CONNECTICUT.- “Education differentiates us and empowers us to elevate humanity to new heights,” Constantine ‘Deno’ Macricostas told a crowd of business leaders, academics and business students convened for the annual Quinnipiac University Business Leader Hall of Fame ceremony on March 26. “Within every individual exists a great potential—education is the key that unlocks that potential.”
As one of three 2004 inductees into the prestigious Hall of Fame, Macricostas, who serves as Chairman and CEO of global technology leader Photronics, was recognized for the vision and leadership he has brought to the Connecticut-based organization since he founded the company in a garage in 1969. Along with Macricostas, the university also inducted Bill Weldon, chairman and CEO of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, and Fred Mancheski, former chairman and CEO of auto parts manufacturer Echlin.
According to Mark Thompson, dean of the School of Business, Quinnipiac established the Business Leader Hall of Fame “to honor outstanding businessmen and women who have made significant and enduring contributions to their business and industry by exhibiting extraordinary leadership.” Previous inductees include Marvin and Murray Lender of Lender’s Bagels renown.
Photronics, with annual revenues of $350 million, has been a publicly-traded company since 1987 (Nasdaq: PLAB). With nine manufacturing facilities in North America, Asia and Europe, the company is the leading global supplier of photomasks, which are used in the fabrication of integrated circuits, or “microchips”.
“A photomask is essentially a glass plate onto which circuit designs are etched using a laser or electron-beam writer,” explains Macricostas. “These photomasks—or ‘reticles’—are used by semiconductor companies to pattern circuit designs onto a silicon wafer, which is eventually stacked against other wafers to form a single chip.”
For circuit patterns to migrate to smaller feature sizes—which allows computers and other electronic devices to perform more functions and to increase the rate of speed at which those functions are performed—there is a tremendous technological role that takes place at the photomask stage of the process. Under Macricostas’ direction, Photronics is leading the charge to allow leading-edge semiconductor companies to adhere to an aggressive industry-wide technology roadmap.
In videotaped comments, George Macricostas, founder and CEO of California-based RagingWire Enterprise Solutions (a provider of managed services and world-class data center infrastructure solutions), explained to the gathering how his father initially came to establish Photronics. “Back in 1969,” he said, “my father was working at Qualitron, and, as a design engineer, he noticed that there were many inefficiencies in the operations—that there was a great deal of waste. In spite of that, however, the company was making a profit. So he said to himself, ‘If they can do this and make a profit, so can I—in fact, I can do it better.’ So he decided to start his own company.”
As business grew, Macricostas was able to consolidate his industry, through the acquisition of both competitors as well as the internal mask shops of many of his customers. Under his leadership, Photronics—once the smallest of the 18 domestic photomask manufacturers—grew to become the leading global supplier of reticle solutions.
According to his son George, Macricostas’ success strategy is to a large extent based on his understanding of the competition and his customers.
“My father’s an avid reader,” says the 34-year-old IT executive. “He spends a great deal of his time studying his competition—knowing them better than they know themselves. He also dedicates extensive time trying to understand his customer’s needs. He’ll often say to me, ‘George, listen to your customer, in the end they’ll make you better.’”
“Photronics is a text book example on how a company can succeed by overachieving on the basic fundamentals,” said Michael McCarthy, Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications for Photronics. “As chairman and CEO, Deno has created a culture of outperforming. The entire worldwide employee base is intensely focused on outperforming the competition on every metric—customer service, technological advancement, flexibility, speed and cost efficiency.”
Macricostas’ story is that of the American Dream: A poor son of an Asia Minor refugee leaves war-torn Greece to pursue a college education. Making use of that education and his own entrepreneurial skills—honed from his experience as a 7-year old milk merchant in the streets of Pireaus—he sets out on his own and, with the aid of Small Business Administration loans, is able to grow his company to tremendous proportions. During a panel forum for the university’s business school students, Macricostas shared some of his experiences with the business leaders of tomorrow.
“The most important characteristic I look for in a leader is passion,” said Macricostas, who, at the age of 69, is filled with youthful passion and enthusiasm for his work. “Education is important, but today education is a given. The thing that differentiates one individual over another is his or her enthusiasm. Passion is contagious. If a leader is passionate, employees are inspired to perform.”
“As for mistakes,” he advised, “we all make them. The worse thing is to make no decision at all. When we do make mistakes, the trick is to put our egos aside and recognize our mistakes quickly and correct them. In business we’re called upon to make quick decisions. Sometimes we make the wrong decisions—this is natural.”
In accepting the Quinnipiac award, Macricostas emphasized the role that Photronics employees have played in helping the company to achieve its level of success.
“I want to thank the 1,500 employees of Photronics and those that came before them,” Macricostas told the gathering of Quinnipiac faculty, students and supporters, among whom was Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. “They are the heart of the organization, and it is because of their passion and dedication that we have grown to become our industry leader.”
In a poignant moment, Macricostas acknowledged the sacrifices his family made to send him to school. “My father, who was uneducated and, in fact, illiterate, considered educating his children to be his greatest achievement in life—tonight’s honor is as much his as it is mine.”
An active philanthropist, he continues to give back to society the gift that his father had given to him. Through his Macricostas Family Foundation, he has donated several hundred thousand dollars to the various programs of Hellenic Society Paideia at university campuses throughout the United States; created scholarship funds for children of Photronics employees as well as for students of Greek heritage; and will create a Chair in Hellenic Studies at Western Connecticut State University with a $1.1 million gift.
“In 387 B.C. Plato founded the Academy in Athens, the world’s first and longest surviving university,” he reminded the audience. “Its curriculum included astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory and philosophy. Its legacy, of course, is the global network of fine universities that lift individuals from poverty, from ignorance, from the limitations of the unexposed mind. These universities expand the horizons of our young people, who are our community, business and professional leaders of tomorrow. Education is our future.”