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Vol. XIV No. 40
Friday October 6 - October 12, 2006

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Local Personalities

Gerry Germenis

by Dr. Iain Corness

I personally find war abhorrent, but I am an ‘armchair’ critic as I have never been directly involved in one. On the other hand, the ever-smiling Gerry Germenis, the general manager of ESC, has been through a war, a protracted 12 year war in what was then Rhodesia, and is now Zimbabwe. “You gain an understanding of each other’s living through the war situation,” said Gerry. “Surviving it gives you a different perspective on life. The basic lesson in life is that it (life) is short, so make the most of it.” What is more, Gerry believes that being through the war gave him discipline, a camaraderie and respect for others. “You learn to adapt. It makes you stronger, gives you more empathy and you fear nothing.” Gerry Germenis is a very positive man to get all that from what I consider to be a very negative state of affairs.
Gerry looks Greek and is Greek, even though he was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare Zimbabwe). His forebears had come to Africa in 1885 from Greece, with his grandfather helping to build the railways over there. His father ran an import-export business there in Rhodesia, and his mother was also Greek, the sister of the Greek Orthodox Bishop for Africa. The bloodline back to Greece is strong!
He was not a particularly diligent student, being somewhat of a rebel, but cheerfully admits he was straightened out by his elder brother and his parents, and so went on to study a Chartered Secretarial course for four years, graduating when he was 20. He was then inducted into the Rhodesian Army for 10 months of National Service training. International forces were then to shape his life for the next 12 years. Rhodesia’s Ian Smith declared his Unilateral Declaration of Independence and a war resulted over land issues.
Gerry joined the Territorial Army, being placed in the Signals Corps, as they were threatened on all fronts. Russia and East Germany were in Mozambique and the Chinese and the Cubans in Zambia. They were fighting a majority group which had many years of repressed anger and desires, and who by then had some fairly influential neighbors! “We learned to live with guns,” said Gerry. “You went to bed with a gun under your pillow.”
However, he was also working as a financial controller during that time, as well as the army duties, but when the Robert Mugabe forces won the election, and took the reins of power, Gerry knew it was almost the time to leave the land of his birth. He and his wife left Zimbabwe and their home and went to South Africa, to start anew.
After five years there he did well, branching out on his own as a business consultant and opening up another company, but the writing was on the wall there as well. Political forces were making it such that they knew they would have to abandon what they had achieved in South Africa. Their next port of call was to go to the UK.
All through the interview, Gerry spoke very highly of his wife, who has been a strong supportive force in his life. To acknowledge this, they even renewed their vows while in the UK, and they remain happily married after 25 years. “We do things together,” said Gerry, referring to his wife again.
They opened a pub in St. John’s Wood in London, after Gerry studied and passed the certificate as an Innkeeper, something that was a prerequisite before throwing open the doors. “It was the first time I was on the wrong side of a bar,” said Gerry. He did not like it much either. “It was all brawn and no brain. It was sheer hard work, and life was difficult.”
His wife suggested that they look elsewhere to live, to get away from the wet British weather if nothing else. Australia looked interesting to Gerry, but Australia was not interested in him, as he was over 40 years of age. It was then that a friend suggested Thailand, a country that neither of them knew much about, other than its rough geographical location! Initially they came out for a month, looking at the hospitality industry.
Serendipity happened, as he met Steve Graham who had just started the security company ESC, dealing mainly with the hospitality industry, and Gerry joined the fledgling company. During his tenure in the past five years he has seen the workforce grow to 450 personnel and the scope of ESC diversify into the management of housing developments as well as the hospitality industry.
Obviously Gerry has to work in with the local Thai people all over Thailand and he enjoys working across cultures. “You have to tailor yourself (and your approach),” said Gerry. However this has been a very pleasant and rewarding experience for him. “I have the pleasure of living and working in Thailand. I love it here. I think I’ll die here.” In fact he stated that he has no real ambition to do anything else (other than ESC).
When I enquired about hobbies, he said he had three. “Work, work and work!” However he did say that he enjoyed quality time with his wife, and also a fondness for travel. “I’ve seen a fair amount of the world, it’s another education. I’ve lived in Africa and compared that with Greece. You learn to take things in your stride, and become tolerant.” At the mention of Greece, Gerry’s eyes lit up. “It’s the magnetism that draws you back to your roots. The food, the wines, the sunsets.” He may have lived all over the world, but Greece is still his home.
Gerry does have a five year plan, but it is not really for himself, but is more for the ESC company. “I want to see ESC expand and develop a strong business. I want to see the Thai people learn from it.” Again showing his concepts in cross-cultural relationships. “I’ll die working,” said Gerry.

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