Abraham Lincoln said if you want to test a man's character, give him power. Meet Tony Seifart; he created his own and has tenacity in spades. Tony has grown from a one man show, working out of a garage to a successful entrepreneur favouring good old fashioned integrity.
He is the founder and managing director of a company called Incredibility, which is a bit of a hodgepodge of many brands and businesses all rolled into one. He is a serial entrepreneur, always starting something new every 12-18 months because he gets bored very quickly.
He has two degrees, one in heavy current Electrical Engineering and an Honours Degree in Theology, neither of which has anything to do with what he does for a living!
He absolutely loves people, but enjoys his me-time, which is often spend reading fantasy novels; great for developing imagination. He is currently trying to get through The Wheel of Times series.
His first company, Webexposure, was born out of the fact that he couldn’t find a job as an engineer. At the time businesses that hired heavy current electrical engineers were required to fix their hiring quotas. After 68 interviews he realised that finding a full-time job probably wasn’t going to work. In all honesty it was also a relief. As he says it’s ridiculous to expect a 17/18 year old to choose a career path and be forced to stick to it for life. Studying is important, but it shouldn’t mean you’re forced to do what you studied.
The opportunity to start a “web development company” started when his pastor asked him if he could help a businessman in the church build a website. Gradually a lot of leads came through his pastor (effectively his first salesman!) Later the business owners would come to him and say: “OK, we’ve got a great website for our business, but now what? It doesn’t add value to our business.” That in turn lead him into learning about online marketing – it really was in its infancy. Back then there was no Google. Online Marketing was about creating lists and setting up email campaigns!
He admits that he didn’t have a lot of expectations when he started out. Firstly, it was just about paying rent and putting food on the table. Then it was about getting a deposit to buy a car, and then a house. He jokes that half the time he feels like we’re all working for the Bank, just paying off our debts!
Working with a business coach has changed that significantly in the last few years. Tony knew that if he wanted to build a real business, he needed to start working himself out of the business. He needed to work on equipping his team to make and manage choices that will expand and grow the business. It’s a massive mind shift.
He admits that his personal life has definitely taken a toll. He can very easily get so wrapped up in work, forgetting things like social events, birthdays, etc. Secondly is health. When you’re in your twenties and early thirties it’s easy to pull 18 hour day. Then your body just can’t do it anymore. You cease exercise and eat the wrong stuff. Then before you know you’re stuck with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes.
He tries to remind any young new entrepreneur he talks to that there’s more to life than your “baby”. Make time for friends and family. Get your ass to gym 3-4 times a week. Eat Healthy. Depressing stuff, but people need to know it!
His personal challenge to earn R1 million through online marketing was born out of a disagreement with a friend about his career choice. He didn’t believe an “Online Marketer” could actually make money. To a point, he was right. Tony wanted to prove him wrong and told him he could earn R1million in 12 months just using his online marketing skills. He did it in eight!
So what’s the secret? You hear people talking about “the hustle”. You’ve got to “hustle with a plan”. Some would say he also had a lot of luck thrown into the mix. Tony believes we create our own luck that there are always opportunities to make money – but be sure they fit in with your “planned hustle.”
Proof of this paying off was when he was nominated for the EMEA BEFA Awards in 2015. He was up against 250 big companies, mostly based in Europe and the United Kingdom. They won the same award for BEFA South Africa in 2016. Last year they were a finalist for Job Creator of the Year. “If you want to be a Gold Medal Olympic Medallist, you’ll go out and hire an Olympic Level Coach, right? Why is it that most business owners try and fumble their way through business? Take the time to find a coach who actually knows what they’re doing. Your accountant is not a business coach, nor is a life-coach.”
He is a little contrarian when it comes to “funding” because people see a lack of funding as an excuse as to why their business isn’t getting off the ground. They’re waiting for some Angel Investor. It’s usually only a tiny fraction of the real story. How many entrepreneurs are out there “still waiting for a miracle” 15 years later? At one point he had 3 part-time jobs, whilst working on the business. He recently took out an overdraft facility with his bank for a specific expansion. He admits that it was the worst business decision. It makes you lazy – as you don’t have to think of ideas to address the cash flow issues, you just lean on the bank. It becomes a bad habit. Now his mantra is: Cash Flow is everything.
Then there’s Social Media. His advice; get your friends and fans to follow you and retweet you. It’s like “word of mouth” on steroids. Throw in a small reward. 100MB of data if you refer a new client, it really works. He should know, he owned an online news agency called SA Breaking News before Hashtag Radio. (His latest venture) When he sold it, it had 550 000 twitter followers and 15 000 readers a day.
Digital Radio is still pretty new in South Africa, influenced by the high cost of data. Hashtag Radio will be moving into Podcasting this year. Presenters are encouraged to use their show as a platform to grow their own credibility and business.
He doesn’t have a typical work day, being a night owl. His first point of call is to greet each staff member. It’s not a mechanical process; he genuinely loves them and believes that he would be nothing without them. Next they are working on helping self-published song-writers … but he was not willing to reveal more. He cites winning the EMEA Award for Best E-Commerce Business as his, biggest achievement up to date; not to mentioned former president Barack Obama following him on Twitter!
His awe-inspiring moment happened recently, standing at the front door of the offices, looking at everything. He was overwhelmed that this is what he had built 16 years on, from working on an old PC in his friend’s garage to a massive office with great people. Consequently, his five favourite words for encouragement and inspiration are Never Give Up; Never Surrender.