Tim Fitzpatrick | Thriving in a Family Business and Transitioning To Entrepreneurship and Marketing

Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Marketing, a company that provides marketing consulting and outsourced or fractional CMO services to help B2B professional service firms accelerate growth. With more than 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, he helps clients remove revenue roadblocks by focusing on three critical areas of marketing: strategy, planning, and leadership. Tim graduated with a mathematics major from UC Berkeley and started his career working in his family’s business before going into entrepreneurship. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Tim Fitzpatrick, the President of Rialto Marketing, about the lessons he learned working in his father’s business. They also discuss the effects of AI on marketing, how collaboration leads to stronger brands, and why Tim transitioned from the distribution industry to residential real estate and marketing.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [00:50] Tim Fitzpatrick’s experience working in his family’s business
  • [04:44] What Tim learned from his entrepreneurial father
  • [07:29] Tim talks about the evolution of his father’s consumer electronics company
  • [13:15] The power of combining forces to build a stronger brand
  • [15:26] Why Tim transitioned to residential real estate and marketing
  • [18:55] The effects of AI on marketing
  • [21:39] How Tim leveraged his relationships to build a marketing company

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Chad Franzen 0:02

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:19

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, I am the host of this show. My guest today is Tim Fitzpatrick. He’s the President of Rialto Marketing. It’s got 20 plus years of entrepreneurial experience. And so we’re going to tell his story, share his story. He’s going to tell his story to us about all his ups and downs and entrepreneurship over the years. And of course, this episode brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing, and you can learn all about how we do it at Rise25.com. Alright, Tim, pleasure to have you here today. And you’re a Bay Area guy where I live here in the Bay Area, originally transplanted to the mountains of Colorado, I believe. And you grew up here in the Bay Area and graduated with a math degree from UC Berkeley. And so like every other math magician out there, looked for probably entry level math jobs probably thought, there’s not that much out there. And you end up going kind of into the family business, which is how you got introduced to entrepreneurship. Tell me a little bit about what that was like Is it it’d be a really positive experience for you, which isn’t the story that you always hear when people go and go and work for their dad. Right? Sometimes I’ve heard some horror stories. So tell me about it.

Tim Fitzpatrick 1:36

Yeah. Thanks for having me. John. I’m excited to dig into this with you today. So yeah, I mean, when I graduated as a math major, I had no idea what the hell I wanted to do. My dad had been an entrepreneur for for quite some time. And I knew he needed some help. In his distribution company had no full time employees at that point, I was like, Hey, why don’t I? Why don’t I help you for the summer while I figure out what the heck I want to do. So that’s what I did. And John, after three months, I was I was hooked, man, we were we were distributing consumer electronics, were selling home theater equipment, you know, speakers, DVD players, TVs, projectors, you know, distributed audio systems, it was just it was toys, you know. And so I loved it, I because I was the first full time employee, I was doing everything I was shipping, I was receiving, I was handling accounts receivable and operations, sales marketing was doing all of it. And I just got, I just got the bug man, I was soaking up information like a sponge, I was enjoying what I was doing, it didn’t feel like work. And so at the end of the three months, I just said, Hey, I would love to keep doing this, if you would, you know, be open to having me do it. And fortunately, he he said, Yes, you know, we had a silent other silent partner at the time. And it just, it worked. Here’s why I tell you why I think it worked really well. One, my dad, you know, trusted me. Um, you know, he knew that I was a hard worker, he knew there was a capable person. And, you know, he knew that I would just I would do the right thing. He also gave me a fair amount of latitude to learn, you know, it’s like, he wasn’t afraid, looking over my shoulder every day going, Oh, my God, he’s gonna make a mistake. He’s gonna make a mistake. You know, he gave me that freedom and that latitude. And he was there to help guide and mentor me as I learned the ropes. And I think because of that, it worked really, really well. And, you know, for the most part, I was handling the distribution side of the business, and he was handling his rep business, which were they were related. But they were separate businesses. And, you know, because of that it worked extremely well.

John Corcoran 3:46

Sounds like it’s almost like you are running your own, you know, operation with the benefit of being part of a larger operation, in a sense,

Tim Fitzpatrick 3:53

yes. And he was there for strategic standpoint, when I got stuck, and I wasn’t sure how to handle something, he was there to help guide and mentor me. And, you know, the other interesting thing too, about it is, I just got to see a completely different side of him than I did as a kid growing up. And, and frankly, it was a side of him that I really, I respect, and I was just so glad and so fortunate to be able to see because he had been in the consumer electronics industry for a long time. And as I like, every time I met somebody that knew him, they like, oh, we said, all these great things about him, you know, and just, he was well respected. You know, people saw him as somebody that had a ton of integrity. And was just a really interesting side of my dad that I never would have had visibility to

John Corcoran 4:44

what was it like for you growing up with your dad being an entrepreneur because sometimes you hear people say that, that that leads them to be not wanting to go into entrepreneurship because they see the ups and downs of their their parents experience. Yeah,

Tim Fitzpatrick 4:57

yeah. Yeah, that’s an interesting question. John, I, I don’t know anything different. What I can tell you is growing up, I never, like I never felt like oh my gosh, where, like, where’s my dad? Like he’s gone. He’s off doing his thing. You know, he as a rep, he would travel the Northern California territory. So there were some some weeks where he was gone for a night or two where while he was out calling on some of his dealers, but he was always there. Uh, you know, like, I mean, my soccer games. I don’t remember a soccer game you ever missed? I mean, I’m sure he missed a few. But yeah, my dad was always there for my brother and I. And, you know, if there were those ups, and there’s always ups and downs. Yeah, my parents insulated us from that. And, you know, so I, as a kid, I didn’t remember

John Corcoran 5:46

any, like, periods where he had cut backs or anything like that.

Tim Fitzpatrick 5:51

No, you know, it wasn’t it wasn’t that kind of stuff. They always shielded us from that whenever it happened, which, you know, I don’t know, for me, I think that’s a good thing. I mean, as a kid, I don’t know if you really should see those kinds of things.

John Corcoran 6:06

Yeah, well, I mean, I had that experience. My father getting laid off three separate times when he wasn’t an entrepreneur, you work for different companies. But yeah, definitely affects you good or bad, right? You know, sometimes you can’t it. I’ve heard stories from people where a business went under, and there’s no way they can hide their kids from it. But so free for you. Do you kind of work exposed to it from a young age? Did you? Did your dad in any way groom you or prepare you for that at all?

Tim Fitzpatrick 6:41

No, he didn’t. You know, and it’s, I think, deep down, I think he, I think he’s appreciative that I did end up getting involved because it was something that we could share together. But he was never, you know, kind of, he was never pushing it. Right? If my parents were always, you know, hey, like, you need to do what’s gonna make you happy. Right. And I and I appreciate that. Because I mean, I think we all know people who, who went down paths professionally, because it was what they think their parents wanted. And most of the time, that doesn’t end well. Cuz they’re not happy. You know, they’re they’re doing things for other people rather than for themselves. And that’s, that’s no way to live your life as far as

John Corcoran 7:29

now. You were we were talking beforehand, you said you’re generally your dad was an entrepreneur selling consumer electronics. It sounds like there were some different the the business evolved and had some different elements to it a distribution side, there was also a mastermind group. So talk a little bit about how it evolved.

Tim Fitzpatrick 7:50

Yeah, so he didn’t my dad had some his rep company. For those that don’t know what a manufacturer’s rep is. They’re basically a middleman. They represent various factories are manufacturers and they go out and sell those goods to businesses, you know, and

John Corcoran 8:07

so like Panasonic or something instead of having their own sales force or maybe in addition their own sales force, they have independent authorized representatives third parties who have their own companies who go out and sell it to retailers like yes, Best Buy,

Tim Fitzpatrick 8:21

okay, yeah, and because of that, yeah, so for example my you know, my dad sold products to the good guys when the good guys were in Circuit City. Yeah, Circuit City. So they would call on people like that and the manufacturers will pay them a percentage of of orders for doing that. And so, you know, some manufacturers have their own sales force, some don’t. And so he represented you know, he represented lines like our you know, in the car audio days, he was an Alpine dealer. I mean, most people have heard of alpine

John Corcoran 8:53

Alpine those are sweet car stereos. Oh, yeah,

Tim Fitzpatrick 8:56

I mean, it was it was it was big

John Corcoran 8:58

company, even in business anymore. They were they were great. Shiny, colorful buttons.

Tim Fitzpatrick 9:04

Yeah, we could go we could go down a rabbit hole there. So, you know, he saw he was a manufacturer’s rep. T. I knew that he started a company that he called the ad company, which was related to that. I don’t know all the ins and outs in the details of that but it was a good I know it was really good idea but they had very difficult time getting traction and and that ended up fizzle, fizzling out. But when he started the distribution company, there was a shift in the market. And the there was a big shift to businesses or dealers doing custom installation work. People weren’t going into a stereo shop going hey, I need a receiver and two speakers and a CD player. They were saying hey, I’m you know, I want a home theater. Really well. What like what’s your room now? Because it is a 10 by 10? Is it open is the highest Do you like, so they were the needs of for the products on each job are different. Which makes it really hard to inventory products, right. So it’s hard to buy direct from a manufacturer or bring all this inventory into your location. And then hope you have the right inventory, much easier to serve that through a distribution model. Just in time, hey, I need this, this and this on this job. Cool, perfect. So a lot of the reps across the country started distribution companies. So that’s how he started the distribution company. And he started about a year or two before I graduated, and then I got involved. Got it, got it. And that’s kind of how it started. But then where our distribution company really took off, was all these relationships that my dad had had with other reps. We the rep started talking to you know, we were talking to each other, hey, what kind of problems are you running into? You know, how did you solve them, right. And the first thing that we started doing was we wanted to bring in, we wanted to white label our own product. And so we pooled our resources together, we wouldn’t have been able to buy these products by ourselves. But collectively as a whole,

John Corcoran 11:11

we were a level your own electronics product.

Tim Fitzpatrick 11:13

It was actually wire and cable. So we started importing wiring cable from China.

John Corcoran 11:19

And why did you why did you choose that product? What did you see some kind of hole or open? Oh,

Tim Fitzpatrick 11:23

yes, there was a gap in the market. We did not want to buy what was already existing. So we created our own brand and started importing it from China. Got it. And, you know, you got to bring in containers. I mean, we as a district as as a