April 30, 2017
Chris Kalentzos is the founder and CEO of MARVA The Galleria of Stone. He is originally from Greece, but has lived in the United States since he was nine years old and developed his love for stone at an early age.
As the leader of MARVA, Chris sets the tone in providing a genuine, heartfelt, and unique experience for all of our industry partners and homeowners while challenging himself and MARVA’s team, daily, to strive to exceed industry expectations. Chris prides himself on servant leadership, and has an ardent desire to gain a clearer understanding of the ever-evolving wants and needs of MARVA’s customers.
To honor MARVA’s 30 years in business, Chris sat down to answer some questions about his approach to leadership and why he loves his company.
Q: How did you get started working with natural stone, and why did you choose this industry?
I had a very good friend from college, whose family had invested in a factory in Greece, and they were state-of-the-art, producing marble. So he said to me, “You seem like a good salesperson, a good entrepreneur; how would you like to do something and work for yourself, and I’ll get you started?” And that’s pretty much how the journey began.
Q: What do you like about working with natural stone?
Any time you work with something that is created by the universal power, which is what we refer to as God, how can you not enjoy it? Anything that’s natural -- being outdoors, doing anything with nature -- we’re connected with it. We’re a part of it.
Q: What's your favorite part of your job?
Problems --> Solutions --> Monetization. There’s no such thing as a business that won’t have its challenges, so you can either react to them or you can identify them, solve them, and then you’ll make money from it. That’s what a problem is to me; it’s an opportunity. It’s not something where the world is coming to an end -- no. It’s the reverse of that. Everything has a solution, and most of the time problems aren’t really problems.
Q: What was the biggest mistake you ever made, as a business owner/CEO? What did you learn from the experience?
I’ve made some mistakes where I got too aggressive and went after something very hard to find out that financially, it was not sustainable without stressing and hurting the company at the same time.
Patience is a virtue, and even today it’s my biggest struggle, because I’m very aggressive. But when it involves other people as well, you need to make sure that everyone is prepared.
I like to think of myself as a visionary, and vision means I can see what is coming before it’s here. So sometimes I want to get a little bit too quick out there to do it, and you have to take trends into consideration. The idea is ready when you also have the strength and the money behind it to get it done. So I have to adjust to think, “Can we afford this big idea?”
Q: What was the best decision you ever made, as a business owner/CEO? What made it a valuable decision?
I have to say, getting my family involved. It’s a business that all my family members –- my children and my wife –- are all involved in, and it’s probably the most difficult thing to do, but if you can master the craft of that, then the rewards are very, very vast, because you have people you can trust. My wife was my partner from the beginning, and then when my children (Costa, Tania & Tina) grew up, we brought them in, and it was the best thing I did.
Q: What is your philosophy when it comes to your personal and professional life?
Build winners. I love helping other people reach their true potential, especially when I have a company that I can’t run by myself. So if I can see the value in people and what they can be, instead of who they are today, and I can enhance that, I build a lot of loyalty, and they enjoy having me as a leader. I make it inclusive to what we’re trying to do, but help them realize their potential, if they’re unsure how to tap into it or seize it.
It’s a gift –- I call it a gift. It has nothing to do with how smart you are, or what school you went to, but it’s how I perceive people. I can see strengths that they don’t even know they have.
Q: If you could tell yourself at the start of your career one thing, what would it be?
Don’t give up.
Q: Did you come close to giving up a few times?
Of course; otherwise, I would not be human. There’s an old story that says when the student is ready, the teacher will show up. I was very receptive to that power, and I was very lucky – I call it luck, that’s just an easier way to understand it, but I always had that advice in critical times. So that’s what I try to do for other people. That’s what I really enjoy, to give something back by helping people become as successful as they can possibly be.
I don’t believe in “me, myself, and I.” It’s not about how much I can take, or that if you become too successful you’ll compete against me -– I don’t believe that. It’s too vast. It’s too big. There are plenty of resources out there.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received?
My mother gave me this advice that I didn’t understand at the time, because I didn’t have the wisdom to catch it. She said, “Son, you are blessed with everything you could ever want. All I can ask of you is never to hurt people for what you want to do.” At the time I thought, “What the heck did she just tell me?” because I was a young teenager.
But then I understood. She’s telling me, you don’t need to cheat and hurt other people to get what you want. You will have it. And I saw it along the way. One day it just clicked and I thought, “Now I know exactly what she meant.”
The universe is so abundant. It’s like going to the ocean and asking, “Can I take a couple buckets of water?” You can have a whole truckload. You can have as much as you can carry. Shiploads. Whatever you want. Because it’s so vast.
When you do good, you’ll find good; if you do bad, the universe will punish you right back.