Billy Wilkinson is a strategic sales and marketing-focused executive with over 24 years of results of moving businesses forward by providing sound strategic leadership, creating empathetic sales and marketing machines, delivering influential communications, and putting order in chaos. After decades in various sales and marketing roles, he has spent the last 10 years on executive teams in companies doubling ROI and improving operating margins while refocusing brands on organic and new business development.
Billy is currently the CEO for Threshold, one of the fastest-growing integrated sales and marketing agencies focused on real estate in North America. Since Billy joined in 2015, the company has grown to serve over 60+ clients in the United States and Canada with over 600,000 units in their client portfolio and 30+ employees. Prior to joining Threshold, Billy was the chief operating officer at Invenio Solutions, responsible for growing the sales solutions company from $12 million to $50 million in annual revenue and delivering over $1 billion in end revenue/sales pipeline to Invenio’s end-clients.
Billy loves traveling, has been known to like a spreadsheet or two, and spends as much time as he can on the tennis court or golf course. Billy holds a BBA from Schreiner University, an MBA from Sam Houston State University, and attended additional instruction at Leadership at the Peak from the Center for Creative Leadership.
How did the concept for Threshold come about?
We launched the company in October 2013. John and I are co-owners of the company and I was working somewhere else at the time. Previously, John had an agency that focused on student housing, where John had cut his teeth working inside the industry for years, helping multiple companies build their student housing marketing departments. In 2012, his business partner bought him out and when the non-compete expired, Threshold was launched to go after the broader real estate industry.
How was the first year in business?
Actually, it went well. John hired employee number one and we landed our first client which was born out of a prior relationship John had with the person. We started growing from there and enjoyed a fruitful and fun first year.
What was your marketing strategy?
Really, it was word of mouth and relationships in the beginning; something that remains very strong for us today. Of course, we have had to evolve to add many other elements to our strategy-like conference sponsorships, digital marketing, true business development, and other strategies as we have grown.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We doubled every year for the first three years.
How do you define success?
I’m very much a “financials as a measuring stick” kind of leader. That’s good and bad at times because people see it as solely-focused on revenue. While that’s not the case, if you don’t have solid financials and grow revenue, all of the other amazing things like helping people grow their careers, creating an amazing culture, and giving back to the communities that surround us goes away.
What is the key to success?
I guess this depends on whether or not you are talking about success personally or professionally, but my answer would be the same for each. Empathy and quality communication is the key to success, no matter what you are doing. If you can understand others and help them solve their problems, you will be successful as an entrepreneur, a spouse, parent, politician, or pretty much anything else you want to achieve.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I had my first business by the age of 27, focused on the financial industry for marketing annuities, and was doing well. Unfortunately, I had supporting marketing dollars coming in from a major insurance company in the U.S. At that time in my career, I did not understand how to grind and make revenue out of thin air. I had some great ideas, but in the end, did not figure out fast enough and did not execute. Only a few months after hiring one of my good friends to work for me, I lost the marketing contract and had to let him go and close the company. Since then, I would rather overwork and ALWAYS have an eye to driving revenue. Always.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“The only thing you are guaranteed when you are born is that you are going to die. Your life in between is only as good as you make it.”
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
When building several companies, adversity always follows, and in your role, it’s people and jobs to bring you problems. I can remember at one company where we were facing the possibility of one of our clients being brought into a class action lawsuit because of work we had done for them. On its face, it would have closed our company down. Instead of panicking, we did the research to help our client, prove our case, and six months later, it was dismissed. You are going to have that happen over and over, and less than 5% of the problems you are presented with become real. It’s best to listen, absorb, and take time before responding and realize that what information you are being presented is very early and will morph into what becomes reality.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
I’m not sure I can be considered a true “entrepreneur.” I consider myself more of an “execupreneur” because I’m the guy that comes into early-stage companies and take them to the next level. Entrepreneurs are the folks that have an idea and are hell-bent to make it happen; they want to be in the day in and day out and are comfortable being in every aspect of the business as it grows. I’m much more about building the infrastructure, strategy, and mechanisms to take ideas and foster them into bigger, better companies. But I am exposed to entrepreneurs and their ideas day in and day out and my advice would be to know when to make your key hires to help your vision succeed. Don’t let the need to control something hinder you from bringing in people to do other jobs that allow you to focus on your passion and what really drives the differentiator of your product or service.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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