“The sins of the father will be laid upon the children…”

…but what about the successes of the father? .
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Creating A
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Greek Grandfathers, Generational Grinders

“Who will I work for one day? Those words were never in my vocabulary.”

George Mavrookas is a Greek-American whose grandfathers both immigrated to the United States with pennies in their pockets. Both were in the restaurant business prior and both became millionaires within a decade of living in the States.

“There’s a big entrepreneurial spirit in my family and that was passed down to me at a young age,” Mavrookas recalled.

By the time he was in high school, Mavrookas was already fostering an entrepreneurial mindset. He remembers weekends spent working in banquet halls for his family’s catering business while his friends were hanging out at the mall.

Anyone who’s worked in the restaurant business is no stranger to hard work, so it’s unsurprising that Mavrookas opted to get his MBA soon after graduating with a business administration and finance degree from Lynn University.

“I went into the restaurant business for myself after college then sold it so I could work with my family’s businesses…,” he said.

This self-made story could have ended here, with Mavrookas working his way to millionaire status just like his grandfathers did.

But this is a story in which the successes, not the sins, of his entrepreneurial fathers altered his course.

“...and then my son was born.”

Mavrookas grew up in the industry; he knew what it entailed. If you’re not working with your family, you’d hardly see them. He wanted to be a different kind of dad, one that would spend as much time with his son as possible even if that meant not reaching the stratosphere of financial success.

“So I made the switch into real estate, but you know, God likes to laugh at our plans.”

Mixing Healthcare With The Hospitality Industry

“The American Dream for my grandfathers was to come to America and be successful. My American Dream is to have a legacy that I can pass down to my son which is the ability to impact, help, and heal people.”

Agape Behavioral Healthcare is a South Florida company that has an operational strategy similar to that of a boutique hotel. Rehab and vacation are two contrasting concepts, and yet, this hospitality perspective makes perfect sense in a healthcare context. Bespoke services cater to individual needs, as does a limited bed count to ensure all guests are given maximum, personalized attention.

But it wasn’t love at first sight for Mavrookas at Agape Behavioral Healthcare; he actually asked to be bought out six months after opening.

“I didn’t see eye to eye with my partners,” he said. “I ended up buying them out when they wouldn’t buy me out. All of a sudden, I was thrust into a business that I only intended on investing in passively and providing guidance for.”

Mavrookas was in the weeds.

He knew little about the behavioral healthcare industry. He knew he wouldn’t be able to attract the best talent available as a startup.

“Finding the key players was tough. There was a shuffle of employees over the first year. Some didn’t fit our culture; some didn’t share my vision. Others just didn’t believe that I could successfully lead a startup in this industry without experience.”

To find the right team for Agape Behavioral Healthcare, Mavrookas leaned into his intuition. He looked beyond resumes and searched for true character.

Even today, no applicant gets a job offer without having a one-on-one cultural interview with either Mavrookas or a member of his C-suite team.

“We really care here and I can’t teach that to someone. I can’t teach them why it’s important or how it’s important. Every person on our team has to want to care for our clientele. If you don’t believe it and you don’t breathe it, then you won’t do it.”

And if building a company culture wasn’t difficult enough, Mavrookas was challenged with creating a space for clients that catered to their healthcare needs in a new way.

Creating A Space For Healing & Hospitality

“At some point during the first year, one of my employees was frustrated and told me ‘you know, this isn’t the restaurant business, it’s the treatment business’. I told him that he didn’t understand that we weren’t in the treatment business at all; we were in the hospitality business.”

Mavrookas is not a medical doctor so it’s only natural that Agape Behavioral Healthcare doesn’t have patients, it has clients. Clients who are being housed and fed. Clients who are seeking a safe space where they can take the time they need to rest, relax, and rehabilitate.

Clients who want — and truly need — a personalized experience.

“We are a boutique behavioral healthcare company and I believe my background in hospitality enables me to look at operations in a different way. What do these clients see and feel when they first walk in the door? Does it give them the feeling that they’ll have a good experience? Do they feel good about themselves? We want to be very hospitable to every single person who walks through our doors.”

Of course, a behavioral health facility is no resort and the stakes are higher than potentially ruining someone’s vacation. One of Mavrookas’ challenges is to sustain the atmosphere he’s created — for both the staff and the clients.

“We screen our clients like we screen our employees,” he said. “We make sure that they meet our criteria and that we meet their needs. Everybody deserves a chance, but you also have to keep the community of staff and current clients in mind when deciding who can come into your facility. Do we want to help everyone who contacts us? Of course. Do we think we’re the 100% best fit for everyone? No, I don’t think any program is the perfect fit for every single person out there. It feels rude or unjust to say but we can’t be the right fit for everybody or we’d help nobody.”

As Mavrookas and his team prepare to open a mental health inpatient facility near their detox facility, he reflects on what the last six years outside of the restaurant industry have taught him about entrepreneurship, success, and being a father.

“I never thought I’d be in this industry and I’m proud of the work that we’re doing. It’s not only impactful on our clients but it’s impacting generations to come. When we can help break generational curses tied to addiction or mental health, we help their children and families, too. We get to leave a legacy that’s going to outlive us, which is pretty special.”

Although Mavrookas never envisioned life with Agape Behavioral Healthcare, he can’t see himself anywhere else. He’s thankful for his team, for the struggles he faced along the way, and that the success he has now feels normal and natural — even though his path to success was not the one his family had laid.

And as for the successes of this self-made father, Mavrookas prioritizes his relationship with his son and is mindful of how his success may reverberate on his family’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

“My son has a blessed life, and I’m very thankful for that, but I want him to understand what hard work is. He’s 10 and can’t come to work with me like I could with my family so I definitely want to teach him what it's like to work hard. To scrub toilets. To take out garbage and wash dishes. It'll build character for him. Otherwise, I'd be doing him a disservice. I think.”

Firsthand Advice From A 3rd-Generation Entrepreneur

Other Self-Made entrepreneurs have also said that they could tell their partnership wasn’t working by the six-month mark of their business. Could you share insight for how you recognize this reality?

Some people call it your gut. Some people call it intuition. Other people call it the Holy Spirit. If you feel knowledgeable, and you feel successful, and you feel confident in yourself and in your business acumen, you need to trust your intuition. You need to trust your gut. I just had a feeling and I knew it wasn't necessarily what was needed. And I've had a few of those in this business over the course of the years. But every time I’ve parted ways with someone it's been right. God's blessed us after and the business continued to grow and continue to prosper. It almost feels like the business would not have been successful if certain people had not been removed or if we had not parted ways with certain people. Because the blessing is not for everybody.

As an entrepreneur and a father, how do you juggle your demands at work and your needs at home?

That's the toughest, but like the easiest decision for me. Family and work balance is really important for us. My team knows the relationship I have with my son and how much time I spend with him; I’m just as invested in their families and their wellbeing. Company culture is everything to me which is why we have mental health days, health insurance with mental health benefits and low deductibles for therapy.

We want to practice what we preach. If we’re not in a good place, we’re not in the right place to help serve others.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs hoping for success in the digital space?

Hard work beats talent any day of the week, even online. You have to put the time in and discipline yourself. I think having a personal touch will set young entrepreneurs apart from their peers. With client communication: are you going to talk to them only through text and email or are you going to speak with them on the phone and see them in person or through video chat? Humans are relational; we crave human interaction. Working with your clients and showcasing that personal touch is key. People say word of mouth is the best referral that you can ever get. How are you going to get a word of mouth referral if you’re not out there sharing that personal touch with your clients?


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