We would like to thank andro.gr for its interview with the founder and president of the Hellenic Motor Musem, Mr. Theodoros Charagionis.
You can find the full transcript here [In Greek only]
When did the great life “journey” of your occupation began? What inspired you? Which was the initial “spark in spark plugs”?
As an infant; in early 50s, my father bought a plot in Castella Piraeus to build our next house. Since then, we lived close by and my parents strolled me there. It was a cliff with a breathtaking view that created awe. I remember that what I was looking at left me speechless. Watching the construction, I built houses out of clay, which I was collecting from the soiled then pavement, and dry them in the sun. These were my first constructions.
What “baggage” you always carry with you on the difficult path of accomplishment?
Ralleios model primary school, Ionidios model high school (Gymnasium-Lyceum), not a lost hour at the National Technical University of Athens, due to the dictatorship, followed by post graduate studies at Stanford and at Harvard. Continual updating of international conferences and hard work necessary to complete properly any non-ordinary work – and most of our buildings are at least unusual. Moreover, if we wish to bring prosperity back to our country, each one of us must work hard, further to duties politicians are called to do.
When do you “press the Accelerator” in a challenge and when you choose your security and “press brake”?
The way that I drive in the races is quite common with my professional involvement. In general, I was racing non-powerful cars, firstly because my family had major objections, so my budget was limited, and then by choice, since I didn’t like when someone wealthy bring a very powerful car and shatter the competition.
The above was the reason for my participation to the One Model Cup Championship, back in the 1970s, where all were racing with identical and normal cars. In a non-powerful race car, driver’s right foot should always be on the throttle, while handling the brake to maintain the momentum in turns, without getting out of the road. That’s the way I function in real life, the right foot always on the throttle.
From where do you draw the strength to continue, when you feel that you are in a “dead end”?
Vision is the basis for every great achievement. Its power and the joy of creation while completing a project, supply me with power needed to find outlets in “dead ends”, whose weight changes depending on the angle that you are looking at. When facing them, they look unmatched, but when you overcome they show insignificant.
What kind of “service” do you offer to yourself to rejuvenate and maintain efficient?
Two kinds of travels, a few days journey abroad for conferences, sometimes combined with a visit to a Museum, a Motor Museum preferably, or a bazaar for historic vehicle spare parts, to participate in an International Historic Cars Race, or just simple watching such a race. The Historic Le Mans and Historic Monaco, are ideal destinations.
When do you give the “wheel” of your life and career to partners, persons of trust, or people you love?
Although I believe that I am against nepotism, the truth is I did not manage to escape from the rule that runs family business. Instead of seeking the ideal executives for the various departments of the group, I’ve concentrated on next generations evolution. So, my two children, my nephew and my son in law – two civil engineers and two economists, all with MBAs – share with success the key administrative roles.
I must confess that there’s a point that I haven’t assigned yet to a colleague that is “concept design”; probably, this is my own fault as whenever a new development opportunity is rising, I rush to study it through design and economic process, usually on weekends, so I deliver it to my colleagues conceptually ready, for detailed architectural, legal and economic study.
What was the most decisive/pivotal/difficult moment in your own “circuits” of accomplishment?
From early 1960s, the Group had collaborated with excellent Greek architects, like the late Konstantinos Kapsabelis and Yannis Vikelas. In 1985, I decided to experiment with an Internationally prototype draft, the creation of a small urban shopping center, within the shell of a preserved national heritage building and in a popular shopping area; the Tsakalof pedestrian street in Athens. The building was MELATHRON Tsakalof 5, and was awarded by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), in 1990 in Helsinki, for the “for the significance of imaginative optimization of land”, while it entered the Guinness book of records as the smaller shopping center in the world.
This award gave me special recognition in ICSC, the largest organization of commercial property in the world, while in 1993 I was invited to join in their Jury Committee and in 1997 took the Presidency for three years.
When you encounter a significant difficulty, do you continue straight forward (in the vision/objective), or sometimes “turn the wheel”?
Major projects have specific difficulties, particularly in our country with the combination of bureaucracy/legislative complexity. Locating the target, patience and hard work are the components of success for such projects. Think how poorer would Messinia be, if late Cpt. Vasilis Constantakopoulos did not insist for Costa Navarino for over 30 years.
Took us 10 years to implement Capitol and Hellenic Motor Museum, while we’re waiting 17 years already for the “Aegean Park”, a large shopping center in Neo Faliro, next to Karaiskakis stadium, whilst for completing Hermion in Plaka, a traditional commercial center linking Plaka Andrianou street with Monastiraki Pandrosou and Hephaestus streets we are approaching 40 years. The first phase of the project was completed and in operation since 1980 and so has become the first Mall in the country.
In a seemingly insuperable odd with an important partner, when do you select the ‘ conflict ‘?
Rationality should be the regulator in every relationship, professional, family or social. There are however cases that even highly skilled people, typical exponents of correctness, diverted, usually from psychological or emotional causes. In these cases, a minor, temporary conflict is necessary as the appropriate solution.
In the long journey of success/accomplishment, did ever occurred your mind just to “shut engine”?
Not even once! I still have a whole year before getting 70 and, judging from my father who began thinking about pension after 90 (!), and if God’s will is not different, I feel that I have much more to offer.
“Everything is as highway”. Your comments, your implementation?
As a strict judge of my acts, after every difficulty I examine whether the steering wheel was stiffly kept. I do believe, target is to learn from mistakes always, either yours or others, to prevent repeating and preparing to deal with any new ones. Each family or business is a “highway” and the life itself is the same.
How would you like to be remembered you when the time comes to pull “Handbrake”?