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Episode 87: Lessons from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; How to Successfully Lead a Family Business

In this episode of "The Family Business Show," host Michael Palumbos chats with Christi Redfearn, who shares her unique journey in the family business, a janitorial company started by her grandfather. From an early age, Christi was immersed in the business, learning the ropes not at the dinner table but through the company's daily challenges and achievements.

Christi recounts how her reluctance to join the family business shifted as she explored different career paths, only to find her place within the company's accounting department during a challenging time. Her narrative is one of adaptation and finding one's niche within the family legacy.

The conversation delves into the importance of culture in a family business, especially during acquisitions and growth. Christi emphasizes the significance of staying true to one's style of leadership, listening to employees, and respecting the evolving dynamics within the company as roles change.

A key highlight is how the company adapted during COVID-19, maintaining its workforce and pivoting services to meet new demands. Christi also touches on the challenges of modern business, such as managing costs and expectations in a post-pandemic world where office spaces are being reevaluated.

Christi's personal anecdotes, including family Christmas traditions and lessons learned from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, add a relatable touch, illustrating how personal experiences can influence professional leadership.

Overall, the episode provides a candid look at the dynamics of a family business, the importance of adapting to change, and the value of maintaining a strong company culture amidst growth and industry challenges.

Watch the entire episode!

Episode 87 Transcript

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Well welcome everybody to the family business show. I am your host, Michael Columbus, with family wealth and legacy in Rochester, New York, and today we have Kristy Redfern with us. Welcome, Christie.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Thank you very much for having me

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: We had contractors at our house and They said they were going to be really quiet, and that was not the case, so I called an audible. We went to the office, so Kristy was really awesome, and just gave me a couple of extra minutes to set up here.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: so, Kristy, tell us about your journey in terms of you know. Were you straight out of high school, straight into the family business? Did you have, you know, a different journey? What was your journey like to join the family business?

 

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Christi Redfearn: Oh, gosh! Really! My journey with the family business began when the business began. I was 2 years old, and so my grandfather had this brilliant idea to start a janitorial company, and in his words it was, I've got a better way to do it now. He always had a better way of doing things.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn't, but His first sale was convincing. My dad that being a janitor was a good idea.

 

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Christi Redfearn: my Dad. Time is a middle middle school custodian, absolutely hated it didn't want anything to do with the industry. So my grandfather spent about 6 months working on him, saying, Yes, this will be good. You'll be in charge of the operations. Blah blah blah! Well, the fun part of that was my grandfather had a no compete agreement with his prior employer. So while the company was incorporated in Texas.

 

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Christi Redfearn: my family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to actually start operations.

 

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Christi Redfearn: So that's where it started. you know I always make the joke that family dinners were every Friday night, either in Tulsa or in the Dfw. Area. We commute back and forth frequently, and it was always about the state of the company. So I grew up

 

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Christi Redfearn: hearing about, okay, we're going to make payroll this week. Oh, cash is a little tight. Oh, we really need this customer to pay. Otherwise we're going to have to cut them off. And I didn't realize that some parents actually asked their kids how their day was when I was growing up until I started going to friends houses.

 

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Christi Redfearn: But You know, I was the kid that said, Oh, I'm never going to be a janitor. My dad was the guy who said, Oh, well, if you want to do this, then you can do this for the company. He was very set. I went to school to be an attorney.

 

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Christi Redfearn: worked for several attorneys. They all told me not to do it. So I bailed and ended up going into finance.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and unfortunately graduated the finance degree in December of 2,001. So really bad time for that industry, and so I found myself in need of a job, and my dad said, Why don't you come work for the accounting department? And I went. Well, I don't really have any other options right now. Sounds good.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: but you had a little, you know. You had a John tear and jump there beforehand, and you know some families, and I always ask, because some families have a hard and fast rule of you've got to go and do 3 years or 5 years, you know, outside of the family business, and you have to ask to come in and interview, and then other families. It's just this natural thing that's like, you know, you know the business already. You've been around it your whole life, and I there's no right or wrong, it just is.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and and and it it isn't because sometimes it's like, Oh, that person should have, and you know, spend some time away to spread their wings and know that they were, you know, doing the right things. And so I think it's just a matter of knowing your players right. And I'm actually one of the people who ran away a couple of times.

 

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Christi Redfearn: I did my Mba. When I was in my early twenties and got an offer I couldn't refuse for a fortune. 500 company with a great salary. That's where I learned that being extremely honest about what you think is going on is not always a good thing, and

 

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Christi Redfearn: definitely not the best employee, really not good at playing politics. And then there was another opportunity that came up where I really enjoy teaching coaching. that kind of thing, and somebody kind of offered me a great opportunity to do sales training, and

 

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Christi Redfearn: couldn't say no to that. So I went and did that for a little while, and

 

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ended up.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Go ahead! That in in between, so like did you come back and work for the company, and then go back out and then come back and work for the company again. Got it so the you it it's almost like tours of duty, right I had. I had I a another guest a while ago. They like she goes. I did 3 tours of duty with the family business. I'm done. Now

 

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Christi Redfearn: I guess I'm on my third, and so far it's been a it's been a longer one.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Talk about

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: some. You know you. You mentioned that, you know, there was times when we struggled to make payroll. But here we are today. So let's start with what was your grandfather's

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: big, better way.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Did he, you know, can you describe that for us?

 

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Christi Redfearn: And having direct payroll, labor, etc., if you used independent contractors, the reputation was that you kind of just turned over the keys, and they ran while the building there was no control. There was no safety, no background checks, that kind of thing. So his idea was to

 

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Christi Redfearn: not go across those boundaries, obviously, but go as far up to the limit on controls as possible while still maintaining the contractors and dependence, ability to work for other companies. So we started doing things like

 

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Christi Redfearn: charging them to run background checks, doing things like verifying their 941 tax returns and and stuff like that. So we control the supply ordering, and they use the consumables that we provided instead of just saying, Hey, now, it is a very still, tricky balance to maintain. We cannot train those people. We do the cleaning directly

 

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Christi Redfearn: we have to work with the owners or the supervisors to set the expectation, and then they go and train, and that sort of thing. But we we kind of. We do what we can to ensure that the service is up to our standards without.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Wonderful I love it. And so back in the eighties your father and your grandfather are running through this stuff, or some of the stories that you know are memorable for you, that it's like.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: boy, am I glad that we don't have to go through that again.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Oh, gosh! So some of the early ones especially. There were times where the crews didn't show up.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and so my dad was single-handedly cleaning a hundred 1,000 square foot building all by himself all night. Oh, wow! Okay.

 

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Christi Redfearn: There were times where you know, again controls, not being what they are today, or the expectations, not what they are were today, but

 

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Christi Redfearn: pulling up to a gas station, saying, Hey, you want to work for a night, and then

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: hopping in, and just so that they had somebody other than him to do all the work. And that's awesome. So those are the, you know. Sometimes I I have to say. I missed those days. You know there was. There was some things that you just.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know, when you, when you had a good family with a good name. You knew you were not out there doing any harm. It was. I'm going to figure out a way to get stuff done.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What do I have to do to make sure that the client is not upset with us for not delivering

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: through the years? What were some of the things where you look back at again, I just looking at the history of things your father and your grandfather, and that's, you know, just times when you know you were super proud, and they they were proud of what they accomplished, you know, through through the years.

 

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Christi Redfearn: For me it was always when we would drive around first in Tulsa, and then when we move back to the Dallas area.

 

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Christi Redfearn: every building that the company cleaned my dad anytime we drive by it. We clean that building, we clean that building. We used to clean that building. But this happened. And so now we're working to get it back. I just. I knew the real estate market and the Dallas skyline based on what we clean versus what we didn't.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I love that that's great that I mean, that is, you know, growing up. Did you have siblings? Do you have siblings? I have a younger sister okay in the business, not in the business. She's kind of in the business. she has a special needs, daughter who requires a lot of medical attention, appointments, therapies, and such.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: So She is on the payroll, but her responsibilities kind of work around what she is able to do with her daughter's conditions. So my point, I guess, that I was looking. This is to say, Yeah, I'm sure the both of you grew up with a sense of pride

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: because of you know your father and grandfather talking about the things that you know. Here's the buildings that we took care of. And here's what we did for this. You know, this community.

 

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They did something that while

 

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Christi Redfearn: at night, where was not necessarily where you were able to see it, somebody would get to come in the next morning and see a fresh, clean building. And so this day it just, you know, even at home I want want things fresh, clean, sorted, organized, and it just makes me feel good.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What are some of the things that happened in terms of

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: how the business grew or things that you took on to say. You know these were big projects, but they gave you leaps and bones, you know, steps and capabilities through the years.

 

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Christi Redfearn: So some of them were clients that allowed that took a chance on us. Our

 

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Christi Redfearn: big first break was with Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma.

 

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Christi Redfearn: we got that contract, and that really put us on the map as far as being able to hire and retain worth worthy crews that did an excellent job. And you know, work with contractors that

 

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Christi Redfearn: really want to hold things to the same standards that we did. We had a couple of acquisitions over the years that brought us.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Excuse me into new markets. in 1,994, we bought a company called Spectrum Commercial Services, and that made us go from, you know, the Texas Oklahoma Kansas market brought us into the east coast. And then, yeah, and we've been there ever since. another big one was getting the opportunity to follow a client into

 

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Christi Redfearn: Miami. Now that was interesting. We're glad we're not there anymore. But it was a great learning curve, but we know one of those situations where a client got a massive account, and they trusted us, and we had no presence working in Florida at the time, and they just trusted us to set it up same thing with We worked with Eli Lilly for several years in Indianapolis, and that's what brought us into that market.

 

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Christi Redfearn: So just you know, we we had the reputation. We had the trust. We had the strong relationships that were when somebody moved or somebody had an opportunity. They thought of us to get that chance.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Got it. What? How do you manage something like that? So you know, when you look at the number of employees that range throughout the company today versus

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know the early days. What what would you say? You know, when your dad and grandfather were running at what was like the high watermark employee, wise?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And I know some of them are. You know they're not all employees.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Whose families are we responsible for their livelihood? And so that kind of encompasses both our contractors and our employees, and you know, in the early nineties I'd say we had maybe

 

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Christi Redfearn: 500 people that relied on us for for their salaries. Now we're anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Wow! That's

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: what allowed you to have the capabilities and the confidence when you know the companies, you know Dfw. And Oklahoma. And you're saying, Hey, let's go to the east coast

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: with the snap of the finger. What were some of the things that you know, for you knew the company knew we'd be able to handle that. Oh, gosh! Is there ever any situation where you know 100%? Never a hundred. But you had enough confidence to say, Yeah, we've got this. And so what we're what would you say? Are some of the things that provided that that level of confidence.

 

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Christi Redfearn: We're not right for everybody.

 

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Christi Redfearn: So we spend the time to really get to know a client. We really spend the time to evaluate what

 

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Christi Redfearn: their set of circumstances are the scope of work, and we bid our work so that we can meet or exceed our clients expectations, and if they are looking for something cheaper than that.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Okay, maybe we can do something with the scope and reduce some of the frequencies or not not do as much detail and

 

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Christi Redfearn: under with the understanding that you know that's what it's gonna look like. And if you're okay with that, then we can work within your budget. if not no hard feelings. We're

 

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Christi Redfearn: just we're just gonna politely decline. And say.

 

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Christi Redfearn: I'm sorry. It's it's not a good fit for us, and we're we're that way about the companies that we've acquired over the years we're that way with the contractors that we work with. We have very long standing relationships with the contractors that we've got.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and we're that way with our employees. It's it's really about.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Do you fit? And do you understand what is expected? And do you buy into it.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I think that what you just shared I want to make sure that people get that.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: It is so incredibly important. Especially, you know when you're bidding jobs, you know, and I work a lot of, you know, people in the construction industry that have to bid the work. And

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: it's always about, you know.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: oftentimes it's you know, the low bidder is going to win. But I I don't think that's always necessary. The case. If they spend the time

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: talking about scope.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: talking about what are the expectations and really getting in there? and really making a difference in those in in those situations. Because

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: to your point, before you said, we have all of these families that we're responsible for. And so you'd only want to work with people that want to help with that mission of making sure that those people are taken care of.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I love that I love that, and that, you know it's probably a Testament to why, you know, here we started in the early eighties, and we are still here in 2,023, and we've actually, you know, you know more than 6 times the employees from the early nineties to today, because you stuck to your guns on how you do things.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah, it's funny. My my grandfather passed away last year, but and

 

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Christi Redfearn: inherited his office at at work. But you know it's one of those I I changed a lot because his taste and decoration are very different from mine. But I kept one wall that had all of his stuff on it, and it's my reminder.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Keep you grounded right.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's awesome. That's great.  What are some of the things that you're doing today

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: that

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I'll you know that help you to? I don't. I think a lot of people would be really hard pressed to say 3,000 people I'm responsible for. That's a big, that's a big ask, what are some of the things that you do as the CEO today.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: to be able to keep your fingers on the pulse, to be able to not, you know, fall under the wall of stress with 3,000, you know, lines at hand. What do you? What do you do for that? How do you manage that?

 

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Christi Redfearn: Somebody who likes to visit the markets, and I like to participate in some of our startups. I went to Little Rock back in. I guess it was April, where we just gotten a new contract that was very high profile, and I worked with the team for opening day, where they had thousands of people coming through, and you know I was

 

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Christi Redfearn: sweeping, mopping, doing everything else, and just

 

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Christi Redfearn: having a good time with everybody, and I try to do that whenever I can I'? If there isn't a start up, I still like to get out to the markets, meet with our managers, meet with our quarters, just really

 

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Christi Redfearn: get a sense of what they're going through. Try and make myself available for them, to feel comfortable, to talk to me about

 

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Christi Redfearn: what they see. What could be better. What what are we doing? Well, and you know, outside of work, I

 

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Christi Redfearn: race cars and do Brazilian jujitsu, so that I have great stress relief.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Nice nice. Well, if you ever race in upstate New York, let us know we've got Watkins's Glen racetrack is right here. So yes, I love the Glen. That's a bucket list. Item, I have clients that live in Elmira, so they're just outside of there, and they are there for as many events every summer as they can as they can be.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: The closest I've been is Lime Rock. tell me about your leadership team.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What is that? How does you know the interaction between you and your leadership team? How many people on the leadership team? What kind of spaces do they fill? And how you guys interact to make again. You know, I know, with 3,000 lines at stake. You're not doing this all on your own, you know you have to so talk about that share with us.

 

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Christi Redfearn: So I have a leadership team of

 

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Christi Redfearn: 5 people. I have our president of national operations, John Gendro, who is also my cousin.

 

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Christi Redfearn: He has forgotten more about operating

 

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Christi Redfearn: a a building then most people have ever learned. He's been with the company for 30 years. My grandfather trained him on operations himself. He is

 

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Christi Redfearn: bar none of the best operators in the business. And then our chief operating officer, Jeffrey Shay. He was actually a client for several years before we convinced him that real estate wasn't as much fun, and being a janitor is really where it's at.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and

 

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Christi Redfearn: he is responsible for our growth strategies and what markets we look at, what businesses, segments we look at. What do we say? No to that kind of stuff.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and he's really good at managing those client relationships and making sure that we have multiple layers within each company. So he's got a relationship with somebody. The person who operates the building for us as a relationship, that kind of thing.

 

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then we have my chief human resources. Officer Vicente Lyon.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and you know.

 

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Christi Redfearn: I know I mean, this is a true compliment. He is not your typical Hr person. he is so good at.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Let's figure out the root of the problem and the best way to solve it. He is great at leading with heart. He is great at protecting our culture. He is great at making sure that anybody who comes into our culture doesn't disrupt it.

 

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Christi Redfearn: And then finally, I have Steven Maxwell, who is our controller.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and he. poor Guy! I've tasked him with. you know, updating all of our accounting software and everything this past couple of years. So that actually, just past year, he's the newest one on the team. But

 

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Christi Redfearn: I kind of put the directive of like our accounting software has to be one that can grow with the business. It has to be scalable. And we just went through a massive software conversion under his leadership. And we're still working through some of the things that

 

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Christi Redfearn: you know. Obviously, software conversions take time. Nothing ever gets according to plan. But you know he's really helping to set the company up for long term success, because I have a very

 

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Christi Redfearn: active, gross strategy. you know I've got that.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Let's law the ball out and just see where it lands and how crazy can we get? And he's helping set the stage so that we can actually achieve it.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's up fabulous. How often do you in the leadership team meet?

 

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so we have a board meeting once a month.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and that's where my father and my uncle, the Cfo. Who's kind of semi, retired, but my father's fully retired.

 

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Christi Redfearn: we all meet and discuss the issues of the business and whatnot. I actually get together with my team the day before, so that we're all on the same page and bring anything up beforehand, and then I have a monthly one on one session with each of them separately, so

 

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Christi Redfearn: trying to do, at least now. And there's also a text message thread that's going 24, 7 so

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: understandable, understandable. What does and and feel free to you if you. This isn't on the agenda. Is there a succession plan from your your CEO? Now, how did that succession work to transition? I would say from your father to you

 

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Christi Redfearn: that one was About a 2 year process. He made the announcement well, and a joke again. He used to come into my office when I was there

 

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Christi Redfearn: every 5 years. Okay, I think I'm ready to retire in 5 years. I'm definitely out of here. By then those 5 years would go by. And okay, nothing's really happened. He's still really enjoying it. And so the last time that he said, Okay.

 

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Christi Redfearn: I'm really ready to retire in 2 years. I went. Yeah, okay, sure whatever.

 

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Christi Redfearn: But he actually meant it this time. And The first step for him was to make the announcement and start handing off some of the responsibilities to me, and he came in.

 

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Christi Redfearn: It stopped coming in 5 days a week started coming in for, and then, 6 months later. It was 3 days a week. and then, 6 months later, it was 2 days a week, and that's kind of when he officially just checked out and said, Good luck run with it.

 

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Christi Redfearn: And so from there I just kind of took over. And then, 6 months later, it was official official. But

 

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Christi Redfearn: if it it at that point. If I had questions or anything like that, it was I better call him, because he's he's enjoying this

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: good. That's good. How old was your dad when he said, you know, made the announcement

 

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Christi Redfearn: he was 65. So

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: it's it's funny, you know there is again. There is no right or wrong when it comes to family business. But it was neat that you didn't get frustrated with, hey? When's it my turn?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you guys, you know you you were watching. Put your fingers on the pulse, and we're like, Yeah, right? Sure, dad. And I went through exactly the same thing with my father. he had, you know, it was the 5 Year Plan

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: at least 2 times. And then you know that. Okay, this time for real. And I almost didn't believe them. But you know everything went off and we would. We did a lot of different things, client relationships and things that you know.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: You could just tell, okay, this time for real

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And he's been out 2,018. I wrote him his last check in 2,022, I think, and it was, he was pretty darn happy so ever since then. So that's nice.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: When you look at the business

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: in terms of the family. How many family members have been involved in the business?

 

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Christi Redfearn: Yes, so we were discussing earlier. that

 

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Christi Redfearn: this this time it's kind of going from the family run business to the family, owned business and to me. That's a really big distinction. you know, in the past. Obviously my grandfather came in right up until he was physically unable to. He never retired. He this was his, his baby.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and you know, my grandmother still comes in once a week. My great aunt is somebody who puts together all of our proposals for us. My cousin, as I mentioned, is our president of operations. My sister kind of heads up our philanthropy piece.

 

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Christi Redfearn: And

 

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Christi Redfearn: besides that, we've had cousins and other relatives that have come through. Some of them have been great where they learned some skills. And we're able to further their career and get promoted. And in other companies. And then some that you know, maybe they shouldn't have been working for us in the first place, so we've run the gambit.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Gotcha

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC:  as you move forward. Do you have children yourself?

 

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Christi Redfearn: I do. I have a 12 year old daughter and a 10 year old son.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and you have a sister. Does she have other kids that

 

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Christi Redfearn: she has a go? She just turned person is 6, and her daughter is 12, got it?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And then is there other family members that might poke their head around and say.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: just you okay, are you just curious if anybody else in it, you know, on the

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: other, you know, like your father's siblings, or whatever. If they had Kit, if there was kids that from that side that might say

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: so. Your your journey on the family own side will be much easier because you don't have that. If you did, I'd be saying it's time to get employment policy in place, you know. Put those things together, but you'll be fine. Oh, no, I'm already working on an operating agreement, and then a by sell for my sister and I, when we're the owners, because I just I don't. I want to avoid any fighting.

 

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Christi Redfearn: I want to set things up in place beforehand, so that everybody's had a chance to review. They know what they're going into, and the terms are set, so that later on it's oh, well, this isn't fair. I want to change my mind about this. It's no. We already agreed to it.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I want to protect those 2,000 families. But yeah, yeah, protect the families and protect the relationships. It's like, you know, the most important thing for most families that I've ever you know dealt with is, how can we still sit down at the Thanksgiving dinner table, or whatever your favorite family holiday is that everybody gets together. You want to be able to gather without any animosity or or issues, and

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I've seen it too many times when you didn't go into it and say.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: how does this end? If you don't ask that question and talk about those things? And then what if this or what? If that? Because you can do them when everybody's happy, but when you're in the middle of it, in the thick of things, and you haven't done it properly, it gets ugly, and it can get ugly. It can't. It doesn't always know. Yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: when you look at the business today, you said we have a big growth strategy.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: So do you mind sharing what your you know vision for the future looks like.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Got it? That's big 8 8 years to to double. So

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I'm going to throw an idea to you and feel free to say you're an idiot, and you know it's it's it's pre advice. So you get to take it for what it's worth  I would throw out a what would that look like in 20 years when you're not there anymore?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And and the reason I I I throw this out to people is, how do you mind if I ask how old you are? I am 43 years young. Yeah. So 8 years from now, it's like, okay. So there's my, I'd like to be doing something different in 8 years from now.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And for me and several people I've seen this before, where, when the goals are, when I'm supposed to be done. Sometimes it's hard, and you put the foot on the gas and the break. At the same time things are happening. So by resetting the goal and saying, You know, what?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What is this company gonna look like? 20 years from now, when I'm not even here

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: it helps you to get on that path towards that one that you're looking at. Right? That's an idea that I throw it out there, Jim. You know, Jim Collins calls with the big, hairy, audacious goal, and I never really understood what it was, for. It wasn't necessarily to do anything else. Then to say, let's get that north down along that line is that 8 year thing. But let's really put the capacities in here to do all this things for 20 years from now.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Ultimately the goal is to grow, the company to grow the people. And I wish that's a great line. I wish I could say I came up with it. Someone in my message group did. He's an absolute genius. but

 

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Christi Redfearn: I stole it so I can give them credit 3 times, and then it shows that's my rule.

 

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Christi Redfearn: But I look at that. And I think about.

 

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Christi Redfearn: you know, years and years ago Mom and Pop janitorial companies were, what rule this industry. Now we have venture capitalists, seeing how segmented it is, and they are coming in with a strategy to buy up these mom and pops, consolidate them, sell them to Fortune 500 and make a killing. It's a solid strategy, because it's easy to do.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and so for us to stay competitive for us to stay relevant. We have to make sure that we grow with, though as as fast, if not faster, than those companies that are being consolidated. And so the way to do that is

 

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Christi Redfearn: some acquisitions on our own organic growth. But at the end of the day the real driving force is.

 

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Christi Redfearn: do we have real career paths for somebody to start as a night cleaner or a day porter and eventually become a manager, a team leader, someone who's over an entire division? Is that opportunity available? Because if it is, and we are finding people that are good enough to promote through those ranks, the numbers will take care of themselves.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I I'm I'm going to assume that you've read this book already. The dream Manager, by Matthew Kelly.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I have not. Oh, I'm gonna have to write this down this, this, this is a grab, the audible tomorrow or tonight. If if you're a hard copy, reader, the book's great. Matthew wrote an incredible book. It's a a half

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: real book based on a real company. It' be a janitorial janitorial company.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and you are going to eat it up after our conversation. You are going to love listening to this. I'm going to have to get on Amazon Prime tonight and have it delivered tomorrow, because I get on a plane tomorrow afternoon. And yeah, I'm a plane, reader. You'll tear it up. You'll tear it up and he does it as a You know the parable. It's a story. So it's not a, you know, right very

 

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Christi Redfearn: nice, easy read. He didn't. Well, I mean, and I enjoy books by Simon Cynic. Jaco will like. I've read all of their stuff and one of those

 

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Christi Redfearn: it

 

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Christi Redfearn: at the end of the day. It it is my responsibility it. If something goes wrong, it is my fault. And if something goes well, it's because I let the team do their jobs and they did them well, so

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: love it. Love it! I'm trying. I my intern nose, Jaco, so we're trying to get him on the show. I would. I'll let you know how it goes. I put it out in the eager now. So we want you on the show. I ask him about Brazilian jigits, and he trains as well. There you go. There you go.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What are some of the? You know? What are some of the challenges? I I think you mentioned one, just the the the consolidation. And you know the M. And A. That's happening out there. What are some of the other challenges

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: for you today as we sit here right now, we'll keep you up at night. What are the things that frustrate you?

 

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Christi Redfearn: right now? Part of it is coming out of Covid.

 

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Christi Redfearn: you know we were incredibly fortunate that we were early adopters of some electrostatic disinfection services and technology. So we were able to pivot, and we didn't have to lay anybody off, or anything when shelter in place happened, or anything like that. But now that the kind of new expectation is that

 

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Christi Redfearn: you don't have everybody in the office all the time.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Companies are reducing their real estate footprints. So and then there's an issue where? Okay? If you have 200 people in an office where there used to be a thousand, they still spread out. And so we're still responsible for cleaning 100% of it. But then they come in and say, Hey, wait a minute. We don't have nearly as many people here. How do we reduce the cost? It's like, Well.

 

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Christi Redfearn: shut down the floor so that nobody can go on it, and then we can stop cleaning it. But

 

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Christi Redfearn: until that happens.

 

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Christi Redfearn: you know, right wrong, or in different covid, for all intents and purposes, opened a lot of people's eyes for the true value of proper cleaning.

 

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Christi Redfearn: And we don't want to lose that We've always believed that's important. But now the rest of the world kind of gets it as well.

 

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Christi Redfearn: And so it's just that.

 

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Christi Redfearn: all right. We got to navigate these waters they're trying to reduce. They're trying to cause

 

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Christi Redfearn: everybody spent so much money during the pandemic to

 

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Christi Redfearn: keep things afloat to

 

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Christi Redfearn: keep people employed. And so now it's that time where? Okay? Now, we gotta figure out how to. We can recover some of those costs or reduce some of those costs, because this is painful.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: What else?

 

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Christi Redfearn: Oh, supplies? you know, every getting everything getting more expensive. we've seen. We used to be able to work with some of our national providers, where we would have one year guarantees on pricing

 

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Christi Redfearn: those days long gone. So it's just kind of that managing the process of

 

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Christi Redfearn: okay. We've got to yet another price increase, and then going through to our customers and saying, Hey.

 

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Christi Redfearn: sorry we have to start passing some of this along to you as well, otherwise we can't stay afloat. And then.

 

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Christi Redfearn: you know, equipment is much more expensive than it used to be. It's just the whole capital investment just to do the same thing that we've been doing for 40 years.

 

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It's it's crazy.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: understandable. you. When we were talking about

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: earlier, you had talked about culture when and you're talking about acquisition as a growth strategy.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: How do you and your team mesh

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: cultures, you know, and bring them on board? What are some of the things that you do to help make sure that your you know internal culture doesn't get

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: shocked.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: which you know the new cultures that you're taking on

 

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Christi Redfearn: part of it is, I am incredibly transparent about that being part of our growth strategy. We have Quarterly Town Hall meetings where everybody who is employed by us is allowed to join. Ask questions. We go through kind of a presentation process on how the company is doing pressing matters that are coming up, so

 

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Christi Redfearn: I'm always letting everybody know. Hey, this is on the horizon. I've got my plans in place. I've got my locations on where I'm looking

 

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Christi Redfearn: 2024. This is going to be pretty Gung ho! And pretty solid focus for me.

 

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Christi Redfearn: And so that

 

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Christi Redfearn: helps everybody realize that. Yes, this is coming. So it's not as crazy when something does happen. The other part would be

 

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Christi Redfearn: making sure that we sit down with the owners of whatever company that we're looking at. And we just talk 0 about business. Are you the kind of people that

 

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Christi Redfearn: I want to work with? Are you the kind of people because

 

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Christi Redfearn: it's it's gonna be a 2 year process, mount molding everything in you. You're hoping that the owner will stay on board to kind of help with that transition relationships are so important in our industry transitioning so with the relationships that they have over to something that we can work with and

 

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Christi Redfearn: hey, maybe even better. They want to stay on board and continue to focus because a lot of it is they want out because they're tired of the administrative burden.

 

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Christi Redfearn: They're tired. They want to get back to what they enjoyed.

 

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Christi Redfearn: We can take that off of their play. Let them continue to focus on what they enjoy while we handle all the back end stuff. So there's other opportunities. But it it really has to come down to

 

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Christi Redfearn: again like our clients. We're not for everybody. So while I want to grow through acquisitions, it has to be the right ones.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Smart. You guys, there's a definite company culture. You've alluded to that. How do you define your company? Culture?

 

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Christi Redfearn: Oh, gosh! So I would say it kind of

 

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Christi Redfearn: our company last year went through this massive process to come up with a tagline that we are in the final stages of getting a trademark, for if if you will.

 

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and it's remember your roots

 

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Christi Redfearn: so

 

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Christi Redfearn: that can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but for us it's we started off small. We're the little guy we're here to take on the world.

 

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Christi Redfearn: remembering that it's

 

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Christi Redfearn: a service that really matters. It makes a difference in people's life. I like to make the joke that we're the people that make sure that movie Wally doesn't actually happen. So

 

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Christi Redfearn: you know, I'm making sure that people feel appreciated that they realize that no matter what they do in the company. It makes a difference in the world.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yes, it does.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: It's it great time to say this story. I don't think I've said it on the show before, but I talk about it with clients all the time.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: there was a story about Jfk, getting a tour at NASA back in the day and going around and asking people, you know, what do you do? I'm a mathematician. I'm an engineer. And when he asked the person that was the janitor, he said, what do you do? What do you do here, you! I'm helping to put a man on the moon. and that matters, you know it. It matters. We.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: We talk when we're working with companies. We talk about defining a core purpose beyond profit. And if you, when you can do that, you know, and so, remembering your roots

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: is is really a key. You know

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: theme for you guys to be able to do that.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I bet you that you know, when you're having conversations with acquisitions, when you're having conversations with new employees, those are the kinds of things it's like, how do we get there to remember our roof.

 

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Christi Redfearn: I I try not to mix a lot, but she was actually she was a a really good fit for the position that we're hiring for, and it all came about because we we volunteer together and never talk about work or anything like that. But it came up one night, and it was oh, so what do you do? And I said, I clean toilets.

 

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Christi Redfearn: They just went wait what?

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's it! And but it's, you know, at the end of the day. That that's it. I'm here to do the thankless jobs that need doing.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: You're you and you keeping your your grandfather's wall.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: you know, is remembering the roots. It it always goes back to that. I think that is so cool that you've done that. You are going. I just can't wait. Please send me an email after you read the dream manager. Let me know what I think you're going to be like. Oh, my gosh! And you're not. Gonna do. You do not feel compelled to do all of the things that he talks about in there. But even if there's one good idea

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: that I you know that that'd be great.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Yeah,

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: we talked about frustrations. We talked about your growth strategy. We talked about

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: family in and out of the business. What is here? You totally left field? What are some of your favorite family trends traditions?

 

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Christi Redfearn: Oh, gosh, So we are a little bit silly.

 

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Christi Redfearn: So family time at Christmas. There it's it's not as prominent as it used to be, but we always find a way to bring it back. If you get a gift from Santa.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Well, you're with the family. That's a bad thing.

 

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Christi Redfearn: It's a gag gift.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and so it's kind of that it's always in somebody's fake writing. You can never know who it's from. It just says your name and from Santa. It's usually wrapped in something completely different than any other present.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and you just get it and go.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Oh, no! What am I about to open? There's been everything from

 

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Christi Redfearn: coconut for purses where faces painted on them. There's been a house, slippers that are really out of control, like complete with painted toenails sewn in, and all kinds of stuff

 

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Christi Redfearn: the big one was a

 

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Christi Redfearn: dress that was passed around, and it was like a right of passage. If you got the dress you were finally, you know, considered the adult, but it was made out of a burlap sack.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and it was presented in a name and Marcus box. When you first get it. You're like, Oh, my gosh! Something for me! And then you open. You're going.

 

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Christi Redfearn: What just happened.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's fabulous. Thank you for shipping. I appreciate that. And it's not, you know. Here we are, CEO, of a company with 3,000 lives that you're responsible for, and at the end of the day we remember our roots, and it's it's just life.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC:  you're sitting on stage with 5 other family businesses that you know that all you're you're being interviewed, and they come around to you. And they say, Kristy.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: what are your parting words? What are your 3 pieces of advice that you would offer other family businesses?

 

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Christi Redfearn: Oh, gosh! Let's see

 

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Christi Redfearn: Never try to lead like your predecessor. Do it your way. Never try to be like your predecessor, because it won't work. and then

 

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Christi Redfearn: what else?

 

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Christi Redfearn: make sure you take the time to listen.

 

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Christi Redfearn: no matter who it is. If they want to talk to you, listen.

 

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Christi Redfearn: They, the they definitely are taking a chance trying to talk to the CEO in a lot of cases.

 

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Christi Redfearn: and then remember, at the end of the day, if

 

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Christi Redfearn: you were colleagues before, and you're the CEO. Now.

 

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Christi Redfearn: You kind of have to understand how the dynamic changes you are now the person who can fire them, for whatever reason, and you have to take that a consideration when they react, or when they come, talk to you, or if they're not as close to you as they once were. So it's

 

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Christi Redfearn: it's tough, but it's part of the job. And

 

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Christi Redfearn: also there comes some respect with that. So and then by respect, I mean you respecting them. Not the other way.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: love that I I call that head of company as head of company. Yeah, it's it's really hard for a lot of people that when they, you know, would make that shift to the CEO, they still want to keep their hands in 30 different things that they used to do that they enjoy doing. But it's like you to your point. You've got a responsibility for all these people, and you know I would say, you know your job is to make sure that the culture stays the culture and that the strategy

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: is running it, the way that you want it to run. And that's those are the 2 pieces that if you can stay focused on them you're going to succeed.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: I am so excited about him in this conversation. we just. We covered an awful lot, and I think that there's so many nuggets that you know are valuable for other people to listen to. as they're going through this. You said I made it up as I was going.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC:  last thing. Any favorite books that, or things that you

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: favorite places that you've learned from through the years, whether they books, organizations, anything else, anything like that?

 

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Christi Redfearn: Oh, gosh, Like, I said before, I'm a huge fan of Simon Cynic. I will, or anything that he puts out.

 

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Christi Redfearn: But I'm gonna probably say a couple of very odd things. I've learned a lot that applies to business and responding and reacting through Brazilian jujitsu. it takes a very specific kind of person to voluntarily

 

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Christi Redfearn: go get your butt walked over and over and over until you start figuring it out. so check your ego at the door. Never quit, always get back up. you know. Keep consistency and training, and the results will come those kinds of things. And so

 

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Christi Redfearn: I I started it 6 years ago, and it was because I got tired of going to the gym and lifting weights, and I was looking for a different way to stay in shape. But it's now it's really something that just helps keep me centered, and frankly saying, It's it's a great release, and it's a great reminder of how I can live my life.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's awesome. I love that I would I that is no other guest has ever pulled that one out and based on what you just said. I think there are some Ceos, that I know that would really benefit

 

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Christi Redfearn: from maybe going in getting their butt, kicked a a a few times, and remembering, oh, I'm not all that all the time. Yup, there's always somebody just a little bit better, and sometimes they're a lower rank than you and you have to.

 

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Christi Redfearn: Oh, yeah, I got caught. Now I have to do the work to make sure that doesn't happen again.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: That's great. Oh, Christy Redfern, this has been a great show. I really appreciate your time and your willingness to share with everybody again. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Yeah. this has been the family business show. I'm Michael Columbus, with family wealth and legacy, and Rochester, New York.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: And if when you find that golden nugget in this episode for yourself, and you think of somebody else that could benefit from it, be sure to forward it on to them, so that other people can be exposed to such great knowledge like Christy shared today.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: Thank you, everybody. And we look forward to you on the next episode. Have a great day

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC: and.

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Michael Palumbos is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Family Wealth & Legacy, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.

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