Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Gary: I grew up in a small, rural town in Texas, with a very small high school. And I quickly learned that hard work is the only way to make things happen. For example, in high school football, we had to play offense, defense, kicking team, punting team and -- I’m not making this up -- we had guys who took their shoulder pads off at half-time and marched in the band. I graduated high school with 23 people (one of them I later married!) and after graduation, most of my friends’ goals were to go to college, but mine was to make money. I began my career immediately and I didn’t earn my college degree until I was in my 40s.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Gary: After working on the railroad, I opened up my own health club near the Baylor University campus in Waco. Things were going great until Baylor opened up a facility of their own for students. I went bankrupt and lost everything, but I didn’t let that failure define my life. When offered a steady VP of franchising position, I turned it down to take a risk on an idea called “Curves”, a women-focused fitness club franchise. Eight years later, the business had grown to over 8,000 units around the world by the time I left.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Gary: An effective leader isn’t afraid of making the tough decisions. They face a conflict head-on, and are willing to step into another person’s shoes. In my experience, when a conflict arises with someone, I get on the phone with them and I go see them. I strive to immediately resolve issues because most of the time, people just want to vent. You have to allow yourself to see a situation from their perspective. When a leader is able to make decisions based on business decisions instead of emotional decisions, then they’re able to take their leadership skills to the next level.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Gary: The best three tips I can give is respect everyone in your business, especially your employees. Treat the company’s money as your own. And never sacrifice your integrity.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Gary: Nobody said life is fair. Don’t be a whiner and don’t blame other people. When life gets tough, pick up your bootstraps and keep moving, and always use the God-given talent that you have.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Gary: Through all of life’s hardships, I’ve always been thankful for every opportunity that has come my way, especially in my career. After years in franchising, I knew I could use my experience to help others so I started the Findley Group – a consulting firm to help those on their entrepreneurial journey. I believe we go through everything for a reason, and if I can use my experience to help people find success, then that’s enough for me.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Gary: I was raised in the country. I’ve always loved working on the farm, hunting and fishing and raising cows. Even from a young age, I was deeply committed to anything I put my mind to. Back when I was 15 years old and part of the Future Farmers of America (FFA), I had a dream of raising the next grand champion cow. I woke up every morning and walked my cow until she became as gentle as a puppy. My cow and I won that year, and I couldn’t be prouder. That moment shaped my life because I proved to myself that as long as I put in the hard work, I could accomplish anything. And those hobbies still remain. Fast forward, and today my success as a CEO has also allowed me to have the ranch of my dreams. So I have the best of both worlds, at the office and on my land.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Gary: I take great pride in calling myself the “Redneck CEO”. Being raised in the country, I learned responsibility early in life, and I grew to understand and appreciate the meaning of hard work. Whether I was a kid raising horses and cows, driving tractors, or working on the railroad, those jobs, in some of the hottest and dusty places you can imagine, have inspired me forever. It also taught me that nothing replaces honesty and integrity, and you have to work hard for your success. That upbringing has served me well, from my roots in the country all the way to the biggest cities across America and in places around the world.