Findley has had a storied career, both inside and outside the world of franchising, and he’s no stranger to the low moments in business. However, his persistence has served him well. Findley grew the Restoration 1 brand from 22 to 350 locations and has even featured on CBS’ Undercover Boss.
We spoke to Gary about the values he holds dear, how they help him succeed in business and how his faith has kept him resilient during darker times.
RP: What has made you so different from your peers in the franchising industry?
GF: I think there is a typical stereotype of someone who goes out and builds half-billion-dollar companies. They manage differently, a lot of them are very drilled into the business part of it. It’s not just about numbers and profits, but it is most of the time.
But with me, I’m a relational manager. When I was at Curves, I had over 100 employees and I knew them all. I knew their spouses, I knew their kids, I walked one of them down the aisle and I even baptized one of them.
I don’t like to have meetings just to have meetings. I think of all the time that we used to spend as a company in meetings, is time that people can be productive. So, my format’s real easy; hire the right people, get out of their way and be there as a backup to support them.
RP: Some people think a term like “redneck” is a negative label, and not the stereotype for successful executives. But that’s exactly what you attribute your success to. Can you share more about that?
GF: To me, it is all about how I grew up in a small town. My dad was on the school board, he was a deacon in our church and he was on the water board. I started at a very early age, taking care of my own cow and horse. Eventually, I started working on ranches and farms, driving big, heavy pieces of equipment when I was 14 years old.
In that community, there was a tight-knit group of people who looked out for other people. No one necessarily thought they were any better than anyone else. My dad was an entrepreneur, he had his own stereo shop and most of the people in town were shift workers at big plants, but no one looked at the other one any different.
Learning how to treat people with respect, being honest and having integrity will make people follow you. You also get a lot of opportunities opening up. The opportunities I’ve been given, it’s always been sweat equity, it’s never been my resume.
So, to me, redneck is a very positive word, because it just exhibits those character traits and values we grew up with.
RP: What did you learn from your adversity that helped you become a stronger businessman today?
GF: I learned from my dad that you don’t give up. I remember somebody coming to my yard and picking up my car and hauling it off. It was a horrible thing to go through. Fortunately, growing up, we were raised in a Christian home with strong faith and that faith got me through pretty much all of it.
But what I learned is that, the way that you work in business is the way you should live your life, which is you should have that integrity and honesty. What I found was that drive to just keep pushing, it kept me moving no matter what happened. You learn to figure out what the problem is, fix it and keep moving.
Don’t ever stay right where you’re at. There are always opportunities, but you have to build and to create them.
RP: How has your upbringing shaped the person you are, and the way you engage in business?
GF: The biggest thing that I took out of my growing-up that I’ve put into place is loyalty. It’s being loyal to whatever company I work for.
I will stick with the plan. I went to Minnesota for five years. It was very specific, stay there for five years, help through the transition and come back home. If you can take the worst winter you’ve had in the U.K. and multiply it by ten, that’s what it was like living in Minnesota six, seven months out of the year. It was horrible, and I’ve lived in Texas my whole life!
It was just one of those situations where I realized that when you make a commitment to something, it does not make any difference what the circumstances are. You see it through. I gave my commitment, whether good, bad or indifferent, I was gonna stick it out. I think all those things led me back to that loyalty, being loyal to what I do, being loyal to my employees, being loyal to my vendors.
RP: What plans does Stellar Service Brands have in 2022 that you are excited about?
GF: A real strong focus on our existing brands, driving revenue to those brands, that’s our base. It goes back to loyalty.
Restoration 1 and bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, those two are our foundation companies. When I took over Restoration 1 in 2016, it had 22 locations, I brought it back to Waco, we’ve now got 350 locations sold with 280 of them open and operating, and now starting to build on continue to build on that.
I’m just good at hiring the right people, it’s not that I know how to build them. Tom Gissler is our president of Restoration 1 who has a strong background in the restoration business, which I did not.
Sherry Rose has been my COO since 2020. We’ve spent that time working together, getting inside the company and seeing what we can do. And then, as with every good company that I’ve been with, it’s time when there’s another role for me to play. I’ve stepped into the chairman of the board role, which allows me to go wave our flag. Now, Sherry takes it to the next level, because she has a different skill set than me.