Join a committee. Before I founded Tint World, I was part of a well-known automotive repair franchise. The company asked for franchisees to serve on their computer committee, and I volunteered. This was before the franchise business used computers. I got to be a part of implementing computers in this national company, which was very exciting. We used the computers for printing customer receipts, for payroll, for everything, and by being a thought leader and among other thought leaders there, I brought that knowledge to my own franchise.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charles Bonfiglio. Charles is the CEO of Tint World® Automotive Styling Centers™. With over thirty years of experience in successfully leading multiple first-class franchise organizations, Charles has acquired specialized knowledge with a diverse set of business and technical skills that bring unique value to the Tint World® Franchise Company and partners alike.
His particular area of expertise is successfully developing and growing automotive franchise companies to maximum profits and market share by building strong management teams with a winning attitude that provides outstanding customer satisfaction, and implementation of advanced marketing techniques, creative financing, and real estate development.
As a strategically minded visionary and driven entrepreneur, Charles continuously seeks to expand and grow existing business with continuous improvement to maximize profitability, while developing new revenue and generating opportunities by leveraging innovation and multi-channel revenue streams.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I am the founder and CEO of Tint World®, the leading global automotive styling center franchise. I started Tint World® in 2007, realizing a dream I’d had since I was in my 20s.
As a young man, I moved to Florida with the idea of opening up an automotive aftermarket accessory shop. I really loved cars, car accessories, car stereos, window tinting and all the upgrades that you can make to your car. Since I was a young man with a new idea, I wasn’t taken seriously by landlords and bank lenders. They didn’t want to take a chance on me and my concept.
I then had a conversation with a cousin who was finding great success as a franchise owner for a well-known automotive repair franchise. I saw how successful he was, and even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, I decided to buy into the automotive repair franchise as well. Suddenly, I was getting approved for bank loans and leases, and I saw a path opening before me. Shortly thereafter, I opened a second store, and my business eventually grew to nine stores. I was then able to build on what I had learned and I started my own franchise, Tint World®. Today, we’re a global franchise with locations in the U.S., Canada, and even Dubai.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
It’s hard to say you’re a thought leader on anything because we all have more to learn. Prospective business owners invest in me and my company. I provide them with the opportunity to open up businesses of their own, be their own boss and show them a proven path to prosperity. Within five years, they’re living a lifestyle that it took me 25 years to attain. To me, that says I’m somewhat of a thought leader because I am able to help owners become successful a lot quicker than I did. I try to teach them that if you can see it, you can achieve it with persistence.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Last year, our visit to Dubai for the new Tint World® store grand opening was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had. To have someone from another country call you on Skype in the middle of the night and ask about your franchise is amazing, and to then, eventually buy a master franchise license is off the chart. Getting to know the owner, his family and the culture was a unique experience. Flying the entire Tint World® team to Dubai to build the store from the inside out was exciting as well. We all got to have dinner at the owner’s home with his family and learned a lot about them. That was an experience that we are all going to remember forever.
Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
I think that a thought leader is someone who is actually doing their own research on how to make systems better. Thought leaders are researching how and why things do and do not work. They are coming up with solutions to problems.
An influencer, on the other hand, is somebody that has an ability to captivate people and attract them to something interesting. They are more of a presenter or a showman, but a thought leader is a someone who builds, constructs and empowers.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
I believe that, as a thought leader, you learn just as much about yourself as you do about other people, which helps you grow and evolve. If you put a lot of time into learning things, testing things and doing things, you are in turn testing and fine-tuning yourself. And at the same time, you are learning from and sharing with other people. I think that’s really important to do because you can learn by teaching other people. When you’re helping people do what you have done, you prove to yourself that, not only can you do it, but that you have something good enough that it will help other people, too. To me, that’s the true test. I really love seeing other people be successful by doing what they are passionate about.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
Learning new things and applying them really opens your mind to new ways of doing things. It gives you a clearer picture of not just what you want to do, but how other people have done things. And sharing these new ideas can empower your whole team. I believe that you can give as a thought leader, but you can also receive tenfold as a thought leader.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- Join a committee. Before I founded Tint World®, I was part of a well-known automotive repair franchise. The company asked for franchisees to serve on their computer committee, and I volunteered. This was before the franchise business used computers. I got to be a part of implementing computers in this national company, which was very exciting. We used the computers for printing customer receipts, for payroll, for everything, and by being a thought leader and among other thought leaders there, I brought that knowledge to my own franchise.
- Go to networking events, share stories, listen to other people. Doing those things opens you up to be a thought leader and to think outside the box. It’s all about proximity, being around the people who inspire you. But whether you are in the same room, or the same state, what you want to do is pick their brains.
- Keep learning! At one point in my life, going to bookstores was my hobby. I went every weekend and would go up and down the business aisle and the history aisle and read about the wealthiest people and how they got there. It allowed me to open up my mind to what other people did and how they got where they are.
- Ask questions! Years ago, I went with my family to visit Thomas Edison’s house, and I saw all these documents. I didn’t know what they were, so I started asking questions and realized that they were patents, trademarks and inventions. It made me think about what was required to be successful like Edison.
- Most importantly, you must have things in writing. You need the contract, or the plan or the agreement in writing. I then starting learning to focus on crafting contracts to be able to evolve and create wealth.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
Tony Robbins. In the early 90s, I listened to several Tony Robbins tapes. He basically gave me a roadmap to map out my life. You have to be spiritually happy. Your relationships have to be happy. You have to have fun in your life and something that you can be passionate about. You have to continue to build and evolve. His program made me really start to even out. He made me think about enjoying the journey and mapping it out. He gave me the knowledge of self-growth and the power to know that I can do anything I want to do.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Make sure you’re doing what you’re passionate about, what you enjoy and what you’re good at. Then, your work won’t feel like work. It will be your hobby. Be sure to keep a good work/life balance. Don’t ignore your relationships with family and friends, they are very important. When you work, doing what you love will make it feel more like play.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would inspire people to realize that there is more than one path to success. Your path doesn’t have to match anyone else’s as long as you are working hard and following your passion. You can go to college. You can start a business. You can join a franchise. Any of these ways are paths to success. It’s the drive and the work ethic that you bring to the path that matters.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is by Henry Ford, “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you are right.” More often than not, if you think you can achieve something, and you put it up for planning, and continuously, relentlessly execute on getting and attaining that goal, you absolutely can.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
There are a lot of people that I really admire in different ways. We talked about Tony Robbins. He was an influential person, the only person besides my dad that made me feel I could achieve whatever I wanted to do.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.