Introduction of The Book
I have never read a book from cover to cover. Not ever in my life and it’s the truth. Maybe I should be ashamed of myself. In fact I am that little bit; just enough to proudly declare that I’ve finished reading my first ever while writing this autobiography in long hand. And I found the book so interesting and relaxing that I’ve started and finished others as well. When I finish writing this book I’ll read it, of course, but it won’t count, would it? I just hope it’ll be as interesting as the others I’ve read, that’s all.
I’ve had such a hectic life that there was little if any time left to enjoy a good book. Maybe as you read what comes after this introduction you would understand better. I had other priorities which left me with no time whatsoever for any hobby, at least for most of my business career.
I’m now fifty-eight, and although retirement is still not on my agenda, I feel now’s the time to write my story before my memory starts playing tricks on me. I’m sure my children, fully grown the three of them, won’t grudge me the luxury of spending my free time at home writing my memoirs while they fill in for me.
I can’t know what will happen in the future and what it holds for me and the Group I lead. That would be for my children to write about. But this year, 2010, while I’m sitting at my desk with a sheaf of blank paper in front of me, I am able to write about my past and how it came about that I became an entrepreneur and a proud family man. I can go back and reminisce about my humble beginnings as a young village boy who had a clear vision about what he wanted to do in life.
At times I was scoffed at and many were skeptical about this vision of mine. They thought it was just a dream all young boys get, as when some wanted to become pope, or the first on the moon. But the young village boy knew better. His dream wasn’t impossible to make come true. All it required was vision, determination and much, much hard work. He remained persistent to the last, overcoming most obstacles thrown in his path to success. And now here he is, sitting at his desk, scribbling away as though his life depended on it.
I was the eldest son in a family of eleven children, brought up in the farming and later in the construction sectors. It was a hard struggle all the way, having to bow my head to father’s diktats like a small boy and accept them unquestioningly even as a young man of twenty-two on the threshold of marriage. I was completely penniless on my wedding day. And yet, at the age of forty-five, I had expanded my business so successfully that I was generating around 1% of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as one of the country’s foremost Groups diversified in construction, development, tourism and healthcare.
I was a very shy village boy, always obedient and never wasted words unless talked to. Yet, years later I was twice elected Mayor of my hometown on an independent ticket, and even later I was Deputy Leader of a new political party which contested a general election.
This story is based on facts as they truly happened. It’s about a dream that became reality and written to serve as an example and inspiration to young men who are dreamers like me, but who are determined to smash through the difficulties and meet head on the challenges that could blur their vision. It’s written for those young people who need to start from scratch and who have the vision to become entrepreneurs. It’s written for those young people who face great odds and need an inspiration in order to succeed.
As an entrepreneur I have always looked for new ideas. I have never been one to copy what others had done before me. Satisfaction came from being original in my concepts and of showing the way forward for others to follow. This meant that the challenges I had to face were greater and overcoming them spurned me on to bigger ideas, themselves creating new challenges, and on and on in a continuous circle that spiraled ever upwards towards the realisation of a thirteen year old boy’s dream. The biggest challenges I had to face throughout the past decades in such a small country like Malta were to convince the authorities, politicians and financial institutions that my dreams and visions were practical and feasible.
Life has taught me that people who don’t share my vision find it difficult to understand and accept my philosophy. This book should serve as an eye-opener for those in power to appreciate the young and upcoming entrepreneurs who are coming forward with what seem to be crazy and revolutionary ideas. These young people hold Malta’s future in the palms of their hands and should be encouraged and assisted instead of written off as cranks. In order to achieve progress all of us, Government included, have to appreciate and share the calculated risks that make up most of the ingredients for success. Allowances should be made and the benefit of the doubt should be in favour of the young entrepreneur in order that his dream could be realised, especially when he finds himself with his back to the wall with nobody to bail him out except the people in authority. Mistakes are committed, big and small. But mistakes are committed by those who work and toil. Those who just sit back never make mistakes. They just do nothing but criticise.
I have committed many mistakes throughout my career. One big mistake could have cost me my career and I wouldn’t have been here, sitting at my desk, opening a window on my life for all to see. That is why I have always preferred to have a spread of controlled risks rather than a big one that could have proved my undoing. The saying that one must not place all eggs in one basket is never truer than in a business career.
My life has been a stressful one. I can’t remember a day when I wasn’t taking more than one decision at the same time and plugging holes with all my available fingers. My beginnings coincided with a time when the unemployment rate was high and when young men my age were emigrating in their hundreds. The talk among young people always turned to good jobs in Australia and Canada where the future looked brighter thanks to enlightened governments willing to encourage men with initiative. I could easily have been tempted to join the exodus. But I love my country and I love the feel of its rock and soil under my bare feet. I believed that Malta has what it takes to move forward on its own steam with a little help from young entrepreneurs like me. I therefore decided to stay because I believed that even at such a young age I had a strong enough feeling inside me that with my humble contribution, Malta could truly become the highly polished jewel of the Mediterranean. Maybe we’re not there yet, but we have covered much ground since then and I would like to believe that I contributed my small share.
I have never stood alone throughout the past thirty-five years. I have always felt the presence of the Almighty hovering somewhere around me to guide me towards the right decisions not just for me and my business’ benefit, but most of all for my family, the families dependent on my business, and for the benefit of the country I love so much. For all this I thank Him, and most of all for giving me the wisdom to walk the straight road.
It’s true that my life has been a success and I’m proud of my achievements. Playing the humble at this stage would be hypocritical. But whatever the successes and achievements, I still feel I’m a humble man at heart, at home amongst the humble people I grew up with in the village of Naxxar. They are the people who helped me become what I am today, never making me forget my humble roots in the narrow streets right in the centre of the old part of Naxxar.
Success has enabled me to travel far and wide and I have been to most countries around the globe. But Malta is my home. This is where my imagination is fueled. This is where I have visions of a better Malta for our future generations and this is where I feel the determination seeping up from the solid, bare rock beneath feet to envelop my whole body and mind, and urges me to continue.
The future is beyond this book and no one can see it for the mist that hides it. What is certain is that there are many more challenges awaiting us once the mist lifts, and I intend to face as many of them until God says, “No more, Angelo. It’s now time you take a long, long break.”