Rocco Fiorentino of Benetrends Financial
Which business were you the first to start?
My first business was a mechanical contractor business that I started in 1976 with my partner. Even though I was young, I still had much to learn.
What’s your background? Did it help you get to where you are today
In the beginning years of my business, many of our customers were franchises like McDonald’s and Burger King. This was the opportunity for me to learn more about franchising.
How did you get the idea for your business?
My early days as an entrepreneur are what shaped the businesses that I currently own. I’m always looking for ways to improve our customer service and to offer other products that fit with our current model. We would also be able provide “Best in Class” service.
What was the driving force behind your decision to be an entrepreneur?
My first job was at age 14 and I have always wondered how we could improve, whether that was in the restaurant I worked as a busboy, or any other jobs. Since I was already working in the service industry, I knew that I wanted to start my own business. I also knew that I had the passion to make it better than any other person I have worked for. Since then, I have enjoyed entrepreneurship and enjoy making mistakes.
I like taking risks and try to be calculated. I also enjoy seeing my vision become a reality in everything I do.
Have you raised capital for your startup or set up a bootstrap?
When I was young, engineering fascinated me and I wanted to attend trade school. My dad thought that I was wasting my time and so we made a deal. While I was at engineering school, I would work nights and weekends to pay for it. He would hold the money for me if I graduated and pay in reverse to my tuition. My dad gave me my entire tuition back as a graduation gift. I graduated at the top in my class. I used the tuition money to buy my first truck and parts, start my own business, and to purchase my first vehicle.
How do you create a loyal customer base?
I am proud to have built personal relationships with my customers, particularly the initial customer base of any business I have been involved with.
Customers are simply people who require a product or service. Every business owner has the unique opportunity to provide superior service and products. Customer service and customer relationships are my favorite aspects of business. Passion is the key to understanding your customers and employees, regardless of product or service.
What marketing strategies have worked best for you?
The marketing tactics of many businesses I have worked with continue to evolve. The technology has enabled us to improve our game and make our marketing more efficient and effective. Because I believe messaging is vital in all marketing types, I try to keep my focus on it. My motto is “Keep it Simple” – There’s no need to make too many promises or explain everything to consumers who might not know about your product or services.
My rule of thumb for marketing is to “always state what is obvious.”
This is a simple rule to follow, and advertising in any form can be done in the most straightforward format.
What culture is your company fostering?
Culture can be a tricky word. Every entrepreneur wants to create a culture that is inspiring within their company. This is a difficult task. Culture is usually derived from the top, but it doesn’t always happen that way. How many times have you seen mission statements so lengthy that no one can recall them? My mission statement was simple as a trans-financial analyst.
“We make each client a champion.”
Benetrends financial staff can all remember this line and can definitely practice our simple policy to make every client a champion. The senior leaders must live out the mission and culture in the best possible ways. This allows the entire organization to be fully aware of their actions. It is not wise to allow culture to interfere with building a profitable, solid organization that is committed to customers and employees. This will make it difficult to build a company that everyone can be proud of.
What is your average day like?
My day begins at 5:30 am. Although I don’t usually set an alarm, my body clock wakes up at 5:30 every morning, regardless of whether or not I want it to. My morning routine usually includes 20-30 minutes of quiet time to gather my thoughts, run a bit on the treadmill, and then make my coffee.
Many entrepreneurs have trouble managing their time. Over the years I have taken many time management courses and, humbly, have been able to learn how to better manage my own time. I also have a better understanding of my direct reports and how to share my schedule and time with them.
How have you experienced being an entrepreneur in your family?
Every entrepreneur must balance work and family life. It is harder to be apart today because we always have our phones and other devices with us wherever we go, whether that’s at work, home, or in the car. It is difficult to maintain balance when we have instant access to all aspects of our professional and personal lives. My family and personal life are sometimes my top priority. But, there are also times when my professional life is the priority. You can do both. Even if I’m on vacation, which I rarely am, I will still make time to check my email, make calls, and take care business matters. If I’m in the office for a long time, I’ll check in on my personal life to make sure I have everything I need. The secret to achieving a healthy balance is to prioritise and manage my time well.
What motivates and inspires you?
I am a servant leader and philanthropic. My motivation is to help others succeed and help those who are less fortunate.
How can you create new ideas?
I am open to new ideas. I see beyond what is visible and have an incredible vision. This allows me to think bigger and expand on what I’m working on. Although it’s difficult to explain, it is so evident in my head. My theory is that every successful business today started as a crazy idea back in the day. Great things can happen if you believe in it and are willing to take risks.
What’s your biggest fear and how can you conquer it?
My greatest fear is my own health and that of my family. This is something we can’t control. We take care of ourselves and try to stay healthy as long as possible. We don’t know how much time we have, nor can we make enough money to buy another minute. As we live our lives to the fullest, it is important to remember this. When my time is over, I know there is nothing I can accomplish and I don’t fear death. If I fear death, then I will fight for your life. I don’t want to do that. I want to live life to its fullest.
What is success?
Jimmy, success means the ability to reach your goals. They will continue to evolve and change. A failure is not a prerequisite for success. Two words sum up my success: Health and happiness for my family and for the many people in our lives.
Are you a believer that there is a formula or pattern to become a successful entrepreneur.
My friends and colleagues share the same belief that I was successful when I lost my ego. Everyone has an ego at one point or another in their lives. I definitely had one. It was a constant obstacle to my success. I could not see the real value in what was important to me and instead, it made me look at what was important to me through my own ego lens. It was fun to have an ego, but I hope I never have one again
What’s your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is both a rewarding career and a fulfilling life. Entrepreneurism is a rewarding profession that allows me to be creative, independent, work with others, and help build an organization we can all be proud of. It’s hard to be a successful entrepreneur. Every morning, when I wake up, I am aware that there will be obstacles. However, I don’t know when they will appear or what kind of obstacles they might be. I know with absolute certainty that I will overcome these obstacles and get to where I need be at the moment.
However, your ability to overcome obstacles is what defines you as an entrepreneur and person. Every time I make a decision, I think about what is best for myself, the organization, and all those involved. Decisions are multi-dimensional. Without multi-dimensional thinking, you might make shortsighted decisions in the long-term.
When was your most fulfilling moment in business?
It is satisfying for me to see my dreams become reality. This has been my experience many times. Knowing that you can build something from your imagination and make it a reality is the most satisfying thing about my career.
What were some of your biggest mistakes?
These are the most expensive!
In truth, I’ve made mistakes with people and probably hurt feelings along my way. These are the ones I regret the most. People are my most important possession. I value people and am conscious of treating everyone with dignity, respect, and consideration regardless of their status.
How have you dealt with doubt and adversity?
To be truthful, doubt never came up in my life. I was able to make the right decisions and to live with them, probably to my fault. I have never procrastinated or doubted my ability to make decisions when they were necessary.
For me, adversity has never been a problem. My 25-year old son was born blind and his twin brother, who died in childbirth, is mine. It has never been a problem or a hardship. Instead, it has become something I embrace. My son, who lives alone in Nashville with a guide dog, is independent and a successful music producer. We started a foundation together to help visually impaired children live a normal life. I have never felt victimized. I always look for opportunities to improve the situation or help others with my knowledge.
Do you have any recommendations for other entrepreneurs?
What’s your favorite quote from an entrepreneur?
“Try to be interesting… Not interested”
What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?
You are now entering the world of entrepreneurship. You must let go of your ego as soon as possible, and treat others with dignity and respect.
What do you see your business and yourself in 10 years?
I am currently working on several exciting new projects and am excited about the future of technology. Keep watching…