People confuse luck with skill on the way up – and down, says Stelios

For example, the easyCar business operates in more than 2,400 locations
in more than 60 countries; easyBus began operating in July 2004 and
offers a low-cost express minibus service between Luton and Stansted
Airports to Central London; and his easyCruise business, a no-frills
cruise ship targeting the 18-40 age group, operates in the
Mediterranean and now the Caribbean.

In fact think “easy” and you’re thinking cheap, cheerful – and bright orange.

To be fair to Stelios, he’s not pretending to be anything else, and he
admits that the initial idea of requiring easyCruise customers to be
responsible for all room cleaning or incur a penalty charge “didn’t go
down too well”.

But despite the basic offerings, most of his businesses have thrived
and he is one of the UK’s best-known entrepreneurs – odd, since he is
Cypriot.

With his father a successful shipping magnate, Stelios is the first to
admit that his is no classic rags to riches story of entrepreneurship.
But while he talks about “luck”, there’s a bit more to it than that.
The branding is in-your-face, the service acceptable, the price cheap,
the legal protection of the “easy” brand vigorous. Yet Stelios is
realistic about his own abilities. “I know most of my decisions are
half chance anyway,” he says, “so the sooner you realise that, the
fewer mistakes you will make.”

He’s too modest. Educated at the London School of Economics, he
followed that up with an MSc in Shipping, Trade and Finance from Cass
Business School at City University, London. He worked for his father
for a while in 1988 and, aged 25, set up his own shipping company,
Stelmar shipping, a business he floated on the NYSE in 2001. In 2005 it
was sold to the OSG Shipping Group for approximately $1.3bn.

Stelios was recognised by the Queen for entrepreneurship in 2006,
receiving a knighthood, and also supports a range of charities and
scholarships. In 2007 he created the “disabled entrepreneur of the year
award” in the UK in partnership with the Leonard Cheshire disability
charity.

Warming to the “luck” theme, he adds: “Most people confuse luck with
skill on the way up and blame everyone else including the weather, but
not themselves, on the way down. The culture that allowed executives to
place one-way bets with other people’s money has a lot to do with this
major correction in asset values.”

Stelios says there is no secret to his success. It’s a question of hard
work, simple branding, a cheap but solid service and, of course, “some
luck”.

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