Widely recognized as an authority on digital marketing who has driven results for thousands of businesses across the globe, Tony Guarnaccia has one personal mission – to help small- and mid-sized business owners grow their business and become more profitable. Before the success though, Tony has had to go through a season of homelessness and bankruptcy. On today’s show, he gets intimate with Jen Du Plessis as he shares the small steps he took to get back on his feet. Don’t miss Tony’s remarkable story of resilience and tenacity in this week’s episode of Success to Significance.
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Growing Your Business In Small, Easy Steps With Tony Guarnaccia
I am delighted that you joined us. I want to say if this is your first time, thank you. Thanks for gracing us with your presence. If you’ve been reading for a short period of time since this show is not that old, I want to thank you for your patronage to us. I appreciate it. I want to remind everyone, please take a moment to subscribe, write us a great review, and give us a great ranking because it will help us continue to grow. I am delighted to invite my guest, Tony Guarnaccia. He’s the author of the book called Small Steps to Grow Profits and he has quite a story. It’s interesting how his story is because it’s not just taking steps to create profit, but he had to come out of the basement steps to get to a point where he could take steps to profit. Welcome to the show, Tony. I’m happy to have you as a guest.
Thank you. It’s a real pleasure to be here.
I want to get right to it before we get into what people could do, some small steps that they could take without giving away too much of your book, but your story about your homelessness. Rewind everything and take us back to a time where you found yourself homeless. You can even go before then. What happened and then bring us forward into you said, “I’m going to take what I know and I’m going to apply it and give it to the world.”
The story starts when I was twelve years old. My parents had an Italian wonderful baker but unfortunately, they didn’t know what they know about growing a business, and sadly that business failed. Myself, my mother, and my father all moved into my oldest sister’s basement and rebounded. She’s eighteen years older. That’s where we started. I remember even a friend of mine was asking me about a specific time there at that point. I remember seeing in that basement doing my homework and thinking, “I hope not me in the future. I don’t want to have this. I am destined for great things.” Years later, I went to college and I had that desire to redeem things.
I’m looking at that now, examining myself through this process and I went then and got an entrepreneurship degree at the university and learned all I could about business. I left college then started a second business with my parents after I graduated called Image Cake. It was going back to the bakery concept where we could take a cake, put a photo on it and mail it anywhere in the country. With that business, we ended up winning the best new product from the New York Incentive Show, which was amazing because we got a lot of publicity. We had celebrity clients like Jay-Z and Jennifer Lopez. A lot of people were excited about it. That business has a certain level of success but then I found out that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about growing a business and that business sadly also failed.
Here I am newly married with a baby on the way and broke again. I had to move in with my other sister. I have another older sister in her basement. I took it from there. I said and realized, “I don’t know what I’m doing. Who does know how to grow a business?” That’s when the light bulb moment came my head. I said, “The best companies in the world.” That took me on a ten-year journey to work with the best companies in the world, Google, Ford, ADP, a dozen Fortune 500 companies, and 10,000 small businesses. In 2009 was the high point at that stage of my career which is why I won Google’s Agency of the Year having spent $400 million in advertising across all these great clients.
You had all this beautiful success and then what happened next?
After I left the corporate world, I decided to take what I learned and bring that to small businesses because I thought I was one of the statistics. Meaning, 70% of small businesses fail within ten years. I said, “What can I do to help that not happen to other people like myself?” That’s when I started an agency several years ago called Big Fish Results. I had a good level of success with the agency but I saw the same theme there that people don’t know what they don’t know. A lot of times clients will come to us that weren’t even marketing ready. They didn’t have their value proposition down. They didn’t have their market down, like what they want to accomplish, their goals, etc. That’s when I started a few years ago, a training and consulting company to fill in those gaps.
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What propelled you to write the book? I’m assuming that the small steps to grow the profits are the steps that you take people through and in your consulting company as well, but what compelled you to have to give it to the world in the form of a book? A lot of people do consulting and they don’t write books.
It’s a much bigger story than that even. The story of Small Steps came from something very personal that I’d never even shared. It’s personal as going homeless and bankrupt is. The Small Steps came from my mother. What encouraged me to write the book was back in the 1930s, there was another epidemic going on. Just like now, you have the pandemic and everything. Back in the 1930s, there was polio. At the age of nine months old in the late ‘30s, my mother contracted polio and was unable to walk from the age of nine months all the way up to fourteen. Her whole childhood was spent quarantined in a hospital by herself with a room full of other kids. It was a challenging time. There were iron lungs back then, which are ventilators now.
I asked her, “How in the world did you get through such a difficult time? How can anyone do that as hard as this now?” As hard it is now, the polio was impacting just children and they couldn’t walk. How do you survive that kind of thing? The secret she told me is to always break them down into small steps. That was the idea of the book and that was the one thing that got me through all the challenges in my life. What I learned is there are three things that are necessary. First, you’ve got to need to know what step to take, how to take those steps, and finally, have to take those steps and take action. That’s the formula I’ve leveraged for businesses, but the real propitiation of it is from my mother who set that from early childhood.
Things are good for you and you’ve launched this book. I was with you on the day that you were launching it and all of us helped you. Did you get up to number one?
We’re still in prelaunch.
We were all getting the book, helping you out and making a big splash with it. That reminds me of a friend of mine, a colleague. She has a company and her tagline is, “Why make a ripple when you can make a splash?” That’s what you’re doing as well. Let’s talk about some of the steps because the people that are reading this are already successful in a corporate job or maybe entrepreneurship. They’re exploring this opportunity to make the shift into doing charitable work or foundation work, being more significant, make an impact in the world by giving back in a different way. They’re in the middle of it and they’re second-guessing or struggling through it, or they’re on the outside of it and they have a great story to tell and how they made it through it. Whatever you want to talk about is fine where you see the biggest struggle is for entrepreneurs in deciding to make this choice. It’s like you said, the why, how you’re going to do it, and then doing it. Where’s that biggest struggle and what do you want to say to them as they’re going through that or give them some advice?
The beautiful thing about this system is what works across all circumstances because it’s foundational and it’s not just for business, it’s also for life. The secrets of taking small steps are so powerful yet neglected. There are three scenarios from a business perspective that I look at. The first scenario can be used if you want to scale. If you want to get to the next level, whether it’s a nonprofit or for-profit business, the principles still apply. The second level of situation we’ll use it for is if someone is stuck. If you’re stuck in your growth in whatever area it is, it could be running a marathon, the process still works. Finally, the third area it works for is if you’re a crisis or startup. I think of them the same because if you’re a startup, you’re essentially in crisis because you haven’t figured things out but that’s the other area.
To answer your specific question, the area that people most miss is the “What?” There’s an idea that came from Jim Collins in the book Good to Great. It’s one of the Seminole books in business, and he talks about the idea of building a flywheel effect and getting momentum. What I’ve discovered is most businesses, their flywheel is broken. They don’t have that momentum, and that’s why you need those three areas. The what, the how, and then the action, but the area that people miss most is the what. The what is important because if you don’t know what to do, you go right to the how. What does that mean? How to do SEO? How to do Facebook? How to do all these things?
It’s the shiny objects. Breathing, grabbing, doing, this will work, that will work, and this should work.
The first thing about what do I want to accomplish, and even a deeper level which I don’t get in the book because it’s more focused on growth marketing, but the why. It’s like, “Why do you need to do this?” Why is it important to you? That’s going to sustain you because business is full of ups and downs and you’re not going to make it through the downs if you don’t have a big enough purpose to sustain you through the trials. That’s a whole other topic.
Where do you find most people are in? Are they in the problem of scaling because they’ve got to get out of their own way? Are they at the problem of stuck because it’s like the push-pull? It’s like, “I do well and then I’m stuck again.” It’s not a scale because that’s sustainability. There’s not any scaling of it. Do you find that it’s people in crisis not knowing what to do or having a roadmap? Even in this case of the COVID challenge, that may be more prevalent now, but generally which one is more prevalent for people?
Generally, more people are stuck getting to the next level. I’ve worked at all the levels but getting from 6 to 7, 7 to 8, 8 to 9 figures, and so forth. They all take different skillsets and understanding to get to the next level. That’s where people get capped, they can only hit a certain level and they can’t figure out why. That’s why it’s important to break down the what. “What you need, you have to do.” A lot of times, how do you figure out the what? That’s where it may be working with a coach is important, consultant, mentor, and modeling somebody. There are all sorts of ways to do that, but that’s what gets them to the next level.
I always explain that as a ladder. As you go up the rungs of the ladder, you can’t get to the top by still holding onto the bottom. It’s holding on and clenching to the habits, the skillset, the people around you, and the mindset that you had as a small entrepreneur or someone who’s new in a business and just growing. Even if you’re in the corporate world, it’s what you know here. As you continue to progress, you have to add new habits and create new skills to be able to do that so you don’t slip back down those rungs. Also, that you’re able to reach up and see what success might look like knowing and mapping that out to say that when it comes time, I don’t mean to say the, “When this, then that,” but, “When I get there, I’m going to need to know X, Y, and Z. At what point do I start implementing that as a lead indicator?”
Believe me, it’s very important.
If someone is reading this and they’re thinking, “I feel stuck. I’m in crisis. I can’t figure out how to scale. I’ve tried 20,000 times.” What would be the number one thing that they should do first before they call you?
What I want to talk about in my book and the Manifesto is the idea of growth compounding. Growth compounding is where you can exponentially grow your results by looking at six factors. I broke that down into a framework called the Results Loop. It looks at the six factors I found that drive growth across every company at every stage. What I would suggest is to start looking at your own internal results loop because usually where you’re stuck is in one of those six areas.
[bctt tweet=”The secrets of taking small steps are so powerful yet neglected.” username=””]
I have something that looks similar to that for mine because if there’s something that’s missing there that cog has gone, I call it the client journey. A lot of people think, get business, close business, and that it’s linear. It’s actually not, it’s an infinity sign. That’s where it continually happens over time. Is your book digital? Is it a hard copy, hardcover or do you have it audio? What mechanisms do you have for delivery?
It’s rolling out in all formats. It’s available for preorder as a softcover. It’s coming out in Amazon digitally, and then there’s an audio version coming out after that.
Someone can get it at Amazon.
The best thing to do because it’s not on Amazon, we have a launch page where you can get it. The Manifesto is probably the best thing to look at which is the Small Steps Manifesto. Within that, I took the best elements of the book and put it up for free so anyone can download it and learn the concept without even having to get the book yet.
It’s the SmallStepsManifesto.com. Let me ask you the last question. What quote is a mantra that you live by?
There are many I live by.
I know I live by a ton of them too. You were saying something and I was like, “That’s a quote that’s similar to someone else’s.” I’m always thinking of them too, but if there’s one quote that you go to.
I don’t know where it came from. I think I made it up but I probably heard it somewhere, “Slow down to speed up.”
I use that all the time.
That’s a powerful one. I first learned that when I used to be in a conservatory of violinists. I used to be a violinist. When I was in school, I learned from my teacher that lesson. My teacher was a renowned violinist, played at Carnegie Hall, and recorded for Sony, the whole bit. I had wanted to learn one of the best pieces for violin called the Manuals and Violin Concertos.
You wanted to go right there.
I did. I wanted to go right to the juicy parts, have fun, play the melody and he’s like, “No, you’ve got to work through. Every note is important.” I learned from him that you’ve got to slow down, practice it slowly and then speed it up and learn the piece. That has been something that’s carried me through my whole life journey. It’s particularly important for business because you have to slow down, understand where you’re at, and what you need to do before charging board. How many of us have wasted money hiring the wrong person, doing the wrong advertising, and making bad decisions? The sad thing is that we have to all come to the realization, for the most part, we’re at where we are now based on the decisions we made. How have we used our time, money, and efforts, that’s the end result. How do we improve that? You slow down and reevaluate where you are.
I always say and I have this quoted in my book as well, “Slow down to speed up instead of speeding up to slow down.” What ends up happening is that when we go too fast, we end up getting stalled and stuck. We have to retract, we have to go back, and make different decisions. We have to hire people, fire people, regroup, change colors, change our website, and change fonts. All those things have to be done. It’s crazy because people will hand me a business card and say, “Don’t go to my website because it’s under construction.” I’m like, “Then why did you build it?” Enhancing is one thing, but why did you build it thinking what needed instead of building it as you went along. I loved that concept and that’s important for people to understand. Tony, if people want to get in touch with you, I’m sure there are multiple ways but what is the best way for them to get in touch?
I’m happy to respond to any emails. If someone wants to email Tony@MeetTonyG.com. I’d be happy to answer any questions I hit on. That would be the best way to reach me but before you do that, make sure you look at the Manifesto.
Use your time wisely. Slow down to speed up instead of speeding up to slow down. Thank you, Tony, for sharing your story with us. It’s a little rags to riches story. I love that you’re talking about a manifesto, a system, and steps that create that infinity of business going. I appreciate your contribution to this show to help others that are reading.
Thank you for joining us and I can’t ever say it enough as the gratitude of taking time out of your day to read. Hopefully, you had an a-ha moment or some type of action that you can take to move you from success to significance so that you too can break through the glass ceilings that you have in your life. We will catch you next time. Take care.
- Small Steps to Grow Profits
- Big Fish Results
- Good to Great
- @Tony.G.Guarnaccia – Facebook
- @Tony.G.Guarnaccia – Instagram
About Tony Guarnaccia
Tony has helped thousands of businesses survive crises. Whether it was post 9/11, during the Great Recession or amidst massive company acquisitions, Tony has helped businesses navigate the uncertainties and emerge stronger on the other side.
As a child, Tony experienced firsthand the devastating crisis of business failure when his parents’ small business failed and they lost everything, including their home. Its impact on his life was powerful. Having lost everything, he determined he would one day figure out how to help business owners like his parents by learning how to run a profitable business. This mission shaped his entire 20-year career. As an entrepreneur, business owner, and enterprise marketer, Tony worked with, literally, the best businesses in every industry, including Google, Microsoft, ADP, Ford, BMW, Sunrise Senior Living, and Foster Grant to name a few. And he has helped grow over 10,000 small businesses and a dozen Fortune 500 companies.
After working with the best businesses across hundreds of industries, he learned how they grow consistently and predictably, using adversity to pivot towards opportunity in order to survive and thrive in all manner of economic conditions.
What to Do to grow profitably, How to Do It, and How to Leverage the Resources to Make It Happen. He believes that by growing small businesses, His mission now has a name: Democratize Marketing — to share with small business owners and entrepreneurs exactly together we can impact not just our local communities but also our world.
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