Don't be selfish: share your knowledge with younger generations, advises Danae Bezantakou
Just as someone taught you everything you know, you should transmit your knowledge to the next ones and give them space to evolve.
Danae Bezantakou, Managing Director of Navigator Shipping Consultants Ltd and President of the iforU Greek mentoring network
- Navigator Shipping Consultants Ltd offers services to all Greek-based shipping companies
- Danae organises an annual shipping forum, one of the biggest events in the sector, bringing together around 400 decision-makers and speakers from all over the world
- iforU is a non-profit organisation supporting young women entrepreneurs through mentoring and networking
Apart from being managing director in her family business, Danae Bezantakou is a founding member of four non-profit organisations. She believes that supporting young entrepreneurs in the shipping sector is crucial to tackling the economic crisis and remaining the global leader in the industry. “We need to bridge the generation gap and invite young people to learn from older ones,” she says. In her interview with WEgate, she admits it is not always easy to run a business, especially in this traditionally male-dominated sector. However, the uncertainty of immediate profit, the irregular and long working hours and the enemies you can make along the way, should not bring you down but should motivate you to be stronger.
WEgate: You currently occupy senior positions in several different companies and organisations. How do you manage to juggle it all?
Danae Bezantakou: “If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life.” This quote definitely applies to my everyday life. Working in the two basic pillars of the Greek economy, namely shipping and tourism, makes me feel proud as it enables me to be creative, innovative and productive. The sense of accomplishment I feel every time I reach a goal motivates me to keep going and to start working on the next one. Also, I believe that crises create opportunities. Anyone committed to what he or she does and is trying to improve always gains something and becomes stronger.
What kind of support, if any, did you receive when you started out in your career?
My family – not only as parents but also as mentors and colleagues. They were the first to believe in me. As our family business has been active in the maritime and tourism sectors for 25 years, I had the chance to quickly learn how these sectors work. However, this does not mean that it was easier for me because I was their daughter. I had to take decisions and responsibilities that would not only affect my personal life but my family’s, too. In Greece, SMEs represent 95% of all enterprises. The advantages of working in a family business are the family bonding and the principles the company is based on.
Have you ever experienced gender bias in the workplace?
The truth is that in the maritime sector 95% of the managerial positions are male-dominated. It is also a reality that women and men have different pros and cons as managers. Women seem to be better multi-taskers. They have to endorse several roles and force themselves to be good at all of them. My personal view is that if women try to put their priorities on the table – personal and professional – and work hard with love and passion, nobody (or at least not the majority) will question their capacities in the job.
How did your own experiences inform your decision to set up the iforU mentoring network?
In 2011, I represented Greece in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) ‘Women in Leadership’ organised by Hillary Clinton. One hundred women from 92 countries participated in the programme. When I came back, along with seven other women, we decided to help young women along their entrepreneurial career paths. Women entrepreneurs are afraid of taking risks and thinking big; they tend to underestimate themselves.
I believe that mentoring can help them boost their confidence and be proactive. Women like to give and listen to advice. That’s why mentoring is crucial: expertise and knowledge in business matters are transferred from the mentor to the mentee and back again. I personally believe that mentoring and volunteering are key tools in crisis times. Being an entrepreneur myself made me want to help other women overcome the obstacles I had met. That's how iforU Greek Mentoring Network was born.
What is your top business tip for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
If you love what you do, there is nothing that should stop you. The answer to anyone who questions you should be ‘watch me do it’.
What advice would you give new entrepreneurs? Any particular advice for female entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur means that there is no immediate profit or specific schedule. As Lori Greiner said, “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week”. So you need to be devoted and patient.
Also, success in your job will make you meet your true friends and your enemies. Not all people will be happy watching you succeed and not all of those who are happy with your success want you to become better than them.
Lastly, you should remember that just as someone taught you everything you know, you should transmit your knowledge to the next ones and give them space to evolve.
“Ambition and vision are essential for the new generations.” That’s the path that I have followed and I hope you will also.