On a recent episode of The Truth About Success podcast, I sat down with Greg Windfeldt, President/CEO of Preferred Credit, a family business that he grew from 25 employees to 250 employees and took to $240 million in 2020 during the global pandemic. Greg’s father, Gene, who is also one of my mentors, started the business back in 1982.
When he was growing up, Greg admitted to not knowing exactly what his dad did, but he knew he had his own business, that he took business calls evenings and weekends and that he traveled quite a bit. Other than that, Greg told me he was a shy child who liked to stay busy doing things like riding motorcycles and building things like rockets.
The Difficulty Of Being Family In A Family Business
When I launched into questioning Greg about when he knew he wanted to join his dad in the family business, he chuckled. Greg said he never had any intention of getting into business with his dad. However, when he was getting ready to graduate from college, he had applied for jobs at many different companies – his dream was to work for a big corporation – but had not received any offers. His dad, on the other hand, made him a very compelling offer. Since the business was small and they didn’t have an accounting or finance department, his dad invited him to come on board just for two years and get some hands-on experience. Then, Greg could go on to further his education and work for a big company. Well, obviously the plan was a bit devious! Ten years into his tenure, Greg decided to stay on, and the rest, as they say is history.
I asked Greg what it was like being a family in such a small business. Even though Greg has led the company to great success during the most difficult economic events in history, he said he always feels like he must prove his worth. The assumption by everyone else is that everything was given to him because he is part of the family. However, Greg told us that he always works to prove how dedicated he is. He learned what was needed and did what was needed to make the organization successful. To this day, he works hard and does whatever is needed.
Small businesses, Greg told us, cannot afford separate Human Resources, Finance, IT and Accounting departments. Therefore, he went and learned what was necessary to become good at HR, IT and Accounting. Ultimately, his degree was in Finance, but that wasn’t necessarily Accounting.
How Does a Company Grow From 25 – 250 People?
“Growth requires a vision,” Greg stated when I asked him how the company went from 25 – 250 people. He acknowledged that when his dad turned the company over to the accountant in 1990, that he kept the company solid, but there was no real growth. Greg had a vision. He wanted to grow to be able to serve more people. He wanted a diverse, stable company that was respected by clients and the community. His vision was big and he knew it would take a good 40 years to fully accomplish. He said he has 10 – 15 years still left to fulfill his vision. And, he told us, that vision has to stay front and center in your mind. You cannot lose focus.
Greg’s main focus is on building core competencies. That means talented people must buy into the vision and culture you are trying to create. This is where Greg puts in most of his time. He attracts the high-level people with the talent and resources, the competencies necessary to take the company to the next level. As President and CEO, his greatest responsibility, once the people are on board, is to “clear the path for them to be successful.”
The Importance of Mentors
Since Greg’s dad, Gene was my mentor, and I consider Greg to be a mentor as well, I asked him if he considered mentors to be important. I wasn’t surprised to find out that Greg also considers his dad to be his first and most important mentor. Greg recommends having many mentors but cautions to be very selective in choosing a mentor. Make sure they are mentoring for the right reasons.
The Importance of Attitude in Overcoming Challenges
Greg’s business boomed during the pandemic and I asked him the difference between businesses that thrived and those that struggled or failed. His answer is a simple one: Attitude. Those businesses who had a successful attitude and decided, “I’m not going to let the pandemic have and outside impact,” succeeded. He added, “If you think you’re going to succeed, you will. If you think you’re going to fail, you will.” Now, that is the truth about success!