John Savignano (“Savignano”) was born in 1960 at the esteemed St. John’s Hospital, formerly known as the Horace Harding Hospital, in Queens, New York. His father was the owner of a fruit and vegetable store in the area, while his mother dedicated her life to being a homemaker.
Savignano spent his early years in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he lived with his parents in a three-room apartment in a walk-up building. He was lucky in that not only was his childhood home just steps away from his school, but he also found himself as a part of a very close-knit community – something that is unfortunately a rarity these days.
Savignano also considers himself to have been blessed by the opportunity to grow up with his maternal and paternal grandparents nearby. He even had a close relationship with his great grandparents on his mother’s side. Indeed, this sense of family – including regular family gatherings – represented experiences that would positively impact his life for years to come.
Beginning at the age of nine, he began to work with his father at their third generation, family owned and operated fruit and vegetable store in Williamsburg. He would report for duty every day after school and even help on weekends, too. It was here that he learned a valuable lesson – that hard work and perseverance would be able to get you far in this life. It was a lesson that would also impact him for the rest of his career.
After graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School with high honors in 1976, his parents gave him three options. First, he could apply to college. Second, he could enlist in the military. Third, he could choose to work full-time at the family business. Because he was so familiar with the store already, that’s the path he chose and he worked there for two years before applying to college in 1979.
He was accepted to St. John’s University in Queens, New York, which gave him an opportunity to apply his interest in math by pursuing an accounting degree. Throughout this time, he still continued to work in his father’s store (one of the benefits of going to school so close to home), but he worked to further his education at the same time. He could see that there was a rising demand for accountants in just about every industry you can think of and certainly didn’t want to miss out on something he considered to be so important.
He graduated from St. John’s in 1983 and sat for the CPA exam the same year. In 1985 he became a licensed CPA and member of both the AICPA and NYSSCPA. He’s been hard at work ever since.
In addition to his career as a CPA and armed with over 35 years of experience under his belt, he has also spent time working as an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University. John Savignano and his wife Rosemarie have one daughter – Suzanne – who is currently 25 years old.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m the person who works “on” his business rather than “in” his business. I rather work “smarter” rather than “harder”. I constantly pass these traits not only along to staff but clients as well. As a result, I have more balance in life to enjoy other things … family, friends, sports, etc.
I try to spend most of my day talking to clients and staff … building relationships for us to handle the life-shattering matters when they (and do) arise. We do not necessarily talk about business mundane subjects but learn all the nuances of building teams internally and externally.
How is this all done … constantly prioritizing, delegating, and holding people accountable.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, you really must enjoy and have a strong interest in what you do … whatever it is. Liking what you do creates energy not only for creating ideas but generates excitement for you and others around you to execute or implement ideas.
For me, I like those new ideas that enhance life from an efficiency perspective. The more efficient we are in what we do results in more time for other things we like or wish we had more time to do. Also, besides saving time, I like those ideas that save resources. Perhaps leading to even more ideas.
With new ideas, not only am I motivated, but I also help people around me share my vision. I am very good I think, in making people feeling comfortable in my presence working on various situations and simply communicating our thoughts and what needs to get done together – teamwork.
I am constantly looking for new ideas in both my business and personal worlds.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Overall, I am a positive person. I look at a glass being half full rather than half empty. Thus, trends that are generally positive in nature excite me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have a few habits/practices that make me more productive. Physically going to the gym regularly gives me more energy for more results and playing golf provides the opportunity of meeting others and happily new clients. On the mental side, constantly learning and passing along new information and ideas to new and existing clients in the form of new work opportunities.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Commit and stay the course. When young we are faced with many life distractions, temptations, etc. Time is valuable – minimize wasteful time and get back on track. I’m not saying not to enjoy youth or life but make the necessary sacrifices to not only achieve your goals but be good at whatever you want to do.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Nothing really. Although what comes to mind is work ethic.
Today, too many people focus on less than 5-day work weeks, working from home, more vacation time – things other than what they could do for their employers, adding to productivity, teamwork, building a business culture, etc.
I grew up at a time when business owners and executives where in definite control of their business destiny. Employees including myself had no choice but to make work their priority. Show your boss what you could do first before talking about further compensation and time-off. Today, we are on the other side of the spectrum where employees are having more of a say and control in business direction.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing … we need to strike a work balance that is good for both sides. I’m getting old I guess and becoming a dinosaur.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep all your thoughts, ideas, plans, goals in writing. I find if you do not have this valuable information in writing that you could regularly review, update, etc., your plans usually never get off the ground or take longer to implement.
My writings include daily plans, business plans, financial goals, bucket lists, etc. I enjoy marking accomplishments and rebalancing life to not only fulfill my goals but to complete what is needed to be successful in business and personally.
If not, there are too many daily distractions that will always have you chasing and spinning.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I now find that the sooner you know what you want to do in life, the better you will become at it. For example, the world’s top piano players began playing the piano since early childhood. Same with pro-golfers, etc.
Since my early childhood, seeing my dad in his business along with me helping in the family business as I got older, I always wanted in the back of mind to be in business. Although I had tremendous work opportunities in top global companies since college, I should have started and focused on my CPA firm much sooner rather than later. Many of my colleagues who went down this path, build larger and more successful firms.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Start a home-based business. You get to be your own boss.
The increasing capability and availability of computer and communications technology is providing us more than ever, with the opportunity and ease to start a home-based business. Besides being your own boss, a home-based business will help balance career and family, while affording greater income potential than a 9-5 job.
Other advantages, include time savings, control over working hours and conditions, independence, and flexibility. People who work from their homes may be eligible for another tax deduction known as a home office deduction. These may include a portion of your mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, and home maintenance.
I like those folks who double dip – starting a home-based business and still maintaining their 9-5 jobs. I was able to do this myself from around 25 to and 45 years old.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I would like to say contributing to charity. However, I’m not going to go with most of everyone’s’ knee jerk reaction.
It may not be all I need to pay off that credit card bill, but $100 is a solid start. Whenever I have some spare cash, I pay off debt. If you have a credit card that charges 20% in interest, you want to pay that off as fast as possible.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Simply – Excel. Throughout my professional career, I go to Excel to make work easier. I’m not going to pitch Excel here, but it is my go-to tool for storing, managing and visualizing business and personal data.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I enjoy reading biographies/autobiographies about those extraordinary people that migrated to the US during the late 19th century. In particular, Italian Americans who changed American history. Many have gone on to prominence in sports, academia, and public service, overcoming perceptions of their limitations along the way, while a select few have even moved mountains while carving out their own trailblazing path for posterity.
I also enjoy reading said books learning more about my great grandparents deciding to leave their homes and immigrate to the United States … Impelled by economic hardship, persecution, and the great social and political upheavals of the nineteenth century. Further demonstrating that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.
Some books on:
– Frank Sinatra
– Joe DiMaggio
– Lucy Luciano
– Lee Iacocca
What is your favorite quote?
No favorites … but one that comes to mind is:
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” Muhammad Ali
Reminds me of my times alone – working hard and missing out on some of life pleasures concentrating on doing well in school, passing the CPA exam, and working hard and long hours at PwC. Overall, leading to my success.
“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.” Michael Jordan
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Charles Darwin
A couple more interesting quotes.
- Discover what you like to do … and do it.
- Commit and make the necessary sacrifices to be good at whatever you decide to do.
- Learn how to be productive/efficient – do not waste time – leaving room for other things to do.
- Overcome hurdles/mistakes – Life making mistakes is more useful than doing nothing.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.