in the Greek market for entreprenuers and what you think  the prospects for the coming years are.

Having a business in Greece is scary and risky.  But it does not stem from Greece now.  The issues stem from Europe’s leading powers who obviously do not seem to care whether the small business owner fails or not. Every organization is much more focused on supporting young novice entrepreneurs who have more chance to fail than providing financial assistance to the middle aged entrepreneurs who are capable, have the know-how and who would employ the younger ones to learn from them before they set out to make their own mark.  So there is confusion in the commerce sector of Greece and maybe in Europe.  If I was not in Shipping, I wonder if I would have survived. My business is quite small and yet I am helping many people with jobs. I have to be very alert and creative to keep my company competitive and stay above water.  It is not the government who is at fault. It is the mind-set, the attitude, the lack of skills and know–how and the lack of teamanship to make Greece small business thrive here.  The tax rules are unstable and an owner cannot forecast accurately and therefore not sustain his business.  There is an imbalance of living standards that stem from the compensation of a worker.   How can ones salary be 800 euros at best when the rent is 500 and electric bill 300 and the heating bill 200 and the car gas 200?  How can one business be taxed for past years that they didn’t make any money? I had to pay taxes for 2014 again in 2016 because a law changed.  That stopped me from hiring another person that year because we allocated that money to taxes and yet we needed that extra person.  This short staff situation or low salary situation really damages the service and motivation of customer service reps to do a great job. Instead of motivating people with positive things, we are decreasing moral and damaging our own income. Therefore, all small business owners are waiting for the situation to change in their favor which is actually in favor of a robust economy, because you would be increasing consumer buying power. We are holding on by tooth and nail for rules and regulations to become practical allow for profit, while remaining stable, so we can manage our companies for success not failures anymore.  The people who I know that want to re-locate or invest are waiting, as well for this news.  Personally, I say if you can make it in Athens, you can make it anywhere.   Up to now, I can say that despite the later description, I might not have made a lot of money, but I did create, in a developing country with lots of issues, a professionally organized mini-corporation that competes in the international arena and has satisfied customer needs with success.  This is the footprint any modern day business wants to make.  So it is a mind-set.

 

Do you  have any contact with Greeks abroad through the company ? If so, how do you collaborate?

I know thousands of people in USA and other countries due to my work and background there.  The Ship owners in NYC who are Greek buy through us.

 

Would you use a tool like the "Knowledge and Partnership Bridges" to contact more Greeks abroad?

My job is already international and I speak to people all over the world on daily basis.  In any case, many people  in Greece would certainly need such tool. I think it is a great idea to open horizons for Greeks who cannot leave the country.

 

How important generally do you think it is for Greeks living in Greece to connect with Greeks abroad?

It is important but we have to go even further.  Bridges you already have with the diaspora.  You need to open your employees minds to work like those abroad that are excelling and adopt the methods and systems or the way they work, here.

 

Do you think the company you run  could attract Greeks from abroad who would like to return? Would you be interested in encouraging such people?

I think yes. I could hire a few NYC Greeks to work here for me but ofcource I cannot afford to give them the pay they are used to.