Today we’d like to introduce you to Tony D’Onofrio.
Hi Tony, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Mark Twain once said, “the secret to getting ahead is getting started.” This favorite quote, which opens my LinkedIn profile, best describes my life to date in the United States. I arrived in this country as an immigrant child from Italy when my parents decided to relocate to Ohio following a similar immigration period in Switzerland.
The vivid memories of looking out the window on arriving in Cleveland and not finding what I imagined the USA as a place where money grew on trees, set in motion the hunger of continuous learning to reach the American dream that I still crave today. The early years of not understanding the language and culture were difficult, but I adapted quickly to the idea that hard work is what builds a successful future. From singing naughty Italian songs at birthday parties for tips at age twelve, to a failed paper delivering route, to successfully working for a retailer through High School, a Bachelor’s Degree from Case Western Reserve, and an MBA from Cleveland State University, the wheels were set in motion in building a life that remains transformative today.
Luck may have played a role in my career as the first position out of the University was with the technology company NCR. In selling and later marketing new innovative solutions to retailers, I quickly learned that technology was a game changer and I transitioned to aggressively adopting it as a key lever for faster professional growth.
The ’seven-year’ career its was very active in my career. After roughly seven successful years at NCR, I was recruited to Sensormatic into the security industry where I was asked to bridge physical security with retail point-of-sale innovation. Seven years later, I returned to information technology, accepting a position with Midsouth in Greenville South Carolina where we still reside today.
The art of resigning by ‘never burning bridges,’ I fined-tuned continuously as I transitioned to each position. Yes, roughly after seven years at Midsouth, Sensormatic made me one of those life changing senior executive offers that one cannot refuse to return, as they were inspired by the work that I was doing in South Carolina in creating next-generation security technologies.
Just three months after I returned to Sensormatic, the company was sold to Tyco. I immediately wanted to leave, but a wise executive reminded me that acquisitions are an opportunity for accelerated career advancement. The chaotic integration activities were difficult, but very quickly you learned that you needed a core set of peers as advisors to take you through it. Tyco was later merged with Johnson Controls and those same transitioning leadership traits continued my successful career with the parent company.
The key driver of my lifetime success has been my laser focus on win-win customer relationships. As Sam Walton from Walmart once said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” I was fortunate enough because of my senior executive roles to be able to engage with retailers on a global scale. On every continent, I built lasting partnerships whose fruits I am still enjoying today as lifetime friendships.
The passion for innovation that started at NCR metastasized into a “Disruptive Future of Retail” presentation” that I have been updating continuously for the last 10 years. What started out as a simple industry update to retailers, eventually transitioned into my unique inspiring innovation message to audiences on many global stages, forecasting the future of the vibrant retail industry.
Embracing change as your friend is your most important career asset. So is keeping an eye on clear tipping points that require finding a new direction. Exactly ten years ago, a very loud tipping point was delivered when a major promotion that I was seeking was given to someone else. The long sleepless reflective thinking night that followed led to a major reassessment of long-term professional goals. The lightbulb moment was the realization that all around us, technology was changing how individual value is defined.
As the movie line from the Shawshank Redemption reminds us, “it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” Sleepless, on a London Heathrow hotel napkin that I wish I had kept today, I scribbled the beginnings of creating a personal brand.
The timing of my discovery of personal branding was almost perfect as social media channels were aggressively growing around me. I quickly focused mainly on Linked-In as a B2B platform for engagement and they actually contacted me to mutually assist each other to expand the content.
Later, I discovered that social media is great, but how do you consolidate content to make it more visible? A personal website, tonydonofrio.com emerges which today it is in its 4th generation. All the website editions have been designed here in Greenville by Hannush Web.
That tipping point night was also a realization that someday I would retire and would need something creative to keep me busy. What I did not realize then was that personal branding could actually accelerate the next career move.
I retired from direct corporate life at Sensormatic in 2018, about 10 years early because my personal brand took off. Turns out my focus on innovation and leadership had a positive linkage with fast growing technology companies and startups in Silicon Valley. I “retired” from corporate life Friday; the next Tuesday (yes, only a long weekend of rest), I was already at my first Board of Directors meeting with a leading technology company. Pre-pandemic, twice a year, I would also trek to Silicon Valley to meet with 25 global startups to decide which to advise or invest in to their next level.
Multiple other board assignments followed in both the United States and Europe, all while my personal brand experienced more success. On multiple platforms, I have been named as a top 100 global retail influencer. Over 160,000 people now follow my content on Linked-in, my YouTube channel is growing, and I continue to enjoy writing about innovation, retail, and leadership.
The board assignments opened up other opportunities. Today I am both the CEO of TD Insights which is my personal branding company and also the CEO of the Global Retail Security Business for Prosegur. With TD Insights every day, I am just getting started in figuring out where to take the personal brand next. With Prosegur, I am re-inventing retail loss prevention.
The power of three’s has also been an important component of my career to date. Pick your top three or less areas that differentiate you and constantly focus on them. My corporate top three specialties have become retail, security, and technology. The personal brand is focused on just three themes which you can clearly see at the top of my website: retail, innovation, and leadership.
It has been an amazing ride that I continue to enjoy from here in Greenville South Carolina. In many of my leadership blogs, I remind myself and everyone, “it’s not where you start, it is where you finish that makes all the difference.” The secret to getting ahead is getting started in exploring the art of continuous learning possibilities, every single day.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
As my career synopsis clearly indicates, there is no such as a smooth road. Arriving to a big city in the United States from a small town in the mountains of Italy was a major cultural shock. Not getting the promotion I really wanted was a gut-wrenching setback. Feeling as if you are constantly on stage can be frightening. Navigating and optimizing messaging can feel like a thankless time-consuming task. Yet, it is the obstacles that define who you really become in your life.
Set-backs can either be moments you give up or very quickly you analyze what they are telling you, and reset earnestly to the next opportunity.
The American Dream is alive in each of us. How we wake up to its reality is totally under our control. Obstacles are those bad dreams we all have once in a while. You must truly believe that if you dreamed it, provided you work hard enough, and don’t let setbacks stop you, you will craft an amazing life for you and also inspire next generations to greater success.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Today I am the CEO of two major businesses. TD Insights which is my personal branding company is a consultancy firm specializing in retail, security, and emerging technologies. Focus is on thought leadership and futuristic projections on how technologies can drive improved efficiencies and profitability.
As part of TD Insights, I participate in webinars, lead podcasts, have a growing influencer base on Linked-in and YouTube channel, all focused on innovation and leadership. As a Top 100 Retail Influencer, my views have been shared on multiple platforms in Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. At various stages in recent years, I also advised a very select list of private equity portfolio companies with focus on technologies such as GPS, RFID, and visual artificial intelligence, mentored Silicon Valley California start-up companies, and I am on the board of various industry groups and companies.
I am also currently the CEO of the Global Retail Security Business for Prosegur, a multi-billion-dollar company headquartered in Spain. The differentiation that I have brought to Prosegur is intensive Silicon Valley innovative approaches that are leading to the creation on multiple unique next-generation Loss Prevention Solutions.
If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
Most people would have described me growing up as outgoing, friendly, knowledgeable, innovative, and even funny at various stages of my life.
These traits imply a vivacious extrovert personality, but in reality, I am really a closet introvert, eager to test ideas and leverage the power of language. You could summarize it as curiosity, but I would call it continuous learning.
The façade of how people describe you growing up should not define you. Find your inner strengths, understand your weaknesses, surround yourself with people better than you, and step up to whatever moment that requires you to succeed. Never stop learning. We can all be taught new tricks.
At age 11, we migrated to a totally different country, the United States. Culture shock lasted about a year until I learned the language and discovered the true secret of the American Dream, hard work plus creativity and continuous learning. Singing those naughty Italian songs at age 12 and putting the inflection at just the right point increased the level of monetary tips; quitting the failed paper route once the P&L said money was being lost; starting just bagging groceries, but then quickly stepping up to learning everything that happens in a retail store and volunteering, often with little sleep, for any position that was open.
While working at a very young age, I also learned the art of leadership by getting involved in neighborhood organizations. Some of these had members much older than me. I challenged myself to try new ideas and concepts that increased engagement, ran tournaments, delivered inspiring speeches, and more importantly stepped out of my introverted comfort zone to focus on the individual or group in front of me.
Just this past month, I started chasing my new dream and have hired an editor to write the first of three planned books. Thinking back, what inspires me today was set in my childhood and early career. It’s the feeling that whatever you are doing is not the end. There is so much more you can do and so many more positive possibilities ahead. Get ahead by getting started every single day in building a life with lots of dreams fulfilled and no regrets.
- Website: https://tonydonofrio.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tonycdonofrio/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonycdonofrio
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonycdonofrio
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUhIFGJAm5-l9zi7fYH_Cfg