Frank Cianciulli is the Chairman and CEO of Wish Group, and won the Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award, noticed as “Canada’s Top 40 Under 40,” and was recognized for the New Generation Business Excellence award, to name just a few of his accolades.
Despite Cianciulli’s obvious skill for entrepreneurship, he didn’t plan to be a top executive when he started. However, Cianciulli admits he was exposed to business running from a young age, and his parents contributed to his mindset.
“When they had people over for meetings, I wouldn’t stay with the kids; I was with the adults, I wanted to know what they were doing.”
“High School was the first time I remember learning that people could have their own businesses, but I ultimately attended York University to study History and Political Science.”
His original goal to study law was postponed when he was offered a second job at what was then Darome Teleconferencing, which “changed [his] life forever.”
“In one year at the agency, I managed to make enough money to save close to $100,000 while completing my university degree during nights. When Darome Teleconferencing was sold, the trusting atmosphere that had tied me to the company suddenly changed.”
The inspiration to start a company that had the same work environment as former job was the spark that light his entrepreneurial fire. However, he realized he had no formal business training and in his words, “no idea how to create a business plan.” Like any businessman, he knew the first step is to learn from someone with experience.
“In December 2000, I had a meeting with Chairman and CEO of Globalive Communications, Anthony Lavacavera, where he pushed me to open my own company. In August of 2001, I opened Enunciate Conferencing with the goal of recreating the atmosphere of cooperation and creativity that I have missed since Darome Teleconferencing was sold.
“When I first opened Enunciate Conferencing I hired two people, including someone from Darome Teleconferencing, and we created a very entrepreneurial company built on integrity and trust. We eventually expanded Enunciate Conferencing into an umbrella of agencies named Wish Group. This format, the umbrella of agencies, was a natural evolution of my entrepreneurial philosophy.
“Building companies is like an art, and in my model I have other entrepreneurs who are passionate and educated in their field who want to invest in their own opportunities.”
Cianciulli says his goals are constantly evolving, but at this point, it’s about gaining scale and growing his business from $50 million to $100 million in the next two to three years. Wish Group is looking at the long term plan: They already have an idea of what investments they will make with their cash flow to stay ahead of the curve.
“From a personal perspective with the team and model I’ve developed at The Wish Group, I’ve got award winning leadership running each business and I’ve got a proven COO to essentially run the day-to-day and work “in” the business which has allowed me to spend 6-8 months a year traveling abroad and focusing more on working “on” the business. I also want to continue to identify and develop future leaders as a method to continue to drive business and create wealth.”
Developing new leaders by seeking out fresh talent is not just a mission statement for Wish Group, it’s a way of ensuring the company’s future. Mentorship is more than lip service with Cianciulli – it’s a smart business move, and he’s investing his time in his staff for the future.
“It takes time to develop leaders, but ultimately each one was slightly different in regards to how they came into the organization. After that, it’s all about communicating regularly.”
“Being a coach, mentor, letting them make mistakes and creating the proper culture and processes which enable them to develop. Same with business growth both organically and through acquisitions, we have a process that helps us grow very quickly organically having started and grown more Profit Hot 50 and Profit 500 fastest growing companies than any other Canadian Entrepreneur and now we are becoming prolific at making smart acquisitions.”
Cianciulli recognizes that aside from ‘knowledge and determination,’ finding the right people is one of his three-pronged route to success. He states that since they are a collection of top-of-class businesses that have a centralized infrastructure such as Accounting and Finance, Marketing and IT, that have more bench strength to compete. “This enables us to easily beat anybody our size or smaller and also puts us on an equal playing field against some of the multinational multibillion dollar competitors we face.”
Cianciulli knows that when starting a business, that the willingness to take a risk comes before the research, the education and the will. The risk to stability is always in the back of each new business owner’s mind.
“I never let fear of leaving a comfortable job hold me back, like it does so many other aspiring entrepreneurs. I figured worst case I could always get another job, but I didn’t even think that way, because I had the mindset that failure wasn’t an option.
“As an entrepreneur as long as you know the business you’re entering is sustainable as long as you execute then you should have the ‘burn-the-bridges’ mentality.”
The award-winning entrepreneur knows that with every venture, the risk can sometimes be daunting, and the real challenge lies in keeping spirits up and maintaining confidence in himself. That can be rough for even long-standing companies. We asked Cianciulli what little parts of his daily routine he feels contributes to his success:
“Ultimately I read every day and work on personal growth at all stages of development. I knew what my own personal KPI’s were as well as my business, and I never left the office until those activity targets were met.
“What I always tell people is, ‘all you can control is your action and your attitude, so outwork your competition, and have a positive outlook and you will succeed.’ It’s just a matter of how quickly after that.”
Part of his support and daily routine in trusting in people comes from Cianciulli’s belief and former reliance on mentors. He believes that mentorship “can be a slingshot for success.” He admits the practice appears to be less common today, but feels that is as important as ever. “A mentor has experience and knowledge they can pass on to you. I have learned valuable lessons from mentors in the past that helped shape my decisions and guide me away from making costly mistakes.
“A mentor cannot prevent you from failing, but they can offer great advice to help you avoid pitfalls. A mentor is an objective third party who can sometimes see things that you can’t when you’re too close to your own projects.”
“Finding a mentor who can encourage you when you get discouraged (and in the entrepreneurial world there is often an abundance of discouragement) could be invaluable to your success. A mentor can also shake up your routine and help you set goals that keep you reaching for more in professional and personal endeavors. A mentor can also connect you with more people who are relevant to your profession, which builds your own network.”
The educational element to mentorship works both ways: Cianciulli knows that grooming future leaders can benefit his company as well.
“I’m always on the lookout for the next leader. There are traits that catch my eye such as work ethic to prove the passion and dedication are there, are they willing to manage up as well as down, are they vocal and willing to walk into my office and voice their opinions of how things can be improved with a plan as opposed to just complaining about something.”
“ I believe firmly that leadership is taken and not given.”
When Cianciulli first started Enunciate Conferencing and later, Wish Group, his philosophy was to build a company “focused on integrity and trust.”
“Ultimately, my life philosophy is the ‘golden rule’ of treating others how you wish to be treated. At Wish Group we value our employees and their feedback. We ask for weekly Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from every employee so that we can hear directly from them what is working or not working in their line of work, how they feel they are performing, and things that might need to be changed to improve morale or work flow.”
“I hope I’m regarding by many as a true gentleman. Somebody who was constantly out to help people maximize their potential, make society a better place and always dedicated to connecting with others deeply.”