Successful business exec and entrepreneur Tom Maoli recently gave a large group of Montclair State University School of Communication and Media students an important life lesson about how crucial it is to build a personal brand. “It’s just as important to a college graduate as it is to the entrepreneur whose reputation is critical to business success,” he said. “Develop a theater of the mind approach and project that positivism outward.”

Maoli can speak with experience about his entrepreneurial brand. His experience is ample evidence of his success—real estate holdings across the state, six highly successful luxury automotive dealerships in New Jersey and New York, philanthropist, public speaker, and now a successful radio show host, and he even leaked the potential of a reality show and a book. Yet, he told the students, “You have a huge advantage I didn’t have. You have a college education, something I didn’t have. That’ll give you an incredible jump start on your careers.”

The quintessential New Jersey entrepreneur defined the “entrepreneur”

“A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to succeed, someone who identifies opportunities, evaluates them as viable, and then decides to exploit them, when others do not. Entrepreneurs use these opportunities to develop new products or services, launch new firms or even new industries and create wealth for themselves and, ultimately, the employees they hire.”

Maoli regaled the students with stories of his humble business beginnings to a business partnership with now President Donald Trump. In 2011, he took over a struggling Lexus dealership in Whippany—his first foray into the automotive retailing business—and in less than six years expanded the business to six total retail operations under the now Celebrity Motor Car Company brand that has sales of three-quarters of a billion dollars.

Tom Maoli

Tom Maoli

“Theater of the mind is more than just a phrase,” said Maoli. “It embodies all the attributes you’ll need to be successful, and then it requires the desire and commitment to getting it done and make others believe the same.  You just can’t just use the term and expect to succeed; you have to live it, it has to imbue every fiber of your being. That’s what you’ll project to potential employers and others.”

Maoli backed up his comments by citing three highly successful entrepreneurs

  • World Wrestling Entertainment’s Vince McMahon, who purchased the WWF in 1982 with his credit cards. Today, the company is valued at $2 billion.
  • Steve Jobs was fired in 1985 from the very company he founded only to be asked back just as the company was facing bankruptcy. Today, Apple has a market value of $796 billion and is recognized as the world’s most valuable company.
  • Maoli also cited the example of Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express. Although he received a D on a paper in an economics class outlining a business model for an overnight delivery service, Smith was undeterred, even after racking up more than $29 million in losses in little more than two years. Today, Federal Express delivers packages to over 220 countries and is valued at $62 billion.

Finally, Maoli left the students with his own philosophy of life. “Go with your gut and take the leap of faith that your gut tells you is 1000% right, when everyone else is telling you you’re crazy out of your mind, it will never work. Because you are 1000% guaranteed to miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And winners never quit, and quitters never win!”

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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