Empowering Others: The journey from franchisee to CEO
Tint World CEO and President Charles Bonfiglio knows what it’s like to be a franchisee. That’s because the Brooklyn native stumbled across the Meineke brand and found franchising as he started his career in business. He became very good at operating a Meineke franchise, growing into a 10-unit operator. Throughout his years with the brand, he was one of the company’s top performers, recognized with countless awards. Then, in 2006, he came across an opportunity to purchase a small Florida-based business called Tint World, and he set out to franchise the company.
What was once just a car window tinting company has now grown to 140 locations offering automotive, residential, commercial, and marine window tinting, security film services, and more. And Bonfiglio has even higher aspirations.
“I want to get 600 stores open in the United States,” he says. “That’s the number I see that will fill up the marketplace and make us a household name in every market.”
Bonfiglio is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and work closely with his team at headquarters. On any given day, you might find him at work with the marketing, operations, development, and real estate teams. “I make sure they have the right mindset, support them, and help them grow,” he says.
He’s a driven leader and a voracious reader. “I read 20 to 30 business books a year and always take something away from each,” he says. “I don’t want to waste that time. I want to learn something.”
There’s also a fun side to Bonfiglio, such as his collection of more than 30 pairs of sneakers. “I like buying sneakers,” he says. “I have at least 30 pairs of dressy designer sneakers that I can wear to the office with jeans and a Tint World shirt.”
Name: Charles J. Bonfiglio
Title: CEO and president
Company: Tint World
Years in franchising: 40
Years in current position: 16
What is your role as CEO? To lead the vision of the company and empower people around me to do their best. I probably do more than most executives on the creative side, working with the marketing department to keep the brand consistent. I work with the operations team to make sure the culture they share with franchisees is good. I work with the accounting team, the franchise development team, the training team, and the real estate team. That’s a little of what I do.
How has Covid-19 affected the way you have led your brand? As an essential business, Tint World’s doors remained open throughout the onset of Covid-19. We were also one of the first in our industry to offer disinfectant and antimicrobial services to our customers with complimentary treatment for our communities’ first responders. By leveraging a multi-channel communication strategy, our team created awareness campaigns informing customers that our centers were following all recommended best practices by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, in 2020 Tint World had one of its most successful years on record.
Describe your leadership style. I think that my leadership style is based on supporting my team with the right mindset. No one in the company had experience in the franchise industry before joining Tint World, so I’ve been able to train my staff to do things the way I think they should be done.
What has inspired your leadership style? Why do I do it that way? Because I was a franchisee first. When I was a franchisee, I built 10 locations and worked closely with the franchisor. I helped them with all aspects of development. I was a test center for expanding services. I helped them develop their first point-of-sale technology system. I learned from them and grew from one location to 10. After that, I felt like if I treated my team and my franchisees the way they want to be treated, they would know I’m all about their success.
What is your biggest leadership challenge? Not knowing what I don’t know. I didn’t come from the corporate world. Our company is growing, and I find I actually need some higher-level leadership skills in the various departments. But I just grind every day, and I’m always learning.
How do you transmit your culture from your office to frontline employees? The way I treat my team members in the office translates to the operations team in the field and then to the franchisees. They see the family relationship that we have in the office from the very first discovery day when they come into the office and meet us. One of the reasons I think they choose us is that they want to be part of that family. They know we really care. That’s really big.
The whole Tint World family sees that I want to give them the best. I’m always celebrating wins with them and helping them grow as fast as they want to grow. I don’t care if they call on the weekends or at night. I’m excited to hear from somebody who wants to grow.
How can a CEO help their CMO develop and grow? I’m very involved with marketing and branding. Everything with the Tint World brand on it, I have final approval. I don’t run it like a typical company where they just throw money out there and see where it goes. I look at the statistics and the return on investment. I want the highest return possible for our franchisees. I’m very selective and want to maximize value for franchisees and for the company.
Where is the best place to prepare for leadership: an MBA school or OTJ? You know, my first instinct is to say on-the-job experience. But like I said before, I don’t know what I don’t know. I didn’t go to an MBA school, and I’ve done just fine learning and growing. I started behind the counter, worked out on the floor, owned one store, then two, and started developing property. I just learned how to build a company. I don’t have an MBA, but there’s nothing that holds me back.
Are tough decisions best taken by one person? How do you make tough decisions? Typically, I’ll talk to my wife, Jeanette. I don’t always do what she says, but she gives me guidance. Sometimes I’ll talk to one of my peers and get some feedback. For the most part, I make the final decision on everything I do.
Do you want to be liked or respected? It’s nice to be liked but respect is really important because they can like you but not respect you.
Advice to CEO wannabes: It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s never-ending, continuous improvement and advancement. You’re the guy who deals with every single problem or obstacle. I’ve never come across anything I couldn’t handle. I just keep going. But it’s not for everybody.
Describe your management style. What does your management team look like and how do they help you lead? I have a leader in each department. They all deal with me directly on how they operate that department. I give them guidance, leadership, and vision. I never really considered myself a top management guy. The leadership skills outweigh that. I don’t micromanage. My team knows how I lead and what my vision is, and they carry that out. That’s how I do it.
Favorite management gurus: Do you read management books? I read every kind of management and leadership book, and I’m always listening to audiobooks when I’m jogging, going to the gym, or in the car. Some of my favorites are by Jim Collins, by Gino Wickman, and by Patrick Lencioni.
What makes you say, “Yes, now that’s why I do what I do!”? The success of our franchisees. That’s why I do what I do.
What trends are you seeing with consumer spending habits in your stores? I think they’re paying more attention to their cars. They’re buying more protective services because they’re keeping them longer.
How is the economy driving consumer behavior in your system? I really haven’t seen a big dramatic change recently.
What are you expecting from your market in the next 12 months? Continuing growth. We’re growing, and brand awareness is getting stronger.
Are your franchisees bullish or bearish about growth and adding units? Sixty percent of them are bullish and 10% are bearish. The rest are in the middle, maintaining their stride.
Are commodity/supplies costs any cause for concern in your system? They have not been.
In what ways are political/global issues affecting the market and your brand? I block out all the noise and focus on development. I really don’t get affected by what goes on outside of my focus.
What time do you like to be at your desk? I’m usually in my office at about 5:20 every morning. The reason I’m not there earlier is because Starbucks doesn’t open until 5 a.m. I leave my house at about five minutes to 5, get to Starbucks, have my four-shot dry cappuccino, and I’m at work by 5:15, 5:20. I like to be there early. It’s my creative time. I like to be the last one to leave as well, usually around 6. I only need about 6 hours of sleep: 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. That’s just my clock.
Exercise in the morning? Wine with lunch? I exercise three days a week. Always on Saturday and Sunday. I rarely drink.
Do you socialize with your team after work/outside the office? I do. Every month or two, we’ll go out for dinner or bowling or a day on the beach to celebrate our wins. We’re always doing something. It’s really good team-building, and I also really enjoy their company.
What technology do you take on the road? On a plane, I take my Bose headphones and listen to audiobooks. I’ll bring my cellphone but not much more.
How do you relax/balance life and work? Work is my balance. I enjoy what I do. To me, it’s a sport. I really love coming to work and building businesses and systems and growing franchisees. I love my scorecard: getting more stores open, same-store sales increases. I love watching my franchisees succeed and buy new cars, houses, and property. Everything that goes along with that is what I like to do. I don’t think of it as work.
Favorite vacation destinations: Up until the last few years, my wife, son, and daughter would go to the Breakers in Palm Beach for the Fourth of July. And we go to New York City for Christmas and New Year’s to watch the ball drop.
Favorite occasions to send employees notes: When I see they’re doing something exceptionally well or taking time to be more thoughtful about what they do, whether it’s for a franchisee or someone else in the office. That means a lot to me.
Favorite company product/service: I like buying sneakers. I have at least 30 pairs of dressy designer sneakers that I can wear to the office with jeans and a Tint World shirt. I’m very comfortable like that.
What are your long-term goals for the company? I want to get 600 stores open. That’s the number I see that will fill up the marketplace and make us a household name in every market. I also want to make every franchisee wealthy, and I want to see my team members grow and succeed.
Where can capital be found these days? Growing the way we are, money comes at me from every direction. Everybody wants to invest or buy or partner with us.
How do you measure success? Is the value of Tint World increasing? Are the lives of my wife and kids getting better? Are they getting the best out of life? Those are the things that are most important to me.
What has been your greatest success? In business, my greatest success has been creating Tint World, building a brand that I love and that other people love, and then sharing the wealth with all my franchisees. In life, I have two great successes: raising my daughter and son and putting them through college. They’re both smart and really good people. And I’ve been married to my wife since 1984.
Any regrets? Not many.
What can we expect from your company in the next 12 to 18 months? A lot of growth. That’s the way it’s always been. It’s going to be fun and interesting.
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