Anthony Toma – CEO & Founder of Nine9

A habit of mine that makes me productive as an entrepreneur is listening.

Anthony Toma is the CEO & founder of Nine9 The UnAgency, a talent services company that is revolutionizing the way actors and models are represented in the entertainment industry. A successful business man and entrepreneur, Toma has owned multiple businesses across several industries including retail, service, and entertainment. He’s worked with influencial entertainment industry leaders, and he’s passionate about opening new doors and opportunities for everyone with the heart, ambition, and willingness to believe and invest in themselves.

Where did the idea for Nine9 come from?

The idea for Nine9 came about when I was in the grocery business. I was looking for franchise opportunities in the food industry that already had structured elements on the business side. I ended up coming across a franchise that was modeling and acting related. It was an offering out of Orlando, Florida. I ended up purchasing the franchise there, learning all about the business, expanding my franchise ownership to 26 franchises across the country. The franchise had investors, but unfortunately went under. I ended up taking the idea and developing my own company, Coral Reef Productions Inc., in 2003 — which is now doing business as Nine9.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day includes getting the kids ready for school, and playing a couple of rhyming games in the car on the way. The games kind of get my energy going and my mental juices flowing. After I drop the kids off, I listen to a motivational or business building audiobook on the way to the office. Once at work, I go through my typical routine, which is getting my baring down on what needs to happen for the day and the necessary functions that need to be taken care of and out of the way. I answer emails, and then I get jumping on social media in order to find out what’s trending and going on in the world. I make lists of things to do for the week, for the day, for the month, for the quarter. I tackle some of those things, and occasionally have meetings with the corporate brass of Nine9, making sure that I’m giving them all of the tools and resources that they need to help grow the company and deliver the finest product in the industry.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by writing them down, asking myself questions that might come up that could hinder or poke holes in it. Then, I take my ideas to my team, present it to them, and ask them to poke holes in it. If they do, we find solutions to “plug” the holes. Then we go to town on it; we bring it to life. Depending on the idea, we will put it online, make it accessible to the public, run some tests, and then we launch it!

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend that excites me is the evolution of the business world. The fact that you don’t need a million dollars to start a business venture is absolutely amazing. You can actually start with next to nothing. I find it incredible that everyone has the opportunity to take an idea, bring it to life, reap the benefits, and hopefully bring a useful productive idea to life that will benefit many people.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

A habit of mine that makes me productive as an entrepreneur is listening. Listening, and taking what I have heard and thinking about what those ideas might be in the future. Forward thinking makes many mistakes avoidable, and helps you see what a product or an idea might be one day in the future. I pay no mind to what it is today, because today’s idea may be short lived. You don’t want to invest your time and energy into a product or idea that will not be time tested.

What advice would you give your younger self?

My younger self was a respectful and honest person. I had pretty much had everything together as a young man. But the advice I would give to my younger self would be, read more, listen to more audiobooks, learn more, and take on as many new skills as you can. Learn technology based languages and learn to take an idea and put it online. Learn basic programming languages, and be well versed in essential technology knowledge.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

The Detroit Lions is a great team!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

The one thing I do or have done over and over is fail. Failing proves you are reaching towards the stars, you are coming out of your comfort zone, and you’re trying new things. Things that may be ahead of their time, things you were too late to the party with, things that you didn’t have the funding for, things that you might’ve just put yourself out there with. So, for me, failures are a learning experience. Failing is one thing, being a failure is another. I have failed, but I’m not a failure. Things don’t always go as planned, but they will definitely teach you something, and make you a stronger, better person and a better entrepreneur for the next time you put yourself out there. So, continue to try. If you fail, you fail. If you quit, then you are a failure. I’ve never had a bad idea, the ones that fail were just ahead of their time.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

The one strategy that helped us grow as a business is implementing EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, by Gino Wickman. It has a team of implementers that helps you along the way. EOS structured the whole company, helped us put a vision together, and set 3 year and 10 year goals. It’s been a great strategy that has really allowed us to play on the strengths of every individual within the company, and avoid putting people in bad situations or bad positions or roles where they’re not the best fit.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I was blind to see how deep I got into as a franchisee, and allowed all the decisions to be made by a group that was not reliable. As a franchisee you do not have the ability to make decisions to help grow a company. When it went bankrupt, I overcame it by starting my own — taking the concept and spinning off of it and coming up with the do’s and don’ts. Implementing the do’s, getting rid of the don’ts. I have been able to apply that knowledge and experience to ensure that Nine9 is a solid business that delivers high-quality opportunities.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The one business idea I’m willing to share is to create a little puffy sticker that says “don’t text and drive.” People can stick it right on their cell phones, so when they are thinking about texting and driving, they will look at it and say, “maybe I shouldn’t do that right now.” Just a tiny “DO NOT TEXT AND DRIVE” sticker that will help save lives.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best 100 dollars I spent recently was on my son’s tooth. I was the tooth fairy for an evening, and left him a $100 bill. I know it was a little excessive, but it was personally the best $100 I have spent.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Facebook (with a little bit of Instagram thrown in there) has been a great marketing tool, advertising tool, and a great lead tool for Nine9. It is important for reaching out, networking, and setting appointments. There really is nothing Facebook doesn’t do. These social networking sites are two tools that Nine9 couldn’t do without.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

This one has probably been recommended over and over, but it’s “Ask Gary V.” It’s a personal, business, business building, motivational, no excuse kind of book. If you are looking for a book that will help you in all aspects of life, not just for business, it’s a good read.

What is your favorite quote?

“To each his own, live and let live, and that’s that.”
Never give up. Failing is one thing, being a failure is another.
Never stop learning
Surround yourself with a good team that you can rely on

Key Learnings

  • A habit of mine that makes me productive as an entrepreneur is listening.
  • The one strategy that helped us grow as a business is implementing EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, by Gino Wickman.


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