What Stavros Niarchos Can Teach Us About Re-framing and Seizing Opportunity

Stavros Spyros Niarchos was a revolutionary entrepreneur who seized opportunity when the economy was down, and reversed fortunes in order to flourish. As a Greek shipping magnate operating primarily in the early 1900’s, Niarchos was able to amass a personal fortune of an estimated four billion dollars, when inflation is factored in. As the world was becoming more globalized, Niarchos recognized that there was an opportunity in the maritime freight industry. Once a cargo ship was obtained, the cost of moving cargo was relatively inexpensive, compared to other means of transportation. International waters connected Niarchos ships, to other ports far and wide, and allowed for sufficient and efficient trade, worldwide.

The introduction of Niarchos into the shipping industry was an act of serendipity. As the great depression of the 1930’s neared, Niarchos had to cast aside his education as a lawyer in order to aid in his families flour-mill business. Early on, Niarchos was able to recognize that it would be more efficient and cost-effective to cut out external freight companies, and find their own means of importing the Argentinian flour to Greece. As a natural entrepreneur, Niarchos was able to see opportunity where others did not. During the depression of the 1930’s, many people chose to be conservative with their finances and reduce spending and consumption. Niarchos reversed this style of thinking, and decided that it could prove to be more profitable, to take advantage of the deflated prices of goods. He convinced his family to purchase seven freight ships in order to comprise a fleet of vessels to transport goods.

As World War II approached, once again Niarchos sought opportunity. As trade seized over the course of the war, Niarchos looked for other means of profitability for his fleet of ships. He remained profitable by leasing out his ships to allied forces. Although Niarchos was able to capitalize on a down-trodden market, he still faced a great deal of hardship, losing six of his cargo ships during the war. The devastation of the war alone would be enough to discourage many, but additionally, Niarchos lost the majority of his fleet. However, Niarchos did not decide to grieve or remain dispirited. Rather, he took the money gained from insuring his destroyed vessels and decided to reinvest that money to reinvent his fleet. Once again, Niarchos seized opportunity, buying excess Liberty Cargo ships, and T2 tankers that were produced over the course of World War II. Rather than focusing on the destruction that resulted in World War II, Niarchos focused on the fact that the world would need to rebuild. In order to rebuild, goods would need to be supplied from coast-to-coast, or in his case, port-to-port. Niarchos mobilized by building Greece’s first shipyard, post World War II and proceeded to build his shipping empire even further.

“You can never tell what ships are worth.” – Stavros Niarchos

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Niarchos was a master of reframing circumstances and putting things into a different perspective. He proved this by building an empire during two of the most dire periods in human history; the Great depression and World War II. By keeping his focus and attention on his enterprise, and thus his ability to continually reframe his circumstances, Niarchos was able to overcome the many obstacles that he faced. In doing so, Niarchos constantly saw opportunities where others did not. Stavros Niarchos is a testament to the power of remaining optimistic, taking calculated risks, and reframing hardships. When times are dire, it is your choice to see the glass as either half-full or half-empty. However it is how you see things that directly impacts your course of action. Remaining focused and motivated, rather than discouraged is the optimal method of achieving your objectives and reframing difficult circumstances is the best way to do so. Mr. Niarchos’ success was predicated upon his ability to re-frame and therefore, seize opportunity. Those who achieve success can apply his method, in order to attain it.