It all started when young political science student, Michael Bilello, learned the importance of communicating the right message to the right target by working on public relations campaigns for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. His time in Tallahassee led him to a media relations position with the U.S. Marine Corp. where he escorted national and international reporters to cover Iraqi Freedom. This experience added another layer of understanding to the word communications as quick and strategic thinking was crucial at all times. Bilello worked with Fortune 100 companies, professional athletes, entertainers and healthcare providers upon his return to the United States.
At the age of 27, Michael Bilello decided that the best opportunity for a lively career was the one created by his own making. In setting out to form his own destiny he opened Centurion Strategies, LLC. Through careful planning and a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Business certification, Michael grew Centurion Strategies nearly 60 percent in 5 years. The company is now a $1.5 million operation with a team of 10 professionals who provide marketing, public relations and advertising solutions for professional athletes, Fortune 500s and small businesses.
A year after Bilello started Centurion Strategies in 2008, he reached out to the Small Business Development Center at USF (SBDC at USF) by participating in the Service Disable Veteran Owned Small Business and Veteran Owned Small Business Technology Conference. This conference connected him to U.S. Special Operations Command and other area businesses also owned by fellow veterans. Later on Michael took advantage of the Women, Minority & Service Disable Veteran Certification and Government 101 trainings at the SBDC at USF. With the guidance received from SBDC consultants, Centurion Strategies obtained a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business certification, which provides credibility with potential clients.
“The SBDC forced me to sit down, be patient, and plan. I am not a planner I am an executor, but being with the consultants forced me to be disciplined” said Michael of his experience.
With more than 10 years of high-level public relations, crisis management, international sales and marketing, integrated advertising, events and community affairs experience, Michael has led Centurion Strategies to build a solid reputation not only for the agency, but also for its clients. Michael says the firm has a high client retention rate because “we focus on being productive and making the client successful.” This strategy is not ignored in the industry. By the time Michael reached 29 he was named one of PR Week’s 40 Under 40 Professionals. He has also received numerous recognitions from other public relations publications.
Now that the SBDC has equipped Michael to become a planner of his future, he is preparing for more organic growth by integrating new team members in the advertising/media buying and public relations teams. “The SBDC helped develop a strong foundation for Centurion’s growth,” he said. As he continues, he relies on his family, friends, team, and especially the memory of those friends that did not return from Iraq as his sources for inspiration to move forward.
Michael offers advice from the lessons learned so far:
1. Skype vs. flight – technology is a great asset and if embraced, it can save money, time and make you more productive. In our industry it is about getting the most from each hour of work.
2. Use the right accountant – a personal accountant does not make a good business accountant.
3. Surround yourself with positive people – don’t allow other’s failure impact your business decisions.
4. Iron out invoicing and payroll technology solutions sooner rather than later – once growth has started you can’t stop to get this fixed. You are not in business if you can’t get paid or collect on your receivables.
5. Choose your clients carefully – accept projects that excite you and are aligned with your passion. Always go with your instincts, even if it means turning down money.