Tony Kitchens, owner of ARK Enterprises
Tony is the author of a book entitled “The Gift of Pain”, an entrepreneur and philanthropist. The companies Tony founded have generated more than $100 million in revenue and serviced the largest multinational corporations in the world. Tony is on a mission to help as many people around the world through the wisdom he shares using his various platforms. Tony Kitchens has experienced highs and lows in both his personal life and his business. He believes that everyone can change their perspective on fear, pain and current circumstances and use them as fuel to create an amazing life.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- The Gift of Pain
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:25] Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor on pay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Atlanta Business Radio, we have Tony Kitchens with ARK Enterprises. Welcome, Tony.
Tony Kitchens: [00:00:43] Hello, Lee. How are you doing today? Thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:45] I am doing well. I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about your practice. How are you serving folks?
Tony Kitchens: [00:00:52] Thank you very much for that. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 31 years. I’m 51 right now, so you can see the majority of my life I’ve been in business. Currently, I’m taking all of the life experiences I’ve had and the wisdom that I’ve gained from mentorship and coaching and business partners and taking that information and sharing it with whomever is looking to start a business or people who are in emerging businesses, meaning they recently started businesses and they’re looking for guidance and perspective throughout their journeys. And I’m helping people through speaking engagements. I do that nationally and internationally as well as one on one strategy sessions with entrepreneurs. Beyond that, I offer free content on YouTube and LinkedIn and Instagram, various platforms, just to get information to people and to help them along their journey.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:50] So what is your back story? What you mentioned a long history. What what were you doing during those years?
Tony Kitchens: [00:01:58] Absolutely. Right out of college, I started technology firm, and throughout those 29 years of having that firm, we had hundreds of employees. We work with some of the largest technology companies on the planet, and that was really geared toward large corporate customers as well as government agencies. I also had a charter boat business down in the Caribbean. We lived in Puerto Rico for nine years. We had a charter boat that sailed in the Spanish and US Virgin Islands, as well as the United Kingdom, Tortola in that area. And during that time, I’ve just learned a lot about myself as an individual and what it takes to succeed and the lonely times that you have, as well as the times that you have, where you can be very generous and charitable to other people and other organizations. So I’ve developed myself a lot over those years through hard knocks. I think one one important thing to remember for all of the listeners is whenever you’re going to achieve a goal, whenever you’re striving to dream big and reach those goals, the end result really doesn’t satisfy you. It’s the journey. People probably hear that all the time, but that’s where you learn who you are and what’s important to you. That’s where the magic happens in the journey. There really isn’t an exit point where your dreams are just all of a sudden going to bring this bliss and utopia. It’s the journey, the ups and downs.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:31] Now, throughout your career, you’ve obviously had a variety of roles. When did you kind of pivot to this role as author, speaker and not? I mean, I’m sure you’re running your own business now, the author, speaker business, but from having kind of a business where you had employees and you had a product or service to, now you are the product and service.
Tony Kitchens: [00:03:55] Great question. And I don’t want to say it was a midlife crisis, but it was back in 2019 and right before COVID hit. And it was, you know, I felt this urge to really take what I knew and share it in a more organized manner. And I would often get people, especially friends and family members, who had questions about business and things of that nature. And I actually sat down during COVID and wrote a book, and it was really more of a healing process for me, more of a journal. But I looked at all of the things that I had to overcome in life, and I put those in the book as opposed to talking about the success and the things that you accumulate during that time. So it’s really in 2019 when I sat down, everybody else around the world was was, you know, we were all stay ordered to stay home in early 2020. And it was a reflective time where I got to look inside and figure out what I really wanted to do. And I didn’t want the responsibility that came with hundreds of employees and hundreds of vendors and all of that. I didn’t want that anymore. I had that for so long. I knew what it was, but it just wasn’t fulfilling. So the fulfilling thing for me is really seeing these young entrepreneurs, not just young and age, but young in the phase of their life where they’re starting businesses and that energy and that passion and just tuning in to that and being able to help and to provide some guidance, it’s this is probably one of the happiest points of my life out of all of my business life, because now the work is meaningful. Before it was transactional, but now it’s meaningful from a heart to heart connecting standpoint.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:54] Now you’re talking about your book, The Gift of Pain. Can you talk a little bit about kind of what does that mean, the gift of pain?
Tony Kitchens: [00:06:04] Absolutely. Again, it was it was in late 2019. I was just going through a tough time. I just shut down that business that I have for 29 years, didn’t really want to, but it just it had run its course. And I remember being outside and and just thinking to myself how difficult the time was for me personally. And I just thought I thought about, you know, the pain at that particular point. And and I told my wife, I said, the gift of pain. It just it it gives you a burning fuel, the cleanest burning fuel that you can ever imagine in life and in business is pain. Whether you trying to avoid it or whether you’re in the middle of it. But it gets you up early in the morning. It keeps you up late at night. It forces you to do the things that you’re uncomfortable doing. So it’s a gift. And then in the book, I talked about a lot of different scenarios, you know, throughout my life where there was pain there, whether it’s the loss of my parents at a certain point. Again, business ups and downs and just different things. And as I look back on those things in retrospect, at the time I wrote the book, there were so many gifts that came from that pain at the moment. During the process, I didn’t feel that it was a gift, of course, but later in life I realized the endurance, the stamina, the friendships and relationships that are built out of some of the toughest pain that we do, we deal with. So I chose to change my perspective on pain and then look at it now as a place of hurt. I looked at it as a place of possibilities.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:58] That’s an interesting point about reframing pain. And instead of looking at as something maybe to avoid, it’s something that when you’re going through anything and there is pain, that’s something that maybe you embrace. And then you look at it, look at it as part of a growth process, the beginning of a growth process rather than some penalty or seeing yourself as a victim of it.
Tony Kitchens: [00:08:26] Absolutely. And it makes you a better person when you can get to a point where when things happen that you aren’t necessarily happy about or excited about. The thing that I keep in my mind now is this too shall pass that it’s not going to be here forever. And in the moment, I think there’s a lesson here, and I may not learn that lesson for a year or two years or down the road, but let me not have a very negative outlook. And don’t sit in misery and don’t sit and wallow. Continue to move forward knowing that whatever lesson I should learn throughout this particular time, during this pain, it’s going to propel me so much further down the road toward my goals and dreams because it’s going to give me probably a level of resilience that I didn’t have before it. So the book is not a dark book at all. As a matter of fact, there are a bunch of funny, interesting stories in there and very motivational and uplifting, and it shows people what an average person can do. I know you and I have probably heard a thousand times people say, Well, I’m just the average person next door. I truly am just an average guy. A little boy from the South side of Chicago who had dreams at a certain point. And if you would have told me then that I would have exceeded those dreams far more than I ever imagined. I probably would have said, okay, that sounds good, but. And I was able to and everyone else listening to this can do the same. You just have to be around people Surround yourself with people who can get you to where you want to go, and they’re not going to be in your life for your entire span of life. But there are times and seasons where people come in and out of your life and they are there to help you and to push you along towards your journey.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:31] Now, I believe that mentorship is important along the way. I’m sure you’ve had people, whether they’re actual people that were in your life physically or they were authors of books or podcasts or blogs that you have read or encountered throughout your life that helped you along the way. I see you on this journey that you’re on to share the lessons that you learned, maybe some the hard way with others that you can learn from a lot of different people and a lot of different ways. Is there some people in your life that you look to as mentors or have mentored you, whether it’s in person, you know, human to human or through a book or through some other means?
Tony Kitchens: [00:11:17] Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I was just on a call a few days ago with one person in my book, George Gower, and he was a marketing rep at IBM when I first interned at IBM. And, you know, we hadn’t spoken in a little bit, but we went back, you know, 20 something years and we kind of relived how it all started. And he would take me. He showed me how to dress for the corporate world. He told me how to talk to clients, and he showed me so much. And I just really appreciate him. Besides people that I’ve met in my life, I’ve read a ton of biographies and autobiographies. I’m attracted to people and their stories of how they went from a place of of mediocrity being an average people to extraordinary in whatever it is that they do. Extraordinary husbands and fathers and business people and leaders. And I’m just fascinated with how they went from A to Z. So, you know, I’ve read a ton of books. I continue to read books at least one a week. And there are people who are my mentors from afar who would probably never know because I may not have the opportunity to meet them. But in today’s world, there is so much more access to mentors, There’s so much more access to the stories of people who have done exceptional things.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:52] Now, you mentioned that helping kind of the next generation is important to you. Can you talk about some lessons from the book that maybe a young person can incorporate in their life today? What some low hanging fruit for any young person if they want to lead a life, a successful life like you have?
Tony Kitchens: [00:13:12] Great question, Lee. The one thing that I would tell you about success or this business family, whatever it is, it really is a mindset. It’s an attitude. It is a it’s an understanding that no matter what’s going on around you, that to build something that’s sustainable takes a very strong foundation. There are no shortcuts, although society today kind of tells you that there are, especially with social media, I would tell a young person there are no shortcuts. Start out. You have to invest in yourself. By taking classes. You have to invest in yourself by reading. Have to invest in yourself by spending time with mentors and coaches. And you have to be the best that you can be in any particular area. I would also say you have to have a level of focus to block out the distractions when you are starting in a new endeavor, and that can include friends and family who don’t see your dream. They don’t see what’s in your heart. And they may not see what it’s going to turn into. And you want to isolate yourself from people like that early on, because people can talk you out of your dreams and tell you what isn’t possible.
Tony Kitchens: [00:14:34] So I would tell the young people, focus, get a mentor right away as soon as you can. Read about people who have done what you’re looking to do, particularly in this space, the area that you’re that you’re interested in. When I was young, I read a lot about Bill Gates. Like him or not. He built an exceptional company that’s still here today that all of us use and one of their products somehow, someway, all of us do. And I learned a lot about him when his mom passed and how his father was there for him throughout the years when he first started his company. And that inspired me. But it’s the mindset. It’s the understanding that nothing comes quickly. Those are the things that young entrepreneurs, again, young and age and young and in phase in their life should really be grounded, knowing that if it doesn’t happen in a month or six months or even a year, continue to work toward it because it will happen as long as you don’t give up.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:37] Now, any advice in and around resilience of how to take that punch in the face and keep going and not letting a setback be the end of the journey and knowing when to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and just keep going boldly forward.
Tony Kitchens: [00:15:57] Absolutely your dreams, whatever is in your heart. Will not go away. It’s either going to be continued to be a dream and you’re going to pursue it or it’s going to be a nightmare later in life. Meaning that. If you give up on your dreams. They don’t give. They don’t go away. Your dreams don’t give up on you. You can only give up on them. And later in life, you’re going to have this little feeling in your stomach, down in your gut. And it’s it’s going to be there reminding you. That. There’s something that you’re called to do. There’s something that you want to do, and it’ll eat you up if you don’t pursue it. So as far as motivation and inspiration is concerned, I would say that in resilience is. If you get hit in the face, you know, you got to keep going. If you get knocked down, get up and keep going. That’s the mindset of of of what it takes to be successful. Don’t look at it as being something personal, although it will happen to you personally. Right. But it happens for you. It doesn’t happen to you. Any financial challenge that you may have, any business challenging may have any challenge in your life. When you really look at it and I view things as tests and when you’re faced with a situation I look at and say, okay, this is a test.
Tony Kitchens: [00:17:26] It’s a test of my attitude. Am I going to remain positive? It’s a test of my resilience. Am I going to continue to follow my dream? Although something is happening right now that is uncomfortable for me, and you have to keep going. You have to think of riding a bike. As soon as you stop, you fall. As soon as you stop. The same thing is true in life and true and business. Wake up every day. Take three steps toward your goal. You want to be a better parent. Every day you wake up and ask yourself, How can I be a better parent? Every day you wake up. What can I do today? Give me three things I can do today that are going to help me with my business. I need to make more calls. I need to send more emails. I need to connect with three prospects. So resilience is nothing more than being faced with the challenge in not sitting down. And giving up. It’s moving forward. Is that is that for momentum? And that’s really all it is at its core.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:38] Now, what do you need more of? How can we help you?
Tony Kitchens: [00:18:42] I would love to connect with anybody who’s considering being in business, who is in business, and who may not necessarily. Know how to navigate some of the obstacles that they’re dealing with today. I can definitely help with that. I love to talk about business and again, life, because life and business are intertwined. You can’t be a very successful business person. If you don’t have your personal life in order. And what I mean by that is, is you have to know who you are as an individual. What’s your moral and your ethical values are. So I’m looking to connect with anyone in your audience who is looking to achieve their goals, achieve their dreams in life. What is business or just life goals?
Lee Kantor: [00:19:34] And if somebody wants to learn more, get a hold of you. Learn about the book and your work. What’s a website?
Tony Kitchens: [00:19:41] The website is Tony. Or as in Robert Kitchens dot com. So Tony, are kitchens.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:49] Well, Tony, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Tony Kitchens: [00:19:54] Thank you. Lee. You are as well. I really appreciate you and the station and all that you’re doing to help the community.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:00] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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