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Rising Through Resilience: “They Told Me It Was Impossible But I Did It Anyway” With Charles Bonfiglio of Tint World

Resilient people are visionaries. They have ideas, and they actually relentlessly pursue the goal of their ideas. They continually evolve and never give up. There are goals I’ve been trying to reach for 12 years now, but there’s no question in my mind that I am going to achieve them. It’s just a matter of […]

Resilient people are visionaries. They have ideas, and they actually relentlessly pursue the goal of their ideas. They continually evolve and never give up. There are goals I’ve been trying to reach for 12 years now, but there’s no question in my mind that I am going to achieve them. It’s just a matter of finding the right focus.

In the end, what it’s really all about is having a vision, sticking to it, and relentlessly pursuing it, even if that means shifting to accommodate innovations and new technology in the industry.

Just don’t ever lose sight of what your core business is. Keep that running right and put your extra energy into your vision of where you want to go. That makes you very resilient with a very sustainable company. I don’t ever want get to a point where I’m Blockbuster Video, where I didn’t position myself correctly for the future. I want to be a company that is always moving towards the curve of the growth.


In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market. I had the pleasure of interviewing Charles Bonfiglio. Charles is president and CEO of Tint World®, an award-winning franchised provider of automotive, residential, commercial and marine window tinting and security film services. With Automotive Styling Centers™ in the U.S. and abroad, each franchise location houses approximately 20 profit centers, ranging from in-store accessory installations, to off-site sales and installation of residential, commercial and marine window tinting and security films. To find out more, please visit www.tintworld.com and tintworldfranchise.com.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Ifounded Tint World® in 2007, realizing a dream I had since I was in my 20s. Today, Tint World® is the leading global automotive styling franchise, and I am proud to be its CEO.

I moved to Florida when I was a young man with the vision of opening an aftermarket automotive accessory shop, because I loved all the upgrades you could make to your car, such as window tinting, stereos and accessories. But since I was a young man with a new idea, the landlords and bank lenders wouldn’t take a chance on me and my concept.

At the time, a cousin of mine was seeing great success as a location owner for a well-known automotive repair franchise. Even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, I decided to buy a franchise as well. Suddenly, I was getting approved for bank loans and leases. I grew my business to nine stores. Later, I was able to build on what I learned and started my own franchise, Tint World®, and today we are global with locations in the U.S., Canada and even Dubai.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I was a young franchisee who opened up a franchise, and when I got good at it, I started to open up more franchises. I became a multi-store owner and an expert in my field, and that was all good and fun and exciting. I was always able to grow at my own pace as an entrepreneur. I was always able to have control over my own destiny. If I was getting too busy or too stressed, I could just not open up any new stores for a while.

When I transformed and started my own franchise, the first 20 stores felt almost like I was managing my own locations. I could work with the owners and the managers directly. But now, something I’m still learning to this day is that I can’t control things as directly as I used to. This franchise is a runaway train — but in a good way. Every year we’re opening 20–30 stores. I can’t just turn it off. I have to have levels of management in the organization. So, I’m constantly learning how to manage and optimize the organization as it grows through management systems instead of the one-to-one, face-to-face management style I could do as an entrepreneur.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have the right culture, not just in our team at headquarters, but also in our franchisees. They’re in line with what Tint World® is all about. They get it, they want it and we have the ability to achieve our goals.

Another thing is that in the aftermarket accessory and window tinting industry, I don’t think there’s another franchise that has been able to pull off what we have. Approaching 100 stores is a big feat in any franchise system, but to do it in a niche industry, and to combine multiple niches within the industry, is unique. It’s fun, and it attracts people who are car lovers and those who love that lifestyle, so they are able to share their expertise with their community and their friends.

I believe that our value proposition is leading the pack in the automotive accessories industry. And the creative look of our brand really lends itself to attracting everyone — a broad base for families, men, women, and people of all ages — not just one small group of people.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My wife has been the most supportive of me. If I didn’t have such a solid relationship with my wife and my family, I would not have the freedom to be as creative and persistent in business as I have. Jeanette is my biggest supporter and allows me to be the crazy guy that I am, while developing things that I want to develop.

Another person, a customer from when I was a young franchisee with the automotive repair shop, has been an immense help to me in my career. Howard came into my store one day with the muffler on his Saab completely broken and rusted out like Swiss cheese. He was about my age, just out of college and in a lot of debt, working for a big development firm in Miami. He didn’t have the money to replace his muffler, so I fixed it the best I could and didn’t charge him for it. I just wanted to help him out.

But, helping Howard turned out to be one of the best choices I ever made. Over the years, he referred customers to me. He gave me valuable advice about real estate, bookkeeping and budgeting that made me millions of dollars. Helping Howard took me to another level of success, so don’t ever think that if you help someone it won’t come back to you in some way.

OK, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilient people are visionaries. They have ideas, and they actually relentlessly pursue the goal of their ideas. They continually evolve and never give up. There are goals I’ve been trying to reach for 12 years now, but there’s no question in my mind that I am going to achieve them. It’s just a matter of finding the right focus.

In the end, what it’s really all about is having a vision, sticking to it, and relentlessly pursuing it, even if that means shifting to accommodate innovations and new technology in the industry.

Just don’t ever lose sight of what your core business is. Keep that running right and put your extra energy into your vision of where you want to go. That makes you very resilient with a very sustainable company. I don’t ever want get to a point where I’m Blockbuster Video, where I didn’t position myself correctly for the future. I want to be a company that is always moving towards the curve of the growth.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I think of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s. He was just a guy selling milkshake mixers in the beginning. He just kept trying something new, and he kept trying to build a business. When he found something that was unique, that’s when he founded McDonald’s. Ray Kroc was one of the originators of franchising. He took a business model that he found and made it adaptable for normal, average people to have something special. He was persistent at making it work.

That’s very relatable to my story because I had no idea what franchising was when I started, and I became one of the top franchisees in the brand. When I decided I wanted to start my own franchise, rather than start from scratch, I saw a six-store chain that I thought was pretty unique and was close to what I wanted to do as a teenager. I bought the chain in 2006 and founded the Tint World® franchise in 2007.

I’m still on that growth path, and I admire Ray Kroc who was just a regular sales guy trying to find a dream. He found it, produced it and made it the largest franchise company of its kind.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

My father was a clothing manufacturer as a contractor. He wasn’t a designer like Calvin Klein. He was the guy they’d send the patterns and material and labels. He had local women from the neighborhood who would manufacture the clothes. As a young guy growing up, I would work in my father’s business after school, sweeping up, changing the needles and learning how to do pattern-making and design work.

I decided that I would really like to be a clothing designer. I started talking to people about it, and they said, “You can never be that. You can never do it.” So, after I got out of school, I went right into that. I took it as a challenge. I paid a designer to create my own line. I told her what I wanted, picked the materials, and she designed the line for me. It was beautiful, and it took three months to design it, but I didn’t know how to sell it.

I asked my dad, and he said, “Go out and sell it to them. Talk to local stores and maybe a department store.”

I got pretty discouraged in New York City. Nobody was seeing me. My dad said, “Why don’t you try New Jersey?” I found a place with a young buyer, just out of college, and I showed her my line. She thought it was phenomenal and wrote me a million-dollar order. I was blown away! But then I looked at the fine print. If I made the clothing and it didn’t sell, they would ship it back and I wouldn’t get paid. That was when I realized that I only knew what I knew. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

So, I went and sold to small retail stores around Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. I sold out the line and made about $30,000 in profit, which was pretty good.

From that point was when I actually decided that if I stayed home, I would limit myself. I knew if I stayed home, I wouldn’t grow. So, I took two suitcases and got a one-way ticket to Florida, where I would be relying on myself and my own knowledge. That’s what catapulted me into running a business with a model for success.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When I was a franchisee with the automotive repair franchise, I was made the chairman of their technology committee. I helped them design their first point-of-sale computer, their first website, their first intranet, their first marketing campaigns through electronic means, and many other things. I grew a lot with that company.

I went to them with an idea that I wanted to start e-commerce in 2004. I wanted to sell products online, and at the time that wasn’t something that was popular or big. So, I found a company that was selling auto parts online. They were the only one at the time doing it. They didn’t really have broad knowledge in the automotive world. I approached them and said, “Suppose I could help you do what you do? I can actually private-label your e-commerce system. We’ll create a link on my franchisors’ website where people can buy parts online, and you guys can fulfill the orders.”

I signed an agreement with them, and after I signed, it took me about a year to customize the software with their developers, make it function and tie into our point of sale systems. Then, another company bought them out, and they started to go public right in the middle of the launch.

They had a lot of money behind them and basically said, “You know what? We know we’ve got a contract with you. We know that you own this distribution line, but now that we’re a public company, we don’t want it. If you want to sue us, we’ll spend a million dollars, no problem.”

I learned that it doesn’t matter how secure you are. You’re only as strong as the money that’s behind you. I realized it’s not about who’s right or wrong. It’s about who has the most money and the most clout in the industry.

So, I pivoted and opened my own auto parts e-commerce business and started doing about $2 million per year within a year or two. In 2014, I licensed the software to Tint World®, providing custom software for my franchisees to be able to sell online, and it’s been a huge success.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Striking out on my own and going to Florida to open my own business was instrumental in building my resiliency. I really had to depend on myself and no one else. When I couldn’t get a buy-in from the bank lenders and landlords, I learned that it’s valuable to pivot to something else, like I did when joining the automotive repair franchise. It wasn’t me they were saying “no” to. They just had to believe in a brand, company and system that was proven. So, once I learned that, I leveraged franchising for my personal and lifestyle growth.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Find what you love.
  2. Become an expert in it.
  3. Plan with a strategy.
  4. Be persistent in pursuing it relentlessly.
  5. Continually improve until you are the best in class.

Everything I have ever done has been that. When I was a franchisee in Florida, it was not the strongest market for the franchise company I was with, but I ended up reporting the top sales in the chain. I became the first person to ever do over $1 million in the first year of business in that franchise system, repetitively with every store I opened. I built the largest locations. I was the first to do over $2 million in a given year, and I did it for 12 years in a row. Then, I decided to build my own franchise system. People told me it could never be done, and in 11 years I’ve got nearly 100 stores.

You are a person of great 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 am committed to influencing my franchise headquarters staff to be the best that they can be. I want to each of them to find their special purpose and goals while I help them grow within our company culture. I’m doing that through taking them to conventions, training them in new things and sending them to international trade shows. That way, they can help support the growth of my franchisees.

I also want to inspire my franchise location owners to be the best as they continually grow and improve. I love seeing them buy new houses and cars, go on vacations and expand to new locations. That makes me feel that I’m doing well and being a good influence.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I would go with Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. I like Jeff Bezos because he’s always working towards a vision and accomplishing every goal that he sets out to do. He’s running so many layers of people, and it intrigues me how he’s able to do that and continually grow worldwide. I love the way he thinks and continues to learn what other people are doing, while streamlining and simplifying it for his own business growth. He just never stops.

I like Elon Musk because he’s just an unusually brilliant visionary. He’s looking to do things that people don’t think are achievable in one lifetime. I’d love to find out how he’s thinking so far outside the box — changing lives and changing the world — while doing things that are unthinkable.

I’d think of them as the left side and right side of the brain, with Jeff being the left side and Elon being the creative right side. You want them working together. I think I can get the most out of them if I understand their differences and their commonalities.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tintworld/, Instagram @tintworld, Twitter @tintworld, and LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/tint-world/ and www.linkedin.com/company/tintworld-franchise/.

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