Thomas Charles Franchina has always been intrigued by the way things work. From a young age, he would regularly take things apart to see how they functioned. It was this inquisitive mindset that would eventually lead him to become a highly sought-after project manager.
Thomas earned his Bachelor’s degree from Massillon Baptist College and soon after began his first company in the attic of his home. One of the first asbestos abatement companies soon grew to several hundred employees and was well-known for its expertise in writing protocols for hazardous and infectious and biological waste.
After selling the company, Thomas focused on commercial development. He became a specialist in the building of hospitals. He was involved with many renovations and new construction projects in Cleveland, including the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, working with St. Luke’s Hospital. Additionally, he was involved with the rainforest project for the Cleveland Zoo.
With more than three decades of experience, Thomas has learned the importance of proper planning. Part of this includes planning time to relax and meditate. In his free time, he enjoys reading, painting, and doing puzzles.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I’ve always been very artistic. Creating and inventing things always interested me, even when I was young. People used to bring me their broken TVs or other electronics to fix because they knew I had the patience to really work on them. It helped to pique my interest in how things worked. Originally, I was pre-medicine in college because I thought that would be my path. I was working as an EMT then and we had a very bad accident that changed my mind on that as a major. So I changed my major and got into construction and program management, and then, down the line, I studied engineering. My mind is very scientific. Program management is an extension of the scientific method, really. It’s all about conceptualizing an idea and bringing it into reality. Without proper design, development, and program management, your project will always have hiccups. Let’s say you are designing a building and you want marble floors, but they would put you over budget. With proper management, you learn that ceramic tile can be just as beautiful at a fraction of the cost. That is the value of having the right management in place.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
When I wake in the morning, I will have a fruit smoothie and take at least 30 minutes to review my agenda for the day. Everything is peaceful and meditative so I can really get my head ready for the day. From that point, I start the workday. It could be various meetings or a workshop that I attend. Of course, throughout the day, I am working on the current projects. Right now I’m working on raising money for a project. Every day, I pick an hour at midday to get to the gym or go swimming, anything physical. To keep your mind sharp, you have to keep your body healthy. I learned that the hard way. I used to get so hyper-focused that I would forget to eat during the day. I would lose weight when I had big projects. Since I’ve made this time, I have been so much healthier overall. At the end of the day, I will make time for something relaxing, like working on a puzzle or reading.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Having a creative, but analytical mind grants me the ability to see things in ways others may not. When I take on a project, I immediately can see the line from conception to reality. Each step is broken down into smaller steps as we move from one to the next. I help bring together the investors, the contractors, the designers, and all the moving parts in any given project. We discuss our goals and how we are going to reach them. It’s always good to have input from the people you work with. Networking and learning how to optimize processes make everything run smoother from start to finish.
What’s one trend that excites you?
It is really exciting to see more people become knowledgeable about what they are putting into their bodies. We don’t just read the front of an item and assume it’s good for you. We are learning about real healthy habits and making that the priority. To achieve proper balance with your physical, emotional, and spiritual self, you want to be educated about what you are eating. So many more people these days are doing that and it’s great to see.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Since I was a student, I have always written out lists. This very simple thing has made it possible for me to reach the goals I set for myself. Every morning, I write a list of what needs to be accomplished that day. Pen and paper is still the best method for me. I know there are programs now to help, but I much prefer to have my notebook so I can write things down as I go through the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to be careful not to trust the wrong people. I would also say it’s better to focus on what is inside rather than materialistic happiness. There were so many things I would have done differently had I really understood that owning the best cars or living in a big house was not a true measure of success. None of that goes with you when you die. Enjoy life for what it truly has to offer. Appreciate your family and friends. Cherish the small things.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I am a big fan of the Cleveland Browns. I believe that they will make it to the Super Bowl sooner rather than later.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would recommend to everyone that they take time each day to meditate. Stop for fifteen minutes each day to just be still. People are programmed to always be on the go and it can be detrimental to your health. Resting is not a bad thing. In fact, making that time will help you be more productive because you will be more centered. It is okay to allow yourself time to rest or meditate. Try it and you will be amazed by the difference.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Proper planning. Things change. It could be staffing changes. I’ve written articles on the risk of replacing staff. I’ve gone through it just recently. It could be financial changes. You could have something that all of a sudden occurs that causes you problems. You have to have contingencies. You have to have a plan to work your way through it. I really am good at that. I really believe that getting back to the core values of perseverance, if you stay focused, you can endure difficulty. One of the things that really has made me successful is that I understand that you have to have contingencies. If something doesn’t work here, make adaptations. It’s an evolutionary process. To understand that everything is always continuously changing. As you try to develop something or manage something, you’re going to have adversities. I think my strongest recommendation to anybody is always understand that you’re going to have stumbling blocks in life. It is your ability to persevere or adapt that will bring success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have experienced difficulty when I didn’t listen to my gut. I was in a situation where I listened to the people around me instead of following my instinct with regard to staffing. It caused a big problem. I overcame it by relearning to trust my gut. When it comes to the people you work with, there is so much more to it than just a resume. You want to be sure you are selecting people who have the same values and vision that you do. I’ve become more cautious about my selections and have found much better resolutions.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My practical mind is always looking for things that would make life a little easier for people. I think it would be a good idea to have an app that someone could use to be able to quickly compare ingredients in foods. For example, let’s say a parent is trying to find cereal for their kids that they will eat but doesn’t have too much sugar. If there was an app they could use to quickly compare several at once, I think that could be very useful.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I spent was on some cold-pressed juices, vegetable and fruit juices that I did a three-day cleanse on. It really helped me physically. They were real, freshly squeezed juices. It tasted really great and it was really remarkable for me, it really helped me feel better.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use Microsoft Project. That’s a good project management tool for putting together schedules. I like Slack a lot also. That I use just for communication and to be able to do accountability and timelines with employees and with clients.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Zero to One by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel. It is an excellent read for anyone who is considering becoming an entrepreneur. It explains the different kinds of entrepreneurs and how they can be successful.
What is your favorite quote?
“Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics” by General Omar Bradley.
- Mindfulness generates productivity
- Trust your gut
- Persevere, but plan for changes
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.