An inquisitive mind can be a powerful tool. For Thomas Charles Franchina, an inherent need to learn how things work has been the foundation of a successful career spanning multiple industries for more than thirty years. As a child, he would often disassemble items in order to understand how they work, and then, once he had learned what he could, put them back together flawlessly. Later in life, as an adult, he would do much the same thing with more abstract concepts like supply chains and building processes. Now a veteran project manager with a focus on construction, Thomas has had a hand in completing many well-recognized buildings in the state of Ohio. His work can be seen at St. Luke’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and even the Cleveland Zoo.
He first attended Ohio State University, then earned his bachelor’s degree from Massillon Baptist College. Thomas founded an environmental safety company with a specialization in asbestos removal and hazardous waste management and became one of the largest privately held companies in this field. What began as a small business out of the attic of his home quickly became so successful that it grew to employ more than three hundred people and several thousand scattered throughout various projects.
During this time, Thomas returned to school at the University of Liverpool where he received a Master of Science degree in project management. Fully embracing his new chosen field, he sold his environmental safety company and jumped headfirst into project management. Besides his building projects in Ohio, Thomas Charles Franchina has overseen many large-scale projects throughout the United States, including Hyatt Regency hotels, Marriott Hotels, and numerous convention centers. He is also widely viewed as an expert in hospital construction.
Overall, Thomas feels that he is at his most valuable as a professional when using his accumulated experience and connections to bring together the investors and contractors needed to finalize everything related to complex construction projects.
When not engaged in matters relating to project management, Thomas Charles Franchina likes to spend time reading, painting, and doing puzzles.
Can you share a little about the early days of your company?
The early days were very exciting for me. That was when I helped with the development of Hyatt and Marriott Hotels in different parts of the country along with working with specialized projects for the Department of Defense and other public entities. I learned so much, not just about how to best manage things, but also about people in general. I was fortunate to work with many great minds. Obviously, when you’re just starting out, there will be ups and downs, and it’s your ability to adapt that can make the difference between a successful project and not. Having the right group of people around you will ensure better outcomes. It was during this time that I gained a lot of the most important knowledge that would serve me throughout my career. I was really focused more on project management than program management back then. It was probably about 15 years into my career when I recognized that a lot of projects were having problems, and a lot of these problems stemmed from poor planning. Successfully planning a large-scale building project goes far beyond just making blueprints. It’s a culture, it’s assembling the right teams, it’s making the right decisions, and it’s always a struggle. What I learned from those experiences is that programming and program management are key elements in the successful implementation of any project, and that is what we call project management.
How have you achieved success?
By correcting failures. Without failures, you don’t have success. Every major businessman in the world, and every major corporation has had their share of failures. It is what you do with those failures—how you react to them, how you deal with them—that can shape you into a good project manager, a good entrepreneur, and a good person in general. So, my biggest takeaway from everything I have experienced in business is that you have to always be willing to learn. Take those failures, big or small, as a learning opportunity. Grow as a businessperson and as a human being. It will make all the difference in your future projects. People will try to knock you down, but you must do right and keep focused on accomplishing your project goals.
What obstacles have you overcome in the process?
There can be a lot of background noise when you’re an entrepreneur. There are many people who would like nothing more than to see you fail. Especially in the beginning, you may be subject to a lot of discouragement from others. You overcome this by working hard and going beyond what is expected of you. Things get easier the more established you become, but those early days can be tough if you’re not prepared for it. There are many obstacles you have to learn to handle. I’ve had times when staffing has been an issue. One day, you think everyone is on the same team, and the next someone is talking to a competitor about a job. We’ve had to deal with faulty materials on some projects. I like to say there are no problems, only solutions. When an unexpected issue arises, the first thing you do is fix it. Then it won’t be an issue on your next project. I have learned to have contingency plans for everything. After so many years in the field, I am well prepared for everything. That’s not to say I am not willing to learn new things. I am just well-versed in changing direction if need be. Creating solutions is what I do.
What drives you to succeed?
I love challenges. I love to figure things out by breaking them down and building them back up. One of the things I used to do as a child was to take apart old electronics like toasters and radios. I really enjoyed seeing the insides and following along with the wiring to see how everything worked. Project management is a lot like that. You start with an idea, a program, and you take that from a place of non-existence to reality. What drives me is the thought of finishing something that was once just a vision—imagine an empty lot that can become a brand-new clinic or an old building that can be turned into a beautiful new facility. I have been a part of making projects just like that into a reality for more than thirty years. Once I see the vision, I have to see it completed. It’s just who I am. As a result, after I finally retire, the legacy that I will leave behind is something that I can be extremely proud of.
How has your definition of success changed over the years?
Originally, I was driven by financial success. But really, it’s kind of unfortunate, because I see that’s what still drives many people in the world. Everyone is so busy trying to find that kind of success. But true success lies beyond that. I have learned that true success is to have peace of mind. To be successful is to leave a footprint, a body of work that people can look at and say, “Wow, he really did this well.” When I look at the definition of success, I feel like it should be God, family, and home. I believe that work is simply a means to become successful. What that means is that a person’s career is about more than simple remuneration. It’s about the completion of a project to meet an end goal. It’s about fulfillment. In many instances, people will try to put numbers on success, but that’s not really an accurate measurement. That’s not reality. I have many successful friends that are very wealthy, but they’re miserable. I have other friends that are just barely making ends meet and working hard, but they are very happy. I’ve learned over the years that success is almost synonymous with inner peace. And it is goodness, truth, and following your path and your vision for what God has purposed in your heart.
What has success meant to you?
I think success comes with the understanding that there is duality in life. Even when you encounter obstacles, and even if there’s craziness going on, or you’re confronted with stumbling blocks, it’s important to acknowledge that there are positive things happening simultaneously.
I believe that I have achieved an understanding of life’s duality. First, it’s important to live with passion. We don’t see as much of that as we used to, I think. We now have this society that pushes you to work all the time and dictates that you are not successful unless you have a big house and expensive cars. Everyone is working so hard for that kind of thing instead of for what really matters. As I have matured, I have become more aware that inner peace and living by your principles are the definitions of real success. Integrity and accountability are the principles that guide me. I’ve been fortunate to have had financial success, but I feel even more fortunate because I have attained this understanding of what’s actually important.
Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?
One piece of advice I would relate is to always persevere. That could mean making sure that you save an extra $10 a week and put it in your savings account. It could mean continuing education so that you learn new techniques and new things as the world is changing technologically. Another piece of advice is that honesty, integrity, and accountability bring with them inner peace. The world can be full of distractions, and people will inevitably get distracted from what is important. That’s why you must have inner peace with yourself as a person. There’s a saying that most millionaires actually fail three times before they become successful. What can we glean from that saying? Why are certain people successful? It is because they have perseverance. They continue to follow their vision. They keep on doing things with integrity. They know what they are, and they have inner peace. Unfortunately, there are always some people that attack successful people. Others want to cut them down because they haven’t come to that crucial understanding yet. As long as you can move beyond those obstacles, and you can find inner peace, you can achieve your goals. The internet has been used against many good people as there are villains and evil doers that create fake and twisted news to destroy someone. It is a sad day in the age of social media as bullies take things out of context to destroy people that are trying to do good.
How do you feel success affects a person’s outlook?
When you look at success and how it affects many people’s outlook on life, I think a lot of folks think it’s all about the fancy car you drive, the big house you have, and those physical, materialistic things. I look at it a little bit differently. It should be about the internal passion to want to continue to do things correctly. You have to look at the concept of success in a bigger sense. Success comes from within. That’s why I enjoy people like Elon Musk. He’s one of my role models because, even though he is one of the world’s richest men and runs multiple successful companies, his kids are still wearing $20 shoes. I have friends whose kids wear designer Gucci shoes that they throw out after three months, which is just pointless and wasteful.
It took many years for me to really see and understand the truth about success. When I was younger, I was all about making money. I drove a Maserati and had a big house and all you would ever want materialistically but I in many ways was empty without understanding the true meaning of life. Attaining that kind of success and still feeling empty inside really teaches you the importance of what is real. These days, with social media being such a big part of our daily life, I fear that the younger generations won’t come to this realization early enough. Their outlook on success is still one of just financial gain. Life is so much more than that. There are so many more important things to work for. Find your passion and pursue it with honesty.