Tony DiSilvestrohas founded over 31 businesses, and currently has over 450 employees in his businesses. He is an award winning entrepreneur, a successful real estate investor, franchise owner, and an internationally renowned business and leadership trainer. He is also part of the Virginia Beach Vision Board which includes the top 125 business owners in the area, and is also a member of EO .
Tony has vast experience involving the restaurant industry, residential and commercial construction, SAAS training company, manufacturing, and global coaching and consulting.
He was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by Distinction Magazine, and awarded Best Concrete Houses 2020 in the World.
Where to Find Tony Disilvestro
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He took a look at a hundred percent of businesses. I bet just 5% of them are entrepreneurs because most people are business owners and there's nothing wrong with being a business owner. If that's what you like, but to be an entrepreneur, you really have to learn how to work on your business. And you've heard this working on versus in it.
But when you understand what it is to work on your business, then you're truly becoming an entrepreneur.Natasha Miller:
Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topics will be discuss to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. Hey, can you do me a favor while you're listening to this podcast? Can you open a web browser and type in OfficialNatashaMiller.com? Yes, this is my brand new website that I built for you, entrepreneurs that want to scale and grow their business.
It's packed full of information articles, blog posts, podcasts, and also you can download the FREE Profit Finder Guide that helps you find more profit in your current business. You can get on the wait list for my digital course and be the first to know when my book relentless is up for pre-sale. Tony DeSilvestro has founded over 31 businesses and currently has over 450 employees.
He is an award-winning entrepreneur, successful real estate investor, franchise owner, and an internationally renowned business and leadership trainer. Now let's get right into it.Tony DeSilvestro:
Eight years old, I lived in New Jersey Shore and you know, there is a bunch of people and every time when they would come off the beach, it would have to be like there's blocks and blocks and beaches.
And they would come to one street corner and run there, come out at the beach. So I went down and I found a wholesale candy store and we bought a bunch of candy bars, mobile yum, set up a table and started selling candy bars and ice cream and all kinds of stuff from the people there. And then it just grew from there just onboard.Natasha Miller:
You catch the bug that early?Tony DeSilvestro:
I did. Yeah. You know, when you grew up on the Jersey Shore as a kid, it's like four months of hairy and eight months of worry. So your parents are all programs and make money in four months. So from a little kid, that's like. Yeah.Natasha Miller:
So fast forward to adulthood or pre adulthood.
What was your first real entrepreneurial business? The one where you actually had to get a business license?Tony DeSilvestro:
And that was it, 23 23 years old. So I started my first, my own restaurant. So I hadn't been in the restaurant business since I was 15, then decided at 23 to take the leap, found the location at 21, waited two years for it.
Decided, Hey, it's time to jump and I did it. So it was awesome.Natasha Miller:
That's pretty ballsy for a young man.Tony DeSilvestro:
And from Jersey.Natasha Miller:
Okay. And is this the same restaurant that you've had for years now?Tony DeSilvestro:
28 years now? Almost 29 years.Natasha Miller:
And you still have it today.Tony DeSilvestro:
I have them, never been sold and then we're getting ready to open a hundred locations right now.Natasha Miller:
Yep. I loved the energy and the precision that you talked about in navigating all the businesses that you have when I heard you on clubhouse. So that leads me to the next question, which I really want to know the answer to what. Is leading you to start so many business ventures, 31 that's past serial.
That's like meaning serial entrepreneur, not serial.Tony DeSilvestro:
I am.Natasha Miller:
What is going on over there.Tony DeSilvestro:
Yeah, I don't want to say crazy, but I'm in different individuals. So I need massive stimulation in my life. I love when there's an opportunity. I'm always looking at it, just making sure it's kind of focused with one of my core businesses and just making sure they're all aligned together.
So it's been incredible to be able to put it all together, but I'm not one to write things down and I really perform extremely well, 30 to 50,000 ft. A hire and delegate the right people below me. Just making sure I'm always putting myself with the right teams.Natasha Miller:
So I'm assuming you're using capital from various businesses that are running well and pushing that money out to the new endeavors. Are you taking venture capital or angel or anything?Tony DeSilvestro:
Not at all. I'm pretty much self-funded at that point, you know, I started as kid and my first restaurant got $50,000. A lot of house took another 50,000, bought another house, then sold one of those houses about two more houses, and then just kept multiplying.
Most of my wealth came from real estate and just working my way through the processes. And now I'm in the commercial building 270,000 square feet office space. And so just really where I'm living.Natasha Miller:
So you talked about all the businesses having sort of, to have a core, shared something with each other, but you're involved in lots of things that don't necessarily go together in my mind.
I'm sure you can trace them for the listeners. So from a SAS product to concrete houses, to developing real estate, you know, Italian restaurants.Tony DeSilvestro:
Say that people don't realize every business is the same business. We're all in the people business. Right? So the one common thing that we all do together, we're all in business, 98.6 degrees.
Right? So we need human beings to be able to produce what we do. So if you can communicate and you can motivate people due process and procedure, then you can open up any business. And they're all the same. Right? So like people, like, how could you be a builder? Like, oh, I learned how to build a pizza. It's no different, right?
So I'm taking a raw material and using it to build something. So construction is the same exact way. So then I go into my SAS company and my training company and the same exact thing. Right. I'm moving people, right. I'm letting people and employees have over mobility and to show them a path to greatness and that's been my whole life.
Out of the 31 have their burden businesses that you would admit to saying, wasn't a great fit. Didn't work last.Tony DeSilvestro:
Oh, heck yeah. You're kidding me?Natasha Miller:
What were they in? What were some of the elements that made that not stick?Tony DeSilvestro:
One of them was a restaurant. And so what that was, was not paying attention enough to the demographics where the location was, you know, it was on a college campus.
I thought it was the best thing I said, this is going to be great. We're going to open up a low express unit right on campus. It's a captive audience about eight months ends. Why are we not busy and come to find out my broker left out a very key item that there was 74% financial aid on the campus where average is about 24%.
So these kids couldn't afford it. So they were getting freaky to all over campus and nine different locations and made a whole lot of sense, but I'm very costly mistakes. So, but it was okay. It was the best thing that happened to me. And then one was a manufacturing facility and took a partner on, he was amazing guy, unbelievable skills, have four kids like no luck and decided I'm going to put this guy in business.
Well, it wasn't such a great move. The business was doing really, really well. Or distributing all of the whole state of Virginia. And, uh, but you know, if you just started doing all kinds of crazy stuff and the business started failing, and then when you're in manufacturing, you start depending and you put all your eggs in one basket and manufacturing them.
Couple of the bigger clients we had started losing their business and we're traveling all over the state for this one account and they started closing. So it was kind of interesting.Natasha Miller:
How did you learn the business of being in business, because when you started a restaurant, you had some chutzpah, you had some stuff behind you.
I don't know. Did you go to business school?Tony DeSilvestro:
I did. And I was in economics, but I mean really when you're learning in business, you know, at first as all entrepreneurs, we all start, we're all technicians. Right? So the first thing that we get in a business, because we're great at one thing, or we think we're creative on thing, we ended up working in our businesses and it becomes a job.
So there's very few entrepreneurs. He took a look at a hundred percent of businesses. I bet you just 5% of them are entrepreneurs because most people are business owners and there's nothing wrong with being a business owner. If that's what you like, but to be an entrepreneur, you really have to learn how to work on your business.
And you've heard this working on versus in it, but it's such a critical term. And I don't mind saying it because it's really resonates with a lot of people, but when you understand what it is to work on your. Then you're truly becoming an entrepreneur and there's different phases of it, right? We go from business owner to algebra, or it might take five years.
It may take 10 years, but eventually we get there. It's interesting. When you see older people start businesses in their fifties and sixties, they're typically have a better chance of being a notch or that business owner, because they have life experience.Natasha Miller:
I'm there. I actually recently figured out how to work on my core business while launching some other things.
And the freedom is amazing. Had you told me eight years ago about this idea of working on and not in, I would've been flabbergasted. I wouldn't have understood why anyone. We started a business to not work in it.Tony DeSilvestro:
And it's just life experience. And being in groups like EO and studying different business courses and being with other entrepreneurs, especially people that have 31 businesses that they've started, you get informed about what's possible.
And it changes your horizon. So-Tony DeSilvestro:
I think though, probably my biggest mistake I've ever made in business. And I don't really talk about my mistakes. I have trouble with that. You know, I'm not that type of person, I'm an optimist, but my biggest mistake I ever made in business was not hiring a coach, having a coach at a young age, because I think if I would have had a coach at young age, I would have saved 10 years of my entrepreneurial life.
I would have been not taking our way faster and I coach businesses. I speak, I do a lot of that and that's like a whole nother business for me. That's the first thing I tell people, like I was in class the other day with a bunch of kids at the campus, they asked me to speak. And the first few question I always ask them, like, who wants to be an officer?
And they all raise their hand. I said, who loves to take a risk? They all raise their hand. I'm like, who likes to fail? One person raised their hand. I said, everybody get out of the room who didn't raise their hands because they don't understand. I mean, you have to be able to accept failure as an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs are great. Business owners are not great at failure. Entrepreneurs are phenomenal failure. Yeah.Natasha Miller:
That rebound is exhilarating. It's kind of like a drug, isn't it?Tony DeSilvestro:
It is. It is. It's your fork, you know?Natasha Miller:
So let's talk about, about business coaching because one of the pieces of advice I give to people.
New entrepreneurs is to get educated, get a mentor, get an advisor, take the classes, the classes, and the reading and the advisers. That is the shortcut, but a business coach. That is something that word, right. You think about coach coaching, a team, what are they doing? They're showing you how to do drills and agility and practice and do it well and concentrated.
So, in your words, what is a great business coach and how would people find them.Tony DeSilvestro:
Frustrating term for me? Right? So there's so many coaches out there. There aren't really coaches. They shouldn't be coaching because they don't have the experience to coach. It's different. If you want to coach mindset or something like that.
But to actually be a pure business coach, you gotta be hiring a business coach. That's done it, has been there and I'm not bragging. I saw I've been there. I've lost. I have 400 employees. And so, I mean, when you're looking for a business coach, just find somebody that's done it, has been in the dirt before and really knows the grit because what you're doing is mistake avoidance.
Mistake avoidance is critical, but how can a coach, coach a mistake avoidance, if they've never made those mistakes? It's very, very difficult. So for me, like, you know, you go on apps like Clubhouse or something like this, and it drives me crazy because I'll start coaching or teaching and all of a sudden, everybody gets silent.
Like, I'll ask you a question and they just don't know what they're talking about. It's very, very difficult. So I think a lot of people get scammed, hiring a coach because the coach doesn't know what to do. And if you're a great sales person, you can sell anybody.Natasha Miller:
A 100%.Tony DeSilvestro:
But if you want, if you want a coach, that's talent.Natasha Miller:
What would you say the difference between a coach and advisor and a teacher or a strategist does I'm actually grappling with that myself. So I want to hear from you on a personal
We have coaches and consultants, right? So this being a strategist is part of like who we are as business strategists.
This was, and that's the type of entrepreneur I am. I'm always high level, always high level thinking. But the difference between a consultant and a coach, somebody can coach you, but very few people can consult you. But if you can consult and coach. Wow. Huge advantage. Right? So a lot of the coaches, they may be coaches, but they can't consult you to success.
And that's the difference from me.Natasha Miller:
And for you, it's coaching, helping your client, leaving them to discovering it on their own. I mean, you seem to be the kind of person that is like here. Here's the deal. This is it. And you wouldn't necessarily wait for me to get there.Tony DeSilvestro:
Hmm. That's tough. Right. So being my personality.
Right? So the biggest thing that I've learned in maturity over the years is to listen more. So 20 years ago I was running over people. I was constantly. They wouldn't let him speak. And EO is kind of interesting to that. Cause the gestalt process, you know, you have to listen, you can't coach and it actually helped me even more.
So I mean, which I was already perfecting that skill. But so the biggest thing is I didn't realize when I was a little kid and I'll tell you a little kid's story for me, my stepfather used to sit me down and he'd bring a yellow pad and I had all these problems and he was just right, right, right. And all of a sudden, like, Give me the answer.
Um, this guy's brilliant. What I didn't realize is I gave him all the answers and then all he give us articulated back to me. And I think that's what coaching is, is really listening because you know, it's their vision, it's their processes, their procedure, all your job is to do is to tweak it and make it even better.
Give them that little nugget that's going to make their process and procedure or business better.Natasha Miller:
Thank you. Thank you personally, but thank you for the listeners. So this is kind of a pivot, but which space that you work in is most challenging in business to run real estate, franchises. I know that that can include F and B SAS, like-Tony DeSilvestro:
Name restaurants by far. No doubt. I mean, you'll hear so many people, to be honest with you say the restaurant business, the hardest business in the world. And it's only because we depend on so many people. I'm my construction business. I have no employees and my SAS business. I have two employees and my restaurant business. I have 400 employees, you know what I mean?
In my real estate investing business, I have zero employees. I mean, I don't know that my real estate management companies, I have no employees. So I mean, so it's very, it's very. I have a great wife. Don't get me wrong. Don't get me wrong. But the thing is, the restaurant industry is extremely difficult, but that's, what's actually made me become a better entrepreneur because the restaurant industry and I'm franchising.
So once you get to the level where you're franchising, it's all about process and procedures and systemizing, the systems and delegation and everything, because you'll never get to franchising unless you perfect that. Although there's only 3,800 franchises in north America and 400 opening or 400 closed a year.
But it's because they don't invest the time to create those processes and procedures.Natasha Miller:
Yeah. I am a big fan of processes and procedures and automation. And I built the system that runs our company in Salesforce in 2013, before I had the idea of scaling and growing. And for anyone listening, I love to say this out loud.
It has enabled us to produce 777 events. With two people in operations in one year, you understand the magnitude of that, but if you're not doing that, then you're just hobbling yourself. Right? So the question about restaurants, I interviewed Josh , who's an EO member out of San Diego and he said that restaurant net profit is typically in the 4 to 6% range, 10% is doing well.
And why? I mean, it's different for you. Now you have numbers right after like the third restaurant that you open. That's when things start to kick up. That's what I've learned. I could be wrong, but yeah. Talk to me about that.Tony DeSilvestro:
They don't know their numbers. They're not focused on their numbers. I've ever run in 15 to 20% ever since I started the business.
So EBITDA was always everything to me. Right. So how do you negotiate your contract? So a lot of people don't have negotiate right there. So a lot of people on our space, I buy from one vendor. I buy from us food from my restaurant business. Right. But I negotiate my deal. So buying power, buying from one vendor than I do from four, but an average restaurant guy will have four different vendors and he thinks she's scheming and trying to figure this out, but they just don't understand our numbers and then location expenses.
And what are you doing? Your general expenses and controllables that you can control. You have to control the control. And that's what they don't do. And they don't focus on that. And then obviously marketing so many people waste money on marketing. And a lot of things I teach is ROI. First marketing. Do you know what the outcome's going to be before you actually place the marketing piece?
So there's a hundred different aspects of why people don't make money, but 4 to 6% is extremely low. I mean, why the business you're not making money?Natasha Miller:
Exactly. That was the question I asked him. So, I mean, he had a $3 million Michelin rated restaurant, but it was painful, right. It was painful. And so that's interesting. I think anyone listening that has a restaurant or F and B business really needs to get ahold of you, but also get ahold of their expenses, right. I was also thinking there's a lot of labor, right. That goes into serving people and we complain as consumers about the cost of food and then the cost of tips. But I think in my opinion, and I'd love to know yours is that we should be paying more? For the service of great food being prepared and delivered to us, it's an experience.
And I think it's changing the mindset of a lot of people to get there. What do you think?Tony DeSilvestro:
I teach it every day. It's the two things you said. There's one that's very valuable. And one, that's not, it's not really about the food. It's about the experience, right? So if I go to a restaurant, I have an amazing experience.
I'll be okay with subpar food, but if I have amazing Michelin level food, and the servers are terrible. It doesn't matter. So it's all about experiences and enough businesses. And I coach a lot of this and we are all on the experiences as human beings need experiences, right? During the pandemic, everybody's pushed at home and nobody's work now.
Everybody's like, you got to get back to work because we're human. Right. So in that experience, so I teach expanse. I don't have servers in my restaurants. I have experienced. I'd make you crazy if you heard my restaurants and like, even in construction, when I work with architecture firms and I coach architecture firms, I'm like, you're not designers.
You have experienced creators and your designers need to think about what it's like sitting at the kitchen table. If you're that the client is sitting at the table, what do they see? And what do they feel? Do you like the angle? That is the window in the right. I said, but they don't do that. They sit there and design a house.Natasha Miller:
Yeah, height ratio of where you sit and where the table is so rudimentary. But if you get it wrong, it's miserable.Tony DeSilvestro:
Where's the sun coming in. What windows, the sun coming in. And how's it, every time I have my coffee in the morning, the sun's in my face or the architecture thought of that, right, because you do all these programs where you can see where the sunlight hits the house at what time of the day.
And like all of a sudden you design a pool of the house and it's in the shade all afternoon.Natasha Miller:
Yeah, not good. Okay. I am really getting to like you even more and more and more. So it sounds like you're pretty transparent. What are your net income targets for your various businesses? Do they hover around the same or like is their SAS businesses blowing up at 60%.Tony DeSilvestro:
Oh no, you mean SAS is totally different. Right? The profit is crazy. All the expense in the SAS business. So if anybody's insist was your expenses. In the beginning, I spent $400,000 to delivering a product and I don't have a lot of expenses got bored and it's really built for the franchising space.
So the cool part about that SAS company is if you have a franchise model, I come to the franchise world or I build it for the franchise world and then I'm done. I'll do another thing. Cause he takes that system and he moves it everywhere else. So the SAS is totally different. Yeah. The restaurant space looking for that 20% EBITDA, drive for it every single day.
And that's after royalties, you know what I'm saying? So it's not a job. It's a career for people. Cause structuring, obviously in retail and rental businesses, you're looking for at least 10%. That's 1%, but it's a slow burn because there's an equity game there as well. You're always looking for equity, right?
In real estate. It's not just always the cashflow. Although you need the cashflow. When you're in real estate, when you're investing in real estate, a lot of people say, "Hey, I own 20 rental properties, but they're not making any money." They're gaining the one piece of it though. But the other piece is you need to cash flow because you never know where expenses are going to arise and what you're going to have to, but you also are playing the equity game and equity is a hammer.
I love equity. I mean, equity is my favorite thing. Because it gives you leverage when you're getting alone or when you're doing anything, but your revenues, you need to set those goals and parameters, what your expectations are and then hit them and then set them higher. And then once you hit them, set them higher again, but people need to dive into their business and really dig in and really look at all their core expenses that they can affect.Natasha Miller:
I agree, you had mentioned about winning a prize for the best concrete home in 2020, I tried to Google search it. I want to see it. How can I find it?Tony DeSilvestro:
Go under ICF awards and go on 2020. Okay. So ICF Insulated Concrete Forms. So I'm building another 15,000 square foot one right now which is cool. I'm going to try and win 2020 to do with it.Natasha Miller:
Where and what is it for? Are you going to move in?Tony DeSilvestro:
For Customer, no, no. It's for a customer. I build custom homes all the time and do a lot of construction like that. So it's really cool though. It's 15,000 square feet.Natasha Miller:
Are you building these companies with the exit in mind?Tony DeSilvestro:
Oh, heck yeah. I really wasn't thinking about that, but basically I have six companies that I'm working real hard right now that are all coming in on a train track to one station right now.
And I've been working at for 30 years and they're really like all coming on the train tracks, but eventually I hope to be within a year of speaking all over the world, at least the country. And then after that, just my businesses will be on autopilot. And then I've got some really good talent around me that my business will be able to survive.
Like the R word, never. I mean, everybody's a winning tire. It'll never happen.Natasha Miller:
That would be a healthy choice for you.Tony DeSilvestro:
It won't, I'm a kids down a little, if I'm bored, like I start reading books, my family's like, oh my God, stop reading. Because they were like, what am I going to open next? You know? So like I'm getting into solar now I'm getting into wind technology.
I'm working on these things called a Sockets, like an internet hub and working on connectivity and creating job force workforce development. So I'm doing a couple other functions.Natasha Miller:
Okay. You're into everything. Are you in the NFT space yet? Are you looking at cryptocurrency?Tony DeSilvestro:
Oh my God. I hate that stuff. But I looked at Bitcoin 14 years ago and drove my POS company crazy.
Cause I wanted to take this new thing called Bitcoin. I want to take this. This is like electronic. I can pay electronically on my phone. And they told me I was crazy for about six months after making them crazy. And I just left it alone. But you know, I never looked back. I always looked forward and I wasn't meant to,
40 cents when I was looking at it and I'm like, I don't look at it that way. I don't look at my life was meant to be, like I told the kids the other day in class, I started, if I wouldn't, they all asked me about Bitcoin. And I said, if I would have been invested in Bitcoin, I would have never been in this class today, teaching you.
I said, so there's a reason in my life that I never looked. I never regret a day in my life.Natasha Miller:
Yeah. You're staying in your lanes of not only experience and expertise, but your interest. It sounds like.Tony DeSilvestro:
I love, I need stimulation. I told you I have to be moving. So like, even like talking about these wind turbines that go on every light post all over the world, there are horizontal light, wind turbine they're made in angle.
And they're not even really in the country yet, but like doing something like that is so rewarding for me because we're saving the environment. It's a phenomenal business. You can help the young people that are getting killed with electric bills. They put one of these in their backyard. It's awesome on their building of the house and they're saving all this money and it's just a fun, new business.
That's what I need. I need that.Natasha Miller:
Yeah. I'm getting from you that like the businesses and the way you live your life is like it's gaming, right. You're playing a game and you're winning a lot, mostly, hopefully. And you're also changing and affecting positively the world, which I assume makes you feel good about the legacy that you're building.Tony DeSilvestro:
And I am definitely not profit or power driven I'm growth turban a hundred percent. I don't know, like growth is everything that made it. If you want to say what drives you at success? It's growth. And I want to just keep growing. I want to be better than yesterday, every single day of my life. So I lean forward.
I don't have a rear view mirror in my car. I just don't look backwards. Not that I don't take what happened yesterday and create a solution with it, but I definitely look back at it ever. I'm always looking forward.Natasha Miller:
Tony talked about why he started so many businesses that EBITDA he's looking for in each business and how he's trying to impact the world positively.
For more information, go to the show notes where you're listening to this podcast. Want to know more about me, go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast. Now, I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS..
Tony DiSilvestro has founded over 31 businesses, and currently has over 450 employees in his businesses. He is an award winning entrepreneur, a successful real estate investor, franchise owner, and an internationally renowned business and leadership trainer. He is also part of the Virginia Beach Vision Board which includes the top 125 business owners in the area, and is also a member of EO .
Tony has vast experience involving the restaurant industry, residential and commercial construction, SAAS training company, manufacturing, and global coaching and consulting.
He was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by Distinction Magazine, and awarded Best Concrete Houses 2020 in the World.