Tony Marino had worked at the same printing company for 25 years when the company shut down his division despite solid production numbers. From that point on, Marino decided to take a new career path: self-employment.
“If I was going to fall on my face,” he said, “it was going to be my own two feet I tripped over.” Marino had little experience running any kind of business. He and his wife, Donna, wanted to move to Florida. He also needed a flexible business that he could build while caring for Donna, who is fully disabled after a spinal operation when she was 19.
Marino started reading entrepreneurial books and focusing on home inspection, a career turn he thought might fit the bill. He contacted several franchises but focused on National Property Inspections after talking with Julie Erickson, director of franchise sales.
“She told me I could call any of the NPI franchisees,” Marino said. “I thought, ‘What? Any of them?’ That hit me hard. If a company can trust that any and all of their franchise owners will represent them well, I figured I was on to something.”
Marino called 10 or 15 franchisees, spent many hours on the phone with Julie and eventually selected NPI. The Marinos sold everything they owned, including the home of their dreams, ignored the repetitive voices of their friends telling them they were crazy, and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where they purchased available NPI territory on the Gulf Coast.
“We drove into town having never visited the area and said, ‘OK, we’re home,’” Marino said. Two months later, he flew to Omaha for two weeks of training with NPI. He completed ride-alongs with an NPI neighbor and started implementing the NPI marketing program.
“The rest is history,” Marino said. “It took me less than a year to equal the pay scale I had achieved in more than 26 years at my old job (and I was well-paid). Plus, no seven-day workweeks, no night shifts and best of all, no bosses.”
Marino implemented his business plan by focusing on four things that seemed to jump out at him time and time again when he was reading all those entrepreneurial books: “Be honest, have integrity, treat fsbase, focusing his marketing on reaching the more successful Realtors in his area — the ones who sell despite market fluctuations.
Marino won the NPI Pacesetter Award in 2006, less than three years after getting into the business. In 2014, he won the NPI Pinnacle Award, an award given to top-performing NPI franchise owners.
“That’s just the sauce on the pasta,” Marino said. “The reality is that at age 46 I took a chance on myself, stepped out of my comfort zone and became my own boss. I am now in control of my own destiny. You don’t know how great that is until you are there.”