The Power of a Good Story

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As we celebrate our nation’s independence on Friday, one word that enters my mind is ‘sacrifice.’ Like many Americans, I’m the descendent of immigrants who came here in search of a better life; an opportunity to lay a foundation for future generations.

So I thought it might make sense to deviate from the usual locum tenens topics and tell you a story. This industry doesn’t lend itself to in-person interaction on a regular basis. Every day business is done by phone or email. It’s natural to look for ways to make the relationship more personal. Generally speaking, every locum tenens company offers very similar services. As marketers we’re challenged with setting our firm apart from others, and that’s a difficult challenge when everyone says they’re different from one another in much the same way. “We’re different because (enter current marketing strategy here. I.e. people, our process, the customer experience, our growth, our beliefs, and so on).

What do you do when words and slogans are so overused that they become trite?

Just be yourself.

When I introduce myself to someone for the first time, they invariably go straight to the origin of my last name. Most say, “Gianas, is that Italian?”

“No, it’s Greek,” I explain. “The original name was Gianacopoulos.” And if the opportunity presents itself, I tell the story of my grandfather. His name was Thomas Gianacopoulos.

I’ve repeated the story throughout my entire life and will make sure it’s passed on by future generations. He’s one of the people I admire most. It’s an honor to carry his legacy.

And you know what? I never met the man. He died before I was born. But you don’t always have to meet people for them to have an impact on you.

Tell your story.

From what little my family has been able to gather through a copy of an old U.S. Census report; Thomas was born in 1895 in Sparta, Greece.

When his family had finally saved enough money, he boarded a boat bound for the United States sometime around 1908.

He was 13 years old.
He traveled alone.
He landed at Ellis Island, New York.
He didn’t speak any English.
He never saw his parents or his homeland again.

We know that there was already one relative of his here. After Thomas gained entry into the country, that relative picked him up and helped him in those early years.

Eventually he made his way to Chicago. With no formal education, he worked in a street market selling produce. He married and began his family on the near West side. The neighborhood was mostly Italian and Greek immigrants. Describing that neighborhood as ‘tough,’ would be an understatement. During the Great Depression they were evicted by a bank for their inability to pay the monthly mortgage payment. That amount was $41.

He regrouped, and had four sons. My Yia Yia (grandmother) saw all four sons leave to serve in the military at some point from World War II through The Korean War. All four returned home. Three are still alive today. The four brothers include my father Gus, born in 1927. I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone my age (Generation X) that has a father old enough to have been drafted into World War II. He had me when he was 48.

Like my father, Thomas’ other sons would go on to start families and careers of their own. One son went on to write a weekly financial column in the Chicago Tribune. Another son would become a professional musician –a jazz drummer. His son, my cousin Tom, is a professional comedy writer whose resume includes Second City and Saturday Night Live to name a few.

All of this started because of my grandfather’s sacrifice to come to this country. To me it is stories like this which defines us as Americans.

Now you know a little bit more about me and my family history in this country. But I’m just one person at this firm. Everyone here has their own story, and so do our customers.
I look forward to hearing your stories.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July.


Mike Gianas is the Director of Communications with Consilium Staffing

One answer

  1. John Moberly
    July 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    After I read Mike’s article, it reminded me that everyone truly does have a story to tell. Mike’s story made me proud to be an American and it also made me grateful for the sacrifices so many people for America. I too, am the son of an immigrant. My mother was born and raised in Hungary during WWII and the Communist regime. She left her homeland in search of a better life here in America. The sacrifices she made along the way were numerous and extensive. I will be calling my mother to thank her again for making those sacrifices. She paid it forward and set the example for me to follow.

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