By Kecia Bal
The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Husband and wife Christie Cardellino, owner of “Cardellino Eyecare and Optical” and Ryan Gindlesperger, a partner at “1st Team advertising” share their thoughts on entrepreneurship in this Q&A on the ups and downs of launching and owning a business.
1. Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur?
Cardellino: I always knew that I wanted to start my own practice. Freedom and flexibility were the two biggest reasons that I went into business for myself. When you work for yourself, the possibilities are endless. I like the fact that I have the ability to expand and grow, and control my future.
Gindlesperger: I tried the corporate world for a little while and it just wasn’t a fit for me. I like to have creative space and not be restricted. I like doing new things, meeting new people, and taking on new challenges. 1st Team has given me the opportunity to do all of those.
2. What was the most significant turning point in the success of your business?
Cardellino: I have had my own practice open for about a year and a half, but the amount of support that we have received from the community has been overwhelming. I never thought we would see as many patients as we did in our first year.
Gindlesperger: I can’t really say that there was any one particular turning point. It really just took a lot of hard work, time, and perseverance. I was fortunate to have a lot of other business owners and marketing managers give me the opportunity to do work for their companies early on.
3. Which individuals were most influential in your success and why?
Cardellino: Both of my parents have always been very supportive. My dad had a very successful cardiology practice in Johnstown for over 40 years so he has been a big help. My husband really helped me pull everything together on the business side with setting up my company, securing a location, and promoting the business. He actually did a lot on the design and build out of our offices in his spare time, which was a huge help because at the time I was pregnant with our second daughter. My in-laws have also been a big help with everything.
Gindlesperger: There are probably too many to mention. I have great employees and they certainly have a large influence over our success. I would have to say that my parents and my wife have been very influential. They have given me a lot of support over the years. My father has been in business for a while now, so I had some exposure to entrepreneurship early on in my life. I have learned a lot from him and I am still involved in his business as well.
I also have an uncle that started a staffing agency from his apartment down in Baltimore back in 1992. He sold that business a few years ago and did very well. I had an opportunity to intern for him when I was in college and really learned a lot about running a successful business. I also have a deep admiration for the Smith family and what they have done at Laurel Auto Group. I have literally worked with hundreds of businesses over the past nine years, and I have never seen a business that is run as well as Laurel Auto Group. They really take great care of their employees, and those employees do a great job of taking care of their customers. You would really have to see if from the inside to understand, but the more that I work with them, the more impressed I am with the way they run their business.
PJ McGowan and Larry Pentrack are two other business guys that have been influential on me. They have given me many opportunities to grow with their businesses, and you can’t help but pick up advice along the way. Lou Mihalko has also been very influential. Lou took a chance on working with me a few years ago trying some different things with TV and online advertising and I think it worked out well for both of us.
I have learned a lot from all of these people. I don’t want to say it’s osmosis, but it almost is. You can’t help but learn from these people if you have the opportunity to spend time with them like I have. They are all very intelligent individuals with great business acumen.
4. What was the most important business advice you’ve ever received?
Cardellino: I did a rotation at a practice down in Towson during my last year of optometry school and one of the doctors there always used to say “treat every patient how you would treat your own family.” I took that to heart.
Gindlesperger: I think as far as advice goes, you kind of take bits and pieces from people that you know or meet and apply it in your own way. I think some of the best advice that I ever got was about a few years ago. I was sitting out at Indian Lake late one evening with a group of business people, one of which was Don Bonk, and we were talking about Johnstown and what we could do to turn it around. I had been coming off a couple of tough years at 1st Team and was on the rebound.
One of the things that Don said to us that I will never forget was “Focus on your business. If you really want to make a positive change in Johnstown, focus on your business and go make a lot of money.” So that’s what I have been doing. When you are an entrepreneur, there is no shortage of opportunities. There is always somebody pitching you on an idea or asking you to support a project. I think that’s all well and good, but you have to put your business first.
5. How do you measure success?
Cardellino: If my patients are happy, then I have been successful.
Gindlesperger: I measure success by the number of people whose lives I have made a positive impact on. Yes, business is about making money at the end of the day, but you have to take care of your employees and your clients. I know that my business has made a positive impact not only on my family, but also my employees and their families, as well as my clients who have made and saved more money as a result of working with 1st Team Advertising.
6. What asset(s) does our region have that you feel contributed most to your success?
Cardellino: I just think this is a great place to live and raise a family. If it wasn’t for that I probably wouldn’t be here. And I also think that our region as a whole has excellent health care.
Gindlesperger: I would say first and foremost it’s people. I can’t do what I do without great people. And I think if you asked most business owners in this area they would give you the same answer. I also think we have some excellent business support in JARI.
They have some great programs for small businesses and there are a lot of good people working there that genuinely care about the success of businesses in our region.
7. What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind?
Cardellino: I would like to build a practice that has a reputation for putting patient care first. I also want to build a practice that is here for a long time and provides my daughters with the opportunities, should they choose a career in optometry.
Gindlesperger: I just want to be remembered as an honest guy that worked hard, always tried to do the right thing, and took care of the people around him. I would like to see my company live on past my time in the business and create future opportunities for people that want to work in advertising.
8. What advice would you give to new or burgeoning entrepreneurs?
Cardellino: It’s a lot of hard work and at times you might wonder why you did it, but it’s worth every ounce of effort that you put into it. There’s nothing more satisfying than owning your own business and watching it become successful.
Gindlesperger: Work hard, but work smart. Don’t ever quit. When times get hard, and chances are they will be at some point in your career, you have to persevere. Don’t be afraid to ask other business people for advice. It might not always be what you want to hear, but it’s always good to get opinions from people that have more experience than you.