Chris Williams is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, volunteer, and the owner at Aginto Solutions who preaches that hard work solves almost every struggle in life. Throughout his journey, he learned that it can be easy to stumble and hard to get up, but it’s worth it. Hard work, being focused, and staying consistent aren’t lies – it’s a formula.
Because of this path, Chris is super-passionate about giving back and spends 12-15 hours each month working with local charities and the Salvation Army, trying to help others see that they can change their circumstances.
When he's not working or volunteering, he spends his free time with his family, obsessing over the Ohio State Buckeyes, or on a basketball court. In this interview, Chris shares more about his entrepreneurial journey, mistakes/fears that have kept him from growing, more of the lessons he's learned and how being persistent helps him survive in business.
How did you get the idea for Aginto Solutions? Is there something you wanted to do different or better than your competitors?When I started Aginto, I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I know that sounds so cliché to say but it’s the truth. I had made some real dumb decisions and landed myself with no place to live, no job, and a real “why me” attitude. I spent a couple nights sleeping in my car in Sarasota and spent the last bit of my money on a week’s rental at a local motel. I still drive passed it every week, the Whitfield Motel in Sarasota. I had an old laptop, some social media and HTML knowledge, and a few pairs of dress slacks.
I’m a Christian guy and so I spent a lot of time praying about the future and I couldn’t shake the feeling that God helps those who help themselves. He might open a door for you, but you’ve gotta get off your butt and walk through it. So, I found a nightshift job working at a Goodwill donation center where I worked from midnight to 8am. I needed that to pay bills while getting this idea off the ground. I’d get off work, clean up, and go business to business talking to potential clients about their digital presence, their websites, social media, etc. Each time someone put their trust in me, I’d go above and beyond the ‘call-of-duty’ in hopes they’d refer more business to me. And it worked! One client turned into two and three and so on, and I just grew from there.
I’ve had people ask me this question in the past and I think they're surprised to learn all I wanted when I started the business, was dinner. I literally wanted to eat.
I think that’s part of the reason that I was able to grow. I mean I’m certainly not working for just dinner any longer, but I work like I am. When I’m tired at the office, I remember that even as hard as I work today, there’s always more in the tank and I’ve proved that to myself already. It keeps me going when my competitors are at the gym, or sleeping, or watching Netflix on the couch.
What are your visions for your business? Where do you see it in the next 5 years?I’ve always felt that 5 year plans were something of the past. With changing winds economically and politically, they’re almost guaranteed to change from one year to the next. That said; as of today; I’d like Aginto to become a hub of talented marketers in at least 3 more states here in the U.S..
I don’t have any doubts about revenue or clientele, or the size of this or that. Since we don’t take on competing clients, we’re pretty successful when moving into new markets and looking to partner with new clients. But a real passion of mine is employing new people who are talented and hard-working, and want to further their careers with us.
What attitude/habits helped make you successful while starting Aginto Solutions?Being accountable to my task list and to myself. I have this fascination with time and with marking off tasks. I work my schedule and abide by the task list like it’s my angry, overbearing boss. When I began to set expectations on even a daily level, I really started to maximize my time. I want to be doing something every minute that I’m working that is vital to my profitability. Whether that’s working alongside a team member, or out shaking hands, I need to be accountable for each one of those items.
What was your biggest business mistake and how did you come out stronger at the end of the day?Trusting. When I first began to grow and take on staff, I found myself checking and rechecking all of the work that was being done. I spent so much time following behind them and micro-managing that I could’ve done the work myself. That’s completely ass-backwards. The whole idea of bringing on staff was to hire talented individuals that could do the work and excel, so that I could spend more time growing the business, and I just wasn’t doing that. When I realized this, and began to trust, I really began executing on our plans for growth.
Most businesses evolve over time. Is there a way that you slowly evolved the mission of Aginto Solutions to serve your customers better?When I came into the industry, every company (myself included) was preaching websites. You have to have a stunning website - something that portrays your company image in a wonderful way. Soon it became mobile websites, and responsive websites. I realized that no restaurant owner or law firm or retail shop owner cared about having a pretty website. They just cared if the phone rang, and if the customers were spending money. Everything else was bull.
I’ll never forget how it happened. I was in the middle of my workday, and locked my keys in my car. Every friend I had was busy working, so I picked up my phone and looked for a mobile locksmith online. I called the first person on the list and they got my money. Their site looked like hell but it didn’t matter because they were the solution to my problem.
All that mattered was results. Revenue. Return on investment. So, I shifted gears and focused more on a service that was about getting results for clients and not about some image they’d like to portray. Sometimes that meant teaching a client that they were wrong, and why. But it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.
What do you consider the biggest milestone you've hit with your business? What was the biggest thing you did to get there?Bringing on full time staff and allowing them to flourish was a huge milestone for me. I found myself spending so much time working IN Aginto rather than ON growing the company. And I had a really hard time with trusting others, no matter how great they were, with the tasks I was accustomed to completing myself. I had to take a step back and let others work to their potential, and even increase their potential.
As an entrepreneur, I think it can be easy to become a bit of a control freak, and learning to manage others was a big step for me personally, and for us as a company.
Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape Aginto Solutions?Rich Waldman is a mentor of mine, and when I met him – I was a completely different person. I spent so much time chasing business and working with clients that weren’t even in my target audience.
One of the biggest things that Rich taught me was to spend my time where I’m most profitable. While that meant turning down some business, in the long run this was a smarter move for me. It really shifted my focus from putting everyone in a class of ‘potential business’ to only working with clients in my target audience. And the businesses who weren’t in my base, just weren’t. And that’s not a bad thing. A partnership between a service provider and client needs to be a perfect fit.
Like a Cadillac dealership service center working on a Buick LeSabre. Sure they could do the work, but they’ll be more precise and more profitable working with the Cadillacs that are in their target audience. Make sense?
How do you stay focused on a day-to-day basis? Do you have a key motivator that keeps you going and fighting the good fight?I heard this quote years ago from Mark Cuban that talked about how you had to be willing to learn more and work harder than your competitor, because they were working to kick your ass each day.
It really spoke to me because at the time I would pass a few competitors on my way home from the office. How can I give up on a day because I’m too tired or burnt out when I could see their lights still on, their team still working. It really gave me an added sense of drive at a time that I really needed it. And I still think of that today, and it helps to keep me moving forward on a Thursday afternoon when I’ve just “had enough” of the grind.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you're most proud of?Being an entrepreneur, specifically in a service-based industry, gives you the opportunity to work to your potential. It’s a level playing field from one business to the next. Listen, I’m not the smartest guy in the city (by far) – But I want to eat more than the next guy.
Being an entrepreneur means that no matter how smart you may or may not be, or what your past may have been, you can work harder than your competition, do right by your clients, and win at this game. You just have to work for it.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in Florida? Where should they start?Well Florida is rather easy to start a business in from a legal standpoint. Sunbiz.org is the starting point for handling the legalities of getting started. But beyond that my advice would be to get out of your own way. Being an entrepreneur isn’t some talent, or a gift from God. It’s earned, and literally anybody can do it in this country.
Knock on doors or talk to as many people as you can about your service. And be persistent. People always talk about being patient, but I feel like it is consistency and being persistent that will get you to where you want to be. To hell with patience.
Wake up each day and go to work, no matter what. Work on your tasks, take steps forward, and hold yourself accountable. Be hungry for it.