My First Job

By Hannah Wallace August 31, 2004

Tony Zanoni is president and co-founder of Kitchens Direct of Sarasota, Inc., a full-service cabinet, counter top and remodeling company that was named the 44th fastest-growing company in the U.S. by Entrepreneur Magazine and won the 2004 Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Young Business of the Year Award.

"The job that set the foundation for where I am today is when I was director of tennis for a Nick Bollettieri tennis facility in the Boston suburb of Middleton, Mass.

In 1978 when Nick started his tennis academy I was one of his original 25 students. I came down to Bradenton from Bloomington, Ill. at the age of 11 and lived with my maternal grandparents through the end of high school. My goal was to pursue a college scholarship and become a professional player; and I competed in tournaments all over the U.S.

Then in 1988 I got the opportunity to become part of Nick's management team. This was prior to his selling to IMG. Owners of existing tennis facilities around the country would pay for the use of the Bollettieri name and a management team to come in and operate their businesses.

As director of tennis I was given a huge task along with one other person to take a 25-year-old facility and make it profitable quickly. In three months we created the strongest junior tennis program in New England and revamped and revitalized the adult program. My basic responsibilities were coaching, especially the high-level juniors, and I had a say in the overall day-to-day operation of the company. I was only 24 years old, but I took a deep breath and relied on the resources available to us through the Bollettieri organization and had a blast doing it

I am extremely goal-oriented and disciplined because of my tennis training. When I moved back here six years ago I really pulled on my resources from my training with Bollettieri. It taught me how to deal with management issues, and it also really taught me humility. I remember the first person I had to fire, someone who'd worked for the facility for years and was well liked; it made me realize how business affects individuals.

I still play tennis once in a while and I keep in touch with Nick. One of the greatest compliments I've received is that IMG has asked me to do work for the academy."

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