Interview with Leonidas Patriotis

Interview with Leonidas Patriotis

23 June 2017
It supplies 2000 products which it introduced itself and distributes them to 1200 customers. From the Company’s 2000 sq.m warehouse with a capacity of 1200 pallets, it conducts 3,000 deliveries a month. “Thanks to its equipment and knowledge of the market, Leo. Patriotis Ltd is now able to do business within different areas of trade, constantly expanding its imports and its clientele”, says founder and Managing Director, Leonidas Patriotis.
It all started with 600 pounds.   Leonidas Patriotis returned from England in 1977, where he had studied and lived after the Turkish invasion, and despite Mr Patriotis’ degree in Aircraft Engineering, his plans in carving a career in commerce had already begun formulating.   
He purchased a car and filled it with goods which he began selling and distributing.  His wife took charge of the logistics.   
But this isn’t where this story ends.  
"My first move was to send letters to two factories in Spain and England requesting cooperation and they agreed.  This allowed me to order goods which only had to be paid for after I had managed to get them sold.  An arrangement of this sort was crucial in allowing me to stand on my own two feet and get my business off the ground in a relatively short space of time, all the while traveling abroad continuously to identify and select new products and arrange for their import and distribution ', says Leonidas Patriotis.
"I was soon able to hire my first sales representative, followed very quickly by another.  After a few years, the business had expanded to the point that I was able to dedicate more time to travel and visit exhibitions abroad in order to identify new products ". 
Profits that had very early on been invested in traveling to global exhibitions and suppliers proved to be an excellent strategy. "I started with sourcing products and brands which I had known since I was a student in England.  I focused on quality and also followed the advice of American associates who emphasised that the future of a company like mine was in internationally recognizable brands ».

The First Brand

In 1982 the Company introduced its first brand, WD40, an innovative spray for multiple uses. "We initially started with servicing equipment and car care businesses, gas stations and shops selling car parts," he says and adds: "I soon realized however that focusing only on these markets would stifle the Company’s growth as they could not be expanded on significantly enough due to limited sales and clientele. 
A subsequent trip to England and a visit to a DIY store proved to be the turning point. I started working with a factory from whom we started importing our first DIY products and the results were very positive. Thus began the evolution of the Company with the addition of an extensive range of products and brands through the years».

36 Years Later

Thirty-six years later, Leo. Patriotis Ltd remains a family business.  Leonidas Patriotis’ spouse is still responsible for the financial management of the Company whilst his daughter Elina continues to act as "his right hand."
Mr. Patriotis characterizes his company as polymorphic due to the wide variety and number of products it imports and distributes. It employs 45 people and is divided into three segments: 
1. Its DIY and building types segment, which is the largest division of the company. 
2. An automotive segment serving gas stations and professional carwash businesses, and includes toiletries and maintenance, as well as vehicle accessories. 
3. The Supermarkets division. 
The three divisions are autonomous but require coordination and organization as the Company does not specifically cater to a single market sector, but rather to various categories of customers.
The Company's products are kept in 2000 square meters with storage capacity for 1200 pallets which are recycled about three times a year.  Serving 1,200 customers, most of who visit on a weekly basis, sees the Company making an average of 3000 deliveries a month.
With some 62 suppliers from around the world, the Company distributes over 2000 products divided into 1250 DIY products, 500 related to the automobile sector and 250 specific to supermarkets. In addition, the Company also utilises sub-agents to distribute its products to a further 600 - 700 outlets that fall outside of the areas that is serves.  An example of one such product is the famous UHU brand which is distributed to bookstores and kiosks by partners of Leo. Patriotis Ltd.

Confident Partnerships

An important component of the Company is building strong relations with staff and suppliers: "Investing in our staff is crucial for the Company and our customers who have over time established contact with the same people thereby building robust trusting relationships. Furthermore, we have managed to maintain strong ties with our major suppliers, many of whom we have represented for many years. " 
Mr. Patriotis also emphasises the serious research that goes into the selection of new products which always takes into account the Cyprus market, the mentality of the Cypriot consumer and being competitive on factors including price, quality and packaging.   It was on this basis that years ago the Company began to base the design of the packaging of products on the requirements of the Cyprus market, the main focus being tagging in the Greek language. He says "We place a lot of importance on the presentation of the product; hence we have our own in house graphic designer. The Cypriot consumer wants to know the product they are buying, so we ask the supplier to print the instructions in Greek, stressing the importance of Cyprus market data. This is done with most brands that we import.”
"It is also worth noting that for the last 10 years the company has turned its focus to the introduction of products from the Far East, especially China. There are even close associates who work exclusively for the company, Chinese professionals who identify suppliers for the products that the Company selects, coordinate orders and arrange for their export. This way you achieve the correct product selection and quality control in order to offer consumer the best products possible.

Private labels

 Leo. Patriotis Ltd has its own range of three registered brands which it has designed and developed. These are called Zap, Aquarius and Superklin, respectively, and are made in China. They have been carefully selected for consumers and are distributed throughout all three of the company's distribution networks.


Adapting to the crisis
The Company along with the entire Cyprus market have had to face the current climate brought about by the economic crisis, and adjust to it accordingly. For instance, the fall of the real estate sector has affected the cost of building materials. Some products however, have continued their upward trend like those used for repairs and renovations, for example, gluing and sealing materials, paints, technical sprays, etc. – products in which the company specializes. 
Strategic changes implemented in 2014 has reversed the negative impact and allowed the company to continue to climb its course. Mr. Patriot says: "This Company has not reduced the frequency and size of its imports which will proceed at the same rate as always. One of the reasons we do not have a significant drop in sales is because we always have a full supply of stocks, something that we attach particular importance to so that we do not expose our customers to product shortages. "
Talking about the big problem facing all importers and distributors now which is none other than payments, he says that "the company has not lost customers, but it was necessary to stop cooperation with those who were systematically causing payment problems. Selling products and not receiving payment within the time agreed creates a financial burden to the Company with serious consequences. "In conclusion, in the context of dealing with everything to do with the crisis - the Company has focused on systematic specials with very positive results. It does however remain stable and concentrates on recognized reputable brands that it has represented for years, and on quality which it has established over 37 years.
Moreover, Leo. Patriotis Ltd has entered into new agreements with major suppliers with whom we are going to begin collaboration in early 2015.
Leo. Patriotis Ltd has its own range of three registered brands which it has designed and developed. 
These are called Zap, Aquarius and Superklin, respectively, and are made in China. 
Mr Patriotis says: “I have always focused on quality and have also followed the advice of American associates who emphasised that the future of a Company like mine was in internationally recognizable brands.
The Company has not reduced the frequency and size of its imports which will proceed at the same rate as always.