Working as the President and CEO of World Fuel Services is a job that never ends. Michael Kasbar, who fills this position as well as serving as Chairman of the company is credited with over thirty years working in the energy business. If you ask him if he’s had enough yet, you’re likely to get the response that he’s just getting started. Kasbar is a high-powered leader in the energy industry and he’s made significant contributions to the betterment of the system. Although most people in this business are quite familiar with the name and his accomplishments, what do they really know about the man outside of business? We did some research on him and we found ten things that you probably didn’t know about Michael Kasbar.
1. He’s the youngest in a big family
Michael has one brother and four older sisters. He’s the youngest of six children. He was happy to share that he was raised in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, and with 55 firsts cousins, there was always family around. In an interview, he recounted the memories of living in the same neighborhood with several family members nearby and wonderful holiday gatherings that made him know that he was a part of something “bigger and more important than yourself.”
2. He dreamed of combining environment and business as a career
Michael enrolled in the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, where he worked towards his degree in environmental science. While at the school, he began to take an interest in political science and economics as well. He was passionate about the environment but he also had a fondness for business and developed a strong desire to form a career that would combine the two. Little did he know at that time, but he would use this passion to forge a new niche for himself in the global fuel energy industry and become a knowledgeable and powerful expert/entrepreneur in the field.
3. He interned at the Department of Agriculture
Kasbar was accepted for a summer internship with the Department of Agriculture in the Soil Conservation Service division. It was here where he started to realize that it would not be easy to combine his two passions. He did determine that he didn’t want to work for the government, nor was it where he desired to start his career. This kept the wheels turning in Kasbar’s mind and he wasn’t one to settle for second best when he knew that there was more out there for him.
3. His grandparents and father are Armenian immigrants
Kasbar’s paternal grandfather and grandmother came to America as immigrants who came to American from Aleppo in 1920. In a story that is familiar for many Americans whose near ancestors migrated to this country, they entered the country through Ellis Island, then settled in the New Jersey area, eventually making Brooklyn their home. Michael’s father immigrated with his father and as an adult worked as a shopkeeper, shoemaker, and butcher before opening a factory with his brothers.
4. His mother’s parents also immigrated from Aleppo
On his mother’s side, Kasbar’s grandparents arrived in America from Aleppo in 1908. This family had been in America for twelve years longer than his paternal family. His maternal grandfather secured employment as a traveling salesman. His parents both learned the value of hard work from their parents and it is apparent that this strong work ethic and ingenuity has been passed along to Michael.
5. He worked as a bunker broker
Sales seemed to be in Michael’s blood. His first real experience in this arena was as a bunker broker. He embarked on this new career in 1977 right after leaving school. He was lucky to get in with a couple of Mavericks in the industry who taught him the basics and gave him a good start in the business.
6. His first business was a learning experience
Kasbar places a high value on his first entrepreneurial venture. After he’d spent five years as a bunker broker, he started up a new bunkering business for the Gokal trading group. He shared that it was during this time that he learned a lot about himself, human nature and character and the market. Although the startup was not sustainable, it was successful in helping Michael learn about the importance of his relationships, his reputation, and his ethics. These are things that he places a high value upon.
7. He started the precursory business to World Fuels on a shoestring
In 1985, Michael and his associate Paul Stebbins decided to start up the Trans-Tec company in 1985. The company began with four men working in a windowless 1,000 square foot room with little more than a des, a telex machine, and some phones. They were young at the time but quite aware of what they were attempting to do. With excitement, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Their company took off and grew quickly and within two years they had a building in London, and just one month later, a third in San Francisco. The following year, they expanded into Singapore. They had gone international with record speed and by 1995, they had expanded the company to serve a total of eight locations. Their independent marine fuel service was the largest of its kind on the planet. Kasbar shared that this accomplishment had been done within a single decade and he proudly proclaimed “and we did it all organically.”
7. Kasbar built World Fuel Services without a single acquisition
Most large corporations of this size reach their massive growth after absorbing smaller companies, but this was not the case for Michael’s company. He explained that instead of acquiring other companies, they used an innovative approach. They did hire technical experts and engineers that could help their clients understand the issues involved with fuel quality. This was something that was not a common practice in independent fuel companies and it helped them to gain an edge over the competition.
8. He’s a cooperative antagonizer
When asked to describe his management style, Kasbar shared that he’s definitely engaged in every aspect of thee processes. This has nothing to do with ego, as he sees himself as irrelevant, but he does use tactics that encourage collaboration among his top-notch team to perform at the highest levels of professionalism and superb performance. He learned about a concept referred to as “cooperative antagonism” some years back and he put it to use by rallying his team to get on board with challenging one another to reach a higher level in operation.
9. He likes to ride motorcycles
When Michael Kasbar has some time to spare, he shared that he really enjoys riding his motorcycles. He owns three of them. When he has the time, you can find him departing on a trip where he and the guys he likes to ride with may cover up to 500 miles in a single day. He gets to take in the views of the country and experience the freedom. They stop to eat when they’re hungry and grab a bite to eat, then turn in for a good night’s sleep, then get up and do the same thing after they wake up.
10. He’s a big-time family guy
One of the things that Michael Kasbar enjoys most in life is spending time with his family and friends. He’s a fan of throwing parties with his loved ones that involve good music and dancing, great food and the company of those that are dear to him. He places a high priority on relationships.