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Visionary leadership keeps the focus on simplicity

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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With the end of the year just one day away, what better time is it to have a noted and proven leader here in Northwest Indiana communicate his thoughts about leadership? Gus Olympidis is the president and CEO of Family Express Corp. with corporate headquarters located in Valparaiso.

For those who may not know, Family Express was founded in 1975 with one convenience store. Today this regional business serves Northwest and North Central Indiana; has grown to 60 convenience stores and fuel stations; and employs 475 employees.

What is also interesting to note that many people may not know about this regional business is the following:

• 31 communities served

• 9,200 different items sold

• 350 not for profits, schools supported

• Economic engine with $12,800,000 in projected wages for 2013

• More than 25,545,000 customer visits in 2013

And when it comes to fuel (gasoline) prices, the price at the pump reflects $.365 in federal and state gas taxes.

Before sharing Olympidis’ thoughts on leadership, I believe it is important to recognize that his organization is in a state of continual improvement from its supply chain logistics to its use of “cutting edge technology as well as its “living brand” with those all too familiar words on their doors of “Our Family Serving Yours.” The Family Express goal from my perspective is to make all interactions as simple as possible without sacrificing quality or that personal, human touch so often lost in large, mid-size and even small businesses.

Q: What five words or phrases would you use to describe a leader?

A: • Simplifier

• Principled

• Passionate

• Visionary

• Delegator

Q: From your perspective and experience, how much do positive core values play in the role of being a leader?

A: “You can’t be a great leader without the presence of positive core values.”

Q: What has been the one most consistent or repetitive challenge you have faced in any of your business leadership roles?

A: “The most consistent or repetitive challenge for me has been my passion for an issue often misinterpreted by those that are insecure about change and are lacking vision.”

Q: For Northwest Indiana to be a viable business community, is there one action that could be taken to jump start the economy?

A: “Consolidate government”

Q: Are there any final thoughts or words of wisdom you wish to share?

A: “The Chicago Cubs will be as bad next year as they were last year, maybe even worse.”

After speaking numerous local business leaders, Olympidis delivered the shortest and most concise interview to date. He reaffirmed the necessity of positive core values and went one step beyond by identifying what is sometimes holding progress back here in Northwest Indiana as well as world. Also, he understood how humor is part of leadership.

Knowing how busy he is, I do so appreciate him taking the time to share his thoughts about leadership, his business, business in general and Northwest Indiana. In 2014, I will continue to interview local business leaders and will be asking these very same questions.

P.S. Shout Out – To all who read this weekly column, may 2014 be even better for you than 2013.



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