Born: Baghdad, Iraq
History: I’m of Armenian Christian heritage. I immigrated with my family to America in 1973, when I was 9 years old, and started Atlas Oil in 1985. That was at a time when my family owned some retail stations. One of our locations needed diesel. We had Shell Oil, but they didn’t have diesel, and one of our customers, a trucking company, needed diesel. So I searched and I got it done.
The rest of the other Shell dealers out there saw what I was doing and they asked if I could help them do the same. So I ended up helping out 250 to 300 stations. I named the company Atlas because I wanted it to be at the front of the phone book, and Atlas speaks strength. So from one truck, that is how we grew.
What are some of the best business lessons you’ve learned?
Don’t overpay for a company. If you buy right and then you have bumps on the road, you’ll still be OK. But if you buy (wrong) and there is a bump on the road, you’ll be in trouble.
Also, don’t fall in love with your assets. It’s OK if they’re not doing well, you have to let go. This is not a hobby; this is a business.
What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?
Being disciplined, having a vision, making sure you are a long-term player instead of a short-term player. Be consistent, don’t change your mind every day or just have a flavor of the day. And then you must be constantly raising the bar.
What are some universal truths you’ve learned about leadership?
In life, everything you do, you have to constantly improve yourself. I’m big believer that you have to learn every day. You have to improve every day. And you have to be challenged every day and really set a good example. A good leader has to be humble. I’m a big believer in humbleness, to treat everyone as you would be treated.
What is your definition of success?
Setting goals and achieving those goals. Seeing our people grow, not just making more money but seeing them achieve success themselves, that is very big for me.