At twenty-two years of age, Greg Stamboulidis felt his career was mapped out. He was a teacher, and he would remain a chemistry teacher for the rest of his life. Today, Stamboulidis has a Doctorate in Strategic Business Systems and is the Managing Director of the Stambo’s Group of companies.
So what exactly happened, to turn a young teacher, passionate about sharing test tube experiments with school kids, into today’s hugely successful commercial entrepreneur? It began, like many migrant stories, with a truck. At the tender age of twenty-three, Greg’s career took a sharp turn. He bought a delivery truck, much to his mother’s consternation.
“You cannot imagine the disappointment on my parents’ faces when I announced that I would become a delivery driver,” Greg says, “I still remember my mum in tears, saying to me. ‘You went to uni to become a driver?!’ ” But Greg Stamboulidis’ truck driving journey went a lot further than most.
After doing the rounds for a few years, he launched his own business – Stambo’s, from a warehouse in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Over the next quarter of a century, Stambo’s became a national player; first in delivering high-quality foodstuffs to schools across Victoria, then production and nationwide distribution of seafood products. For Stamboulidis, his company (which now has fifty staff in Australia and overseas), remains very much a family business. Greg’s father, Haralambos, and brother-in-law Nicolas Athanasopoulos were natural additions to the company shortly after its inception. Dad passed away some years later, but to this day, Nick is the loyal partner that Greg, “trusts with his life.”
Today the Stambo’s Group consists of six separate companies. Total Shark, Gem Fine Foods, SunGems, Stambo’s Importing and Santa Sofia all deal with the different phases of the group’s product resourcing and development. A sixth company – Longview Height Property specialises in property development. Greg says a very profitable business in the group comes from the processing and distribution of its fish products.
More than half a million tonnes of fish fillets are used and traded every year through Stambo’s 5000 square metre processing facilities in Thomastown. Stambo’s is not just a major player in Australia but also overseas. Stambo’s is one of the biggest shark fillet importers in Australia. With company fishing vessels operating as far away as Peru, two new Stambo’s processing facilities are to be built overseas.
Greg came to Australia at the age of twelve from Mesokabo, a border town in Florina. “I worked hard, but it has paid off,” says the managing director, who considers, “The facilities you see around you, are all my office,” adding that his favourite space is the board room, with its whiteboard, where he regularly demonstrates to his colleagues future plans for the company.
Greg isn’t coy about sharing the secrets of his success. He’s a natural communicator and educator. As he shows me photographs of his students, (he lectures regularly in Business Studies at Victoria’s La Trobe Uni, the joy he still gets from imparting knowledge to young people is clear.
“I think that the most valuable contribution to the younger generation is to share with my students my experiences as a managing director. Knowledge opens our mind, changes our perspective and creates ideas.” “I was about 14 when I got my first job. We were poor and we all had to work hard. Every Friday afternoon when school finished, my friends would go to Leo’s billiard hall, but I had to get the tram and go to work at Barry’s cafe downtown. That moment, when the other boys turned right, and I turned left was a big thing for me. I will never forget it. I can’t complain though. From this job I learnt that integrity and honesty help to create good networks, a thing so important when you do business.”
Good quality and reliable service are the two crucial elements that Greg feels are vital for any successful business. “If your product is good, you’re punctual and reliable, you’ll maintain your clientele and you will create new customers.” Investing wisely for the future is a hallmark of Greg’s approach to sustaining any profitable business. He points to Stambo’s experience of having their supply of shark fillets threatened, seriously jeopardising their operations.
The solution to the problem was investment. Greg made the momentous (and expensive) decision to invest in their first fishing vessel; to boost the supply of the company’s product, and to become part of a new network of fishing ship owners, that in itself would help ensure a constant supply. Planning for the future has always been key to Stambo’s success. “If you run a business you aren’t allowed to live in the present. You have to think of the future.
The future of the product, problems that may arise, and will impact on the business. in our industry sustainable fishing is a major issue. We’re investing right now in this area. We have to, if we want to be around for another ten years at least.” Stambo’s Group is growing day by day. It’s success lies in its ability to see pre-empt problems, identify opportunities and look into the crystal ball of commercial opportunity.
With Greg and Nick’s capacity to keep their eye on the ball, the Stambo’s Group is always going to be winner.