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Learning to Dad with Tyler Ross 026 - Chris Dull

Speaker 2: Hi, welcome [00:00:30] to learning dad. My name is Tyler Ross, and I'm here today with Chris dull, who is the CEO of the global franchise group that manages and owns between around 1500 plus between management and corporately owned stores, mostly in the restaurant franchise business,

Speaker 3: The restaurants, everything from pizza, ice cream to cookies to corn dogs and eliminate

Speaker 2: Well. That's awesome. I'm super grateful for you to take the time to spend with me today and, and [00:01:00] us as listeners. Thank you. So we were introduced by a Mar Cody lick who was also on the, on the podcast. And what what's, what's the connection between you guys?

Speaker 3: Yeah, so mark and I actually met when we were dancing to work coaching or, uh, I guess our kids were four years old playing table. So oldest son chase, and my son cotton we're on the same team. And mark was the head coach and I came in as an assistant [00:01:30] and we become very dear friends and our kids play together and we play together.

Speaker 2: That's wonderful. I had a great conversation with them. I can see why you would take to him as a friend. And I have so many notes here that I could jump all around, but we got right into sports. You're a, you're an athlete. You, you play.

Speaker 3: I did. I played football at Baylor university and, um, it wasn't one of those kids that grew up and anything that had a ball or a bat or, [00:02:00] you know, any type of organized to get out there and play. Um, I was in it and always loved football, started young and my brother was a football player, went to TCU and played football. And so that was always, uh, kind of the fabric of, of our childhood and into our,

Speaker 2: And I understand that it was an injury that kind of made you take the blinders off on your one way path of being an athlete and to kind of realize that you [00:02:30] had to chase something else after college. Can you talk a little bit about transitioning that mindset and what you, what you did?

Speaker 3: I thought I was a one track guy from the time that I was in high school and saw that I had, you know, the kind of the physical attributes and the ability football was really all I thought about never really considered, you know, when someone would ask you at 18, 19 years old, you know, what do you want to do when you grow up? I wanted to play football. Um, so I had the same answer when I was five to when [00:03:00] I was 20. And so, you know, my senior season Baylor, I tore my ACL bill and MCL on a play. And, you know, at that point it was, you know, the doctors made it pretty clear to me that based on the severity of my injury, it was highly unlikely that I'd ever be able to play football again. And so that was the first time I was sitting on a trainer's table at Jones stadium in Lubbock, Texas against Texas tech. And for the first time in my entire [00:03:30] life, I thought, what am I going to do now that I can't play football. So, and that's a tough, that's a tough thought to get to, to let sink in. You know, you're, you're not only what you love doing, but even your identity. I mean, you've been an athlete all your life and now you're being told that's not possible. Um, so it was, uh, it was, it was a blow both mentally and physically.

Speaker 2: So once you finished the Baylor, you entered the workforce and it sounded like, uh, some [00:04:00] from some of the research I've done that you kind of bounced around and had a lot of experiences and have kind of a brief amount of time, you know, tell me about kind of your first entry into the workforce and then the trajectory of that up until you, you know, had kids.

Speaker 3: Um, so I got married my junior year in college and had my first child shortly after graduating. And so, you know, when I found myself unable to play football, graduating school [00:04:30] with really no focus on career, I knew I had, you know, three miles to feed and I needed to get out and make some money. My ex wife's family were, are farmers up in Northwest Texas. And so I, I decided I was going to be a farmer and I moved out west and did that for a little over a year. And, you know, it was really the first, my first foray into, you know, kind of the brass tacks of, of operating a business. [00:05:00] And my father-in-law at the time was my boss and my mentor, and taught me a lot about kind of getting up and getting to work. And then also managing, you know, some of the dynamics that go into running a business, you know, as a guy who grew up in the big city, Houston, Texas, living out in last buddy, Texas, the population of zero, I could tell that this was not going to be my happy place and decided I'd make the move to the city.

Speaker 3: And so I moved back to Houston and at that time just kind [00:05:30] of went out, looking for a job. I knew that, you know, I had an entrepreneurial spirit and my father was a, uh, an entrepreneur and had several businesses as I was growing up. And, uh, as a child, I kind of, you know, in the summers, I TA I was the tag along. I was with my dad, whether we were going to the motel that he owned and little town, or whether we were going to a piece of dirt that he was buying or selling, or, you know, whatever it was, I was involved dad's kind of day to day business life [00:06:00] as a child. And so I liked that I liked the energy and the constant change. And so I actually was offered a job at Enron, which was a big job with big companies sitting in a cube, running a calculator. And then I was offered a job at marble slab Creamery, which was a family owned franchise business that was some 50 units and really just starting to grow. And I, I, you know, much to the dismay of my family at the time, I decided to go to work for [00:06:30] marble slab because I felt like it was a opportunity to really kind of capitalize on that entrepreneurial spirit and not get pigeonholed, um, with,

Speaker 2: So, so at that point, you're 25 ish. You're married, you've got a daughter. Uh, so that's, that feels, I guess it depends on where you are in the country. Like at what age people get married and have kids, it feels like, you know, normal as they say, but like, was that a total lifestyle change to you? Like [00:07:00] as a, were you in a mature 23 year old ready to get married and have a kid? Or, I mean, you got married at 18,

Speaker 3: No, 23 year old is mature enough to be married. I was a mature 23 year old, you know, it was a bit of an old soul and, but I was still a kid, you know, uh, and there was a lot of pressure, you know, wife, child, you know, really no jobs skills finding your way. [00:07:30] Um, it was very challenging and you know, my ex wife and I, you know, did not stay married long after we moved back to Houston about a year. And then we divorced and she took my daughter, Megan, and moved back to Lubbock, Texas, which was 600 miles from Houston. And so I became a part-time dad to my daughter. And that was a very, very difficult place for me because I was always close with my father and my mother [00:08:00] and my siblings. And I, you know, wanted that for my daughter. And it was kind of taken from me, send them that made, that made you grow up pretty quick.

Speaker 2: So what was timeline? I did just, you have to get this 600 miles every so often gets to spend time together.

Speaker 3: You know, Megan became a frequent flyer on Southwest airlines when she was five years old. Um, she was coming in every other weekend [00:08:30] for all major holidays and I was going to Lubbock and spending time with her up there. And so I, wasn't going to let distance keep me from having a fairly regular relationship with my daughter. And so, you know, I did really everything I could financially and with my time to make sure that Megan was a part of my life and that I was a part of her life. Well,

Speaker 2: I know I'm sure that's not a unique circumstance in the sense that [00:09:00] parents end up living in different places. They have to share custody of a child or at least get to see the child, like anyone that might be going through that now, looking down and saying, wow, my kids going live couple of hundred miles away from me. Is there any advice that you could give them to make that feel easier?

Speaker 3: Yeah, I mean, I would say, so you have to accept your new normal, right? You, um, it's not going to be the same as if she lived around the corner or he lived around the corner. And so I think that you have to accept [00:09:30] that this is a different situation and you've got to find ways to make the most of it. You know, one of the things that was important to me and I think worked well for us is I tried diligently to not let the animosity that I had towards her mother for moving her away, get in between Megan and I having a relationship. You also have to understand that, you know, if you're not the custodian of that child, you know, your core values may differ greatly from [00:10:00] your ex. And so if you're parenting in soundbites versus consistently day in and day out, it's very difficult to instill those values into your child. And so I think you can find yourself very frustrated if you expect that, because I don't think it's a realistic expectation. I think that, you know, you do the best you can, but you have to accept your child for who they are and the way that they're living, because the bulk [00:10:30] of the time they're being parented by, you know, your ex and potentially, you know, a step-parent. So it's got to set your expectations, I think realistically or else you can find yourself very frustrated.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. I actually just told somebody in my office, not half an hour ago that my kids will walk right by me to ask their mom to open something. It's like, you talk about spotlights. I'm there every morning and every evening. And I, it still feels like soundbites. Like they want their mom all [00:11:00] the time, but so, so does she continue to live there and you live in Atlanta now? She wants her.

Speaker 3: Yeah. She moved to Atlanta about four years ago. And so Megan now lives in Atlanta and is here and she's adulting now. And, uh, know this is the closest we've been as far as proximity ever. So it's been nice.

Speaker 2: Wonderful. Yeah. So back to your, uh, professional, [00:11:30] your career trajectory. So you took the job at marble slab, nodded Enron, and, uh, you know, you're in your mid twenties at this point and that franchise continues to grow. Yup.

Speaker 3: Yeah. So, you know, I jumped in there and it was a family owned business, it small, uh, with a lot of demand and growth opportunity. And so I dug in and, you know, when I look back at [00:12:00] the successes that I've had in my professional career, the way I got there was no different than the way I found my successes in athletics. It was about hard work outworking, the next guy, you know, becoming an absolute student of what you were doing and learning every in and out and X and O and however you want to diagram it. And so, while I was in a franchise business for the first time and was taking on roles that I had not participated in, I really, [00:12:30] really worked very hard. And I studied and got to know the industry that I was working in, in the business and really what drove success for not only our company, but our franchisees.

Speaker 3: And over time, I moved into a role as the exec executive vice president of marble slab Creamery. We sold the business to a publicly traded company out of New York. And that company asked me to move to Atlanta, to run a newly forming business. That was a multi-branded franchise concept. [00:13:00] And so I, I made the jump and came to Atlanta and I did that for a couple of years and was promoted to the president of that company. And then we sold that division off. And while in that role, we were also acquiring a new businesses. So we owned a marble slab Creamery and Maggie moves and the athlete's foot, um, which was a footwear franchise. And then we turned around and bought pretzel time and pretzel maker and great American cookies. And so we had built this nice shared service model, and we sold that to private equity [00:13:30] in 2010.

Speaker 3: And I stayed on as a CEO and we sold the athlete's foot, bought a concept out of California called hotdog on a stick and then brown table pizza year and a half ago. And so that's who we are today. And, and, you know, really, you know, all the while through my career, it has been, you know, it's been the same recipe, you know, be a student of, of your work, you know, you're, you can always be learning, there's different caveats to what you do, and you can always [00:14:00] Excel in your role as long as you're continuing to be a student and learn. And so I do that. I invest a lot of my time and, and, you know, not only, you know, what, at one point it was franchise sales, you know, how do you do it? How do you do it? Well today as a CEO of a multi-brand franchise company, it's about strategic financing options for the corporate entity and, you know, public offerings and opportunities to really take the top of the business higher. And so I continue to be a student and I also continue to work very [00:14:30] hard to keep my head down, uh, deal with adversity is thrown my way, and I just kind of keep fighting and keep grinding, gotta be completely

Speaker 2: That that's, that's apparent based on that, you know, th summation of, you know, two or three decades of, of applied effort. But this is also coming from a guy who is, uh, whose degree is in education, right? You were, you were formally educated to be a teacher that you have become the full-time student,

Speaker 3: [00:15:00] But I think, you know what, I think you, you have to be a learner. You know, I think it's more important to be a learner than to be learned if you keep an open mind and continue to, to learn and you learn easily, which I'm, I think I'm a good learner. Uh, I think that's really important. I mean, you know, when I graduated from college, I didn't even know what EBITDA stood for. And today it is the lifeblood of my, every thought as I manage the P and L business there. So, [00:15:30] you know, you, you have to be a learner and I, and I think I've been good at that.

Speaker 2: So do you think that you are naturally a learner, or do you think that that's a skill that you kind of a cultivated?

Speaker 3: Yeah. I've always been a seeker of knowledge around things that were of interest to me. And irony is my little boy cotton who's nine years old is exactly the same way, whatever he has an interest, and he wants [00:16:00] to know AB absolutely everything he can about it. The challenge with cotton is we need him to have that same drive and hunger for things that maybe he's not so interested in, like math, you know, he's a great learner, you know, it's training him to okay. Apply that tenacity towards the things that maybe you're not as passionate about, but it's the, it's the necessary means to an end. But yeah, I think from an early age, I was hungry, [00:16:30] hungry for knowledge.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So, uh, so you have had children in basically two different areas, one pre iPhone, and one post iPhone, and being constantly educating yourself. No doubt. We're different 23 years ago than you were nine or 10 years ago. But can you talk a little bit about your approach, uh, you know, as a parent then and now?

Speaker 3: Yeah. I think that, you know, the struggles I had in parenting Meghan made [00:17:00] me hungry and better prepared to be a parent to my nine-year-old. You know, I longed for that constant contact and I couldn't have it with Megan. And so when I was fortunate enough to, to have another child, I really came into that role, uh, with a lot of excitement and passion around being a good parent. And I think the difference is, you know, the, the world moves so fast. [00:17:30] And I think that there's a per you know, I think there's a perception of a, world's not a safe place. Smart are not as safe as it once was. And I try not to, to be that guy. I like to think that the world is a safer place in that. You know, you as a parent, definitely have to funnel the information cause it's out there it's more readily available than it ever has been.

Speaker 3: But I think that the world in general is a safer place and that you need to, you know, extend some grace to your kids and not hover, let them [00:18:00] stub their toe and let them make mistakes. And, um, but I think you have to do it with the knowledge that, you know, information is readily available and, and there's a right time and a right place is for kids to learn and see things. And, and so I think as a parent, that's, that's the, the difference that I see today versus when Megan was a little girl, is that everything is right there. If the kids are inquisitive enough and, um, you know, that little curious mind gets going, they can find, [00:18:30] you know, the answers to, you know, pretty much any question if they're given the opportunity and, and with Megan, it was more, you know, she was taking knowledge from her parents and our friends and our relatives and not necessarily, um, Hey Siri.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. I wonder how that impacts, you know, the, the role of the parent, when, you know, we're basically integrating ourselves with this, this, this extended brain that I have [00:19:00] in my hand. Um, you know, the context is so different just between your two kids let alone, you know, when you were a kid, um, what do you think is one of the biggest challenges between the context of your childhood, um, versus, you know, your kids now?

Speaker 3: I think it's choices. Uh, when I was a kid, you had, you had fewer choices, you know, you were going to go outside and play, [00:19:30] uh, because there was no other choice unless you just wanted to sit and watch the four channels of television that you had, uh, to choose from. And so, you know, today there's, there's so many different choices that kids can potentially make, um, as it relates to what they do with their time. And so as a parent, I try to help that, help them with that. So I take away options. Uh, [00:20:00] you know, you're going to get you get, you know, you get screen time, it's 30 minutes a week and it's a weekend. So Monday through Friday, you're doing school or whatever you're doing. And at the end of that, you're going outside. You gonna ride your skateboard, shoot baskets. My kids in the archery go shoot some bow and arrow, like go swimming. Um, but you're not going to sit in the house and watch television. You're not going [00:20:30] to sit in the house and watch, you know, an iPad. Um, and so they get 30 with a cotton, gets 30 minutes a week of screen time. And so he's really forced to get out and move his body.

Speaker 2: Does he have difficulty finding other kids to do this with, because culture seems so, you know, video games in the basement these days

Speaker 3: Definitely. Um, you know, the world I grew up in, I got on my bicycle and I rode around my neighborhood with a football under my arm. Just hoping that I could see somebody outside [00:21:00] so that we could go and start a game of something. Uh, and today, you know, kids are inside. Um, and it's harder to find that neighborhood collaboration, but we push that. You know, we have families that live in crows close to proximity. And so when cotton says he's bored, I tell him to get on his bicycle and go down and knock on doors. And, you know, as he's gotten older, you know, and he's nine going [00:21:30] on 10, you know, he's capable of kind of getting out. And my wife is a little more protective than I am. And I'm like, he's fine. He's just fine. Um, and you know, the, the challenge there is, you know, not everyone has the same value system that I do.

Speaker 3: And so when he's over at a friend's house, there's the possibility that they're going to end up in the basement, you know, playing Fortnite, which is something that we don't allow. And so, but at the same time, in an effort to allow our [00:22:00] child to be social, you know, when you're at their house, if that's what they want to do, that's fine. But when you all come over here, that's not happening. We're going to swim in the pool. We're going to play wiffle ball. We're going to shoot Paskowitz. We're going to skateboard, whatever, but you're not going to sit in the house and watch a screen. Yeah,

Speaker 2: Yeah. I try to do that. My kids are three and four. And so we spend as much time outside as possible just to, you know, be consistent with the same line of thinking [00:22:30] you have. So I'm an athlete, you're an athlete. We both want our kids to be participating in these stuff, things outdoor. Uh, talk to me about, you know, what I can expect from my three and four year old, the impact of playing sports that on cotton, your nine-year-old has had over the last five years.

Speaker 3: Yeah. You know, I think the thing that's neat about today is like everything's possible. And when I was a kid, you played baseball and football or soccer, and maybe [00:23:00] you did some swimming, but that was pretty much what you did. Um, and then there were some outlier sports that you might get into, but really it was baseball and football and basketball. And today the world of opportunity for kids is much broader. Um, whether it's, you know, lacrosse field hockey or, um, archery for my son, you know, shooting in an archery league and loves it. Um, and so, you know, I felt, I feel like when I was a kid, if you weren't [00:23:30] good at those three sports, then sports was out for you. Um, there was no longer an option. And today it's more about what is it that the kid kids really love to do, because there's probably some level of competition or team environment for them to participate.

Speaker 3: And so my child, you know, my brother played football and I played football and my son's nine years old and he does not play football and I could care less. So, you know, I did my time, uh, I had my fun, I don't need [00:24:00] my child to be a football player. Um, and he doesn't want to play football, which is fine. Um, if he changes his mind and decided that he wants to play football, that'll be fine too. But what he's really passionate about is he loved fishing, which if you watch TV enough, you'll see that there's collegiate fishing teams. So he loved fishing. He loves archery. He likes to cycle is a good mountain biker. And so, you know, we kind of focus on the athletics that, that he [00:24:30] has a personal connection to versus trying to force him to do something that maybe is not in his heart.

Speaker 2: Has that been a breeding ground for any particular, uh, qualities or interactive, uh, characteristics among other people?

Speaker 3: Uh, I think, you know, when you let a kid do what they love and something that they're good at, uh, I think it creates character, um, you know, cotton plays baseball and he likes to play baseball. And, um, [00:25:00] you know, there were kids on the baseball team that are a lot better than he is. And, you know, he's old enough to see that and understand that he continues to work at baseball cause he likes it and he gets better. But I think if all he did was baseball, I think that some of his identity would be built around. I'm not the best. And all of the kids on his baseball team to a, uh, archery tournament, they would have a really hard time keeping up with cotton [00:25:30] as it comes to launching arrows. And so, you know, his self-confidence is really high because there are things that he gets to do in an athletic arena where he is the better, uh, or the best. And so, you know, I think that it's, it's, it's better for their, uh, just the overall, the whole person having, being able to do something competitively that they Excel at versus being pigeon-holed into a sport that a parent wants them to be in when [00:26:00] they're not.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah, no, I actually, I was listening to one, if you were, uh, other, uh, interviews and you talked about in business, um, you know, I don't, I don't remember the exact verbiage you use, but it was, you know, good days and bad dates fall on your face sometimes. Can you talk about, you know, failure for your kids and what that means for them?

Speaker 3: Um, you got to learn to fail because you're going to, um, and for me, [00:26:30] quitting is really the only negative if your unsuccessful at something, but you continue to fight. You're still in the fight. I mean, my dad, I grew up with a father who was a little bit more rough and tumble and he basically said, you've only time you've ever lost a fistfight is when you quit fighting. So, um, you know, if, if, and it was a different time and day, then you could, you could get into [00:27:00] a scrap and you didn't go to jail for it, uh, at nine years old. Um, and so his message to me was as long as you're still swinging, you, haven't lost, even though you, they may have got the better of you. You still have an opportunity to take the upper hand. And so, you know, I think that you have to learn that you're going to get knocked down and you're not going to have immediate successes, but as long as you stay in the fight.

Speaker 3: Um, and, and I think that that kind of goes to being gritty. [00:27:30] You know, you got to teach your kids to, to grind and to be gritty, um, and to, to accept some suffering and some disappointment and some failure, because that's the reality of life. Um, let them fail when they're young, because they're going to fail when they're older. So teach them how to, you know, absorb the failure again, be a learner. Why did you fail? You know, what caused you to get to this point? And so how do you not do that again? Um, and, [00:28:00] uh, you know, but don't quit. Quitting is not an option. It's what we say to cotton. Constantly. Quitting is not an option. You can be upset, you can be down, they'll lick your wounds, but we wake up tomorrow and the sun sunrises, and we have another opportunity. So there's no quitting wedding, not an option.

Speaker 2: Um, when you guys play sports, say one-on-one basketball ever, let him win

Speaker 3: Certain sports. Um, I let him win [00:28:30] certain sports. I don't like we play ping pong and, um, I won't let him beat me in ping pong.

Speaker 2: How far away is he from actually being able to be you

Speaker 3: Every day? He gets a little closer. Um, everyday he gets a little closer, but if we're out playing a game, a horse, um, you know, I'll, I'll, I'll miss some shots. Uh, but when it comes to ping [00:29:00] pong, I won't let him beat me. And I think I do that because I want to, I want to see how much he'll push, you know, I think ping pong is a sport that kids can get really good at quickly. And so how, how hard is he willing to work to? Cause he wants to beat me. Um, and you know, as I've not let him beat me, I've seen that he's playing with his mother and anybody else who's at the house. He wants to challenge him to a little ping pong. [00:29:30] So he's sharpening his skills and working on his game, but I will not let him be

Speaker 2: What's. How are you going to feel the day that assuming the day comes, maybe you are better than him for eternity, but assuming that day comes, how are you going to feel about it?

Speaker 3: I'll be proud of him. And the reason I'll be proud of him, his cotton, you know, is a left-handed rider, plays baseball, right-handed kicks, left, footed his right eye [00:30:00] dominant. And so he has kind of left and right hand dominance, uh, confusion. And so, you know, a sport that is exclusively hand-eye coordination for the most part, um, for him to get good enough to beat me at ping pong, you know, he's having to overcome some obstacles to get there. And so I'll be, I'll be very proud of him that day that he beats me.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's wonderful. I think that's just a fabulous, uh, uh, way of thinking about it. So, [00:30:30] um, nine-year-old how do you keep him in his lane? You know, when it comes to disciplining him, when he's outside the behavior pattern you expect of him?

Speaker 3: Um, you know, I would say I'm not going to say that I don't spank my children cause I have, um, but it's not common. Uh, you know, I think cotton in his nine years of life has maybe had two or three spankings. And that was for doing things that were agregious really wrong. [00:31:00] Um, I think, you know, there's a lot of power in, um, communication. Um, when I talked to cotton about what he's done wrong, we do it in a very calm and controlled environment. I try not to get involved in the heat of the moment. Um, you know, I don't think that people in general react well to, um, be, you know, someone coming at them. Who's very emotional. Yeah. And so while they he's [00:31:30] done things where I want to, you know, shake him, uh, refrain, uh, and, and I tell him at that moment, you know, when we get home, we're going to sit down and we're going to talk about this.

Speaker 3: And when I speak to him about things that he's done that have left me less than excited, um, I do it in a very stern manner affect position. And, you know, there are clear consequences to his actions, whether it is, you know, [00:32:00] taking his bowl away, which kid shoots a hundred arrows a day that Nobo you've just lost your screen time. And now you're going to get to do some manual labor. So we've got 120 pounds Ridgeback, um, this kind of like having a horse. So, um, here's a, a handful of bags you get to go outside and pick up after Calhoun. Um, you know, all of [00:32:30] a sudden the workload gets heavier and the playtime comes down and it's, and there's reminders. So, you know, Hey, I, you don't want to go pick up the dog mess, but remember how we got here. Yeah,

Speaker 2: Yeah. Every time you bend over and squeeze one of those things, it's a reminder of, I wish I had done what I did.

Speaker 3: That's right. Yeah. It was a, it was a thing that you did anything that you have to do.

Speaker 2: That's [00:33:00] perfect, but punishment fits the crime. And gosh, I had a, uh, something that I wanted to ask you and it's escaping me, but it was very much related to that. So I'll just, I'll just jump into something else. So cotton, do you see you, you in him, is he a mirror of you?

Speaker 3: Uh, there's similarities? Um, no, he's definitely his own man. There are things that we definitely [00:33:30] share in our personalities and, you know, some, you know, definitely some physical, uh, we look a lot alike. He looks like I looked when I was a kid, our mannerisms can be very similar, but then he's, he's very different than I was. You know, when I was a kid, I didn't have a lot of friends. I was rough tumble at very aggressive father. And so, you know, it was, I was not the kind of kid that could make friends [00:34:00] easily. So I had my three or four core friends and outside of that, so being social was not my strength and cotton is a very social kid. You know, he's making friends and chatting people up and, you know, kind of hangs out with all walks of life and, you know, that's, uh, where he's very different than I was when, when I was younger as an adult, I would say that I've, you know, obviously grown and, uh, I'm am a very social guy and personable. And, but as a child, I wasn't [00:34:30] cotton is so, um, you know, certain things like that. I mean, we share he's an outdoorsman as a child. I was an avid outdoors man. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to be in order to be playing with the animals, uh, the snakes. Um, and he loves all that. He's kind of all boy. And I was an all boy kind of kid too, but yeah, there are some very distinct differences between us as well.

Speaker 2: Yeah. How about, um, what do you feel like is the role of a father? You know, you can put it in context [00:35:00] of your life or just in general.

Speaker 3: Yeah. I think, you know, the, the purpose of a father is to be a guide, you know, and as a Christian, you know, Jesus is our father and spirituality is a guide on how to live your life. You know, you love people and you treat folks with kindness and you turn the other cheek, you know, so there's lessons that Christ has taught us about how we walk and how we live our life. And so as my role to cotton and to Megan is to [00:35:30] be a guide to help show them, you know, show them the way be a teacher, uh, teach them right from wrong, teach them how to fail, teach them how to get up, teach them when it's time to fight and when it's time to flee. And I think at, at the core, my job is to prepare my children to live a successful life at whatever success looks like for them, um, to be happy.

Speaker 2: Um, [00:36:00] how do you play that role? I mean, you've been wildly, uh, accomplished professionally and took this amazing trajectory into your, uh, career. Um, and that's part of this conversation is people that have more than one passion, one of which being their career, and one of which, of course being your children, uh, what's something that you do to help. I hate using the term balance, but, uh, for lack of a better term, that I've yet to come up with. Like how do you balance [00:36:30] your chair fashion in your family life?

Speaker 3: Yeah, I mean, for me, it's pretty cut and dry. Um, when I'm working, I'm working, um, and when I'm not working, I'm not working when I'm parenting or when I'm being the family, man, that's what I'm doing. Um, and my wife who was a very accomplished executive before she decided to stay at home with our child, I think it kind of drives her crazy because she was never able [00:37:00] to unplug, like I can. So, you know, I, the reality is that it's going to be there in the morning. And so, you know, while there are times when, you know, we have very strategic things that are happening at work and require my attention for long periods of time, I stay in that moment, um, until I'm not. And when I'm not, I'm not, not responding to emails, I'm not taking phone calls on with my family, um, and, and serving [00:37:30] in my capacity as father and husband. And so I think that, you know, I'm pretty good at putting up barriers to, you know, cross over. I mean, there are always times when there's a little bit, but for the most part, you know, when I'm, when I'm present, I'm present with my family when I'm, when I'm with them and I'm present at work when I'm at work. Um,

Speaker 2: That's something you had to practice, uh, cause I know naturally I'm not that way at all. I I've had the [00:38:00] practice to be better at it. So what's the what's practicing.

Speaker 3: Yeah. Well I think it CA it comes down to happiness, right? Yeah. So, you know, when I was early in my career to focus so much on work, um, I can't say that I was terrifically happy. Um, I was driven and I was passionate about what I was doing, but there was a certain level of joy that wasn't there in my life, which I was, um, you know, in, [00:38:30] in my kind of middle of my career, I was overweight. Um, I didn't spend a lot of time taking of myself, uh, you know, I'd had failed marriages, so I, um, wasn't necessarily taking care of my family. Um, but the one thing that was really going good for me, it was my career because that's where I put all of my energy and I kind of had a bit of a revelation. I think it was around 30 years old where I had this moment where it was like, all right, dude.

Speaker 3: Um, do [00:39:00] you want to, you know, find yourself one day, absolutely miserable and extremely accomplished, uh, executive, or do you want to find some happiness and some joy in your life? And so I started focusing really on the three pillars, you know, my family, um, which is also my faith, um, my health and my work. And, um, yeah, it took some time because when I, you know, I, [00:39:30] when I got focused on taking care of my body and I got into doing triathlon, uh, which is, uh, a very selfish sport, um, it's, it's a bit narcissistic. You are working on yourself in three different disciplines all the time. And, and, you know, so when I started doing that, I started to have some success. And so the success in sport again, really had me focused on and this is feels good. And so I needed to do more here and, [00:40:00] you know, did a couple Ironman races and got kind of crazy with it and then realized, wait a second.

Speaker 3: Like, and this is right before cotton was born. Um, you know, unfortunately for me, my wife does what did triathlon with me. And so we spent a lot of time doing that, but I came to the reality of wait, okay, this isn't balanced. Like I can't work the job that I have and spend 20 hours a week training for triathlon and then also be a parent. So something's got to give. And so then it became, you know, I like to cycle, so I'm going to do [00:40:30] some cycling and I'm do a little bit of running, but I'm not going to train for an iron man. I'm not doing that so that I can have the energy and the time to dedicate to my newborn son and family. So I think that, yeah, you, you have to manage the swings. Yeah. You have to, I think you have to be present to know that you're not present.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. So that's, that's great. Uh, like some, I feel like I'm going through that transition now, and that was part of the inspiration [00:41:00] for this podcast. Uh, but to anyone who is going through it or, or doesn't even know that they're so imbalanced, uh, do you have any advice that you could offer to, you know, the 28 year old you that's in the midst of it? Like,

Speaker 3: Yeah. I mean, I think you got to look at, you know, how things are going. So, you know, at work, I have a dashboard that tells me, you know, how many stores did we open? What [00:41:30] are our same store sales? You know, how, how are things working out? I think in life you have to have a live dashboard. I think you have to step back and assess, how am I doing here? You know, uh, as an executive, as the company being run successfully is my staff receiving the attention that they need for me to do their job for me to support them. Um, and there have been times where the answer was, no, you can do better, um, here. And so, you know, as it relates to your family, what's going on [00:42:00] with your family, um, you know, are your kids happy? Is your wife happy?

Speaker 3: Um, you know, for me spiritually, do you feel connected? Um, are you living a better life? Are you focused on helping others or do you, you know, how are you doing there? And so I think doing self checks and, you know, some of that can happen, you know, while I'm training or I'm on a bicycle and I'm in it, you, you know, gassed and I'm tired and I'm going. And all of a sudden, I find myself in my head thinking about, you know, what, if I was doing this [00:42:30] at work, you know, do it, and I cannot afford to give work that without jeopardizing what I'm doing here right now on this bicycle or with my family. And so, you know, I say, you know, being present enough to know that you're not present, you know, you, if you're in the moment and thinking about what you're doing, you can see that maybe I'm not really giving that piece of my life, the attention that it needs, and always in life, you're going to have one pillar.

Speaker 3: That's going to need a little bit more than the other. And so it's not that you're [00:43:00] going to have absolute balance all the time. Sometime one piece of the pie, the one pillar is going to be much taller than the others, but it's not. You need to know that that's just for the time being, for instance, last year, we went through a process where we sold, um, billable franchise group from one private equity company to another, which required me to be on the road, on the computer, on the phone significantly more than I am in a normal paced [00:43:30] work environment. And so knowing that work was going to get, uh, the lion's share of my energy, I made sure that when I was home, it was very high quality, high touch time with my wife and my son. Um, and you know, when I was on the road, I made sure that I got up and got on an elliptical machine and moved my body because I don't do well when I'm not physically active. And so [00:44:00] while I was on the lout, allowing myself seven to eight hours a week of exercise, I was managing to get, you know, 3, 4, 5 good solid workouts and be home, be present, be in the moment. But then work was a big part of what I was doing last year. And so this year, as things have settled down a lot more focus on the family and a lot more focus on fitness and because I can afford to do it. Yeah.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And so being present enough to be present, um, [00:44:30] the first time or that you really identified, that's where you were like, this I'm not balanced. Was that a hard, like a difficult transition, like a crisis almost to make that transition because I occasionally feel like in crisis mode, uh, and I'd imagine others do also.

Speaker 3: Yeah. I think you, you know, you've got to have good people around, right. So, um, sometimes they help you see that, um, you know, my dearest friend in the world is my brother. [00:45:00] Um, and you know, John's very honest with me, very transparent and, um, you know, keeps me accountable and my wife who's, um, the love of my life and the most important person in the world to me, um, also keeps me in check. And so she's like, Hey dude, like get off your phone, you know, can you put the phone down? We could use [00:45:30] third. Yes. You know, I'm sorry, phones down, turn it off. Um, so you know, you got to have good people around you and people that are supporting you, um, and, and being, you know, your influencers, you know, it's kinda like when I was a kid, my dad always told me that you're going to be who you hang around with. And so if you want to be, you know, in prison than hang around with a bunch of inmates, um, and so putting good people around you who share a similar, similar [00:46:00] vision think is important.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And that the ability to be that kind of have that kind of self-assessment, and to be that kind of honest with yourself, and to be open to that feedback, as opposed to your wife saying, Hey, put the phone down, you get defensive and say, this is important. I need to do this to be in a place where you can set it down like that. And imagine that was a transition that went from being difficult to easy.

Speaker 3: Yeah. But I think it's about the, you know, a shared vision like [00:46:30] Christy and I, we know we know what kind of life we want to live. And so when I'm getting feedback from her, I don't take it as pushback. I take it as feedback. Um, you know, definitely we disagree on things from time to time, but at the end of the day, she and I are, are, um, you unified in the belief that, you know, there are really three critical pillars to our life. And in order for us to live the kind of life [00:47:00] that we want to live and, um, you know, have the freedoms that we have, that this is how this has got to work. And so she's on my team. So you listened to your teammates.

Speaker 2: Did you sit down and have that the, you know, to use the metaphor? Did you like huddle up and say here's the game plan? Absolutely.

Speaker 3: Yeah.

Speaker 2: I don't think he does that.

Speaker 3: We ask each other all the time. Like, what do you want to be when you grow up? Um, and if you could, [00:47:30] you know, if there was one thing in your life that you could do differently today, what would it be? Um, and so I think, you know, again, checking in, you know, you got to check in life, changes, things, change, um, and as they change, you know, how are you doing and how are we doing? Are we still on track to be where we want to be when we grow up or are we off track? And, um, and do we still want to be that? Uh, so I think that, you know, again, it's about that dashboard, [00:48:00] you know, having that understanding as to where, you know, where as a couple you want to be and how you want to live your life, and what's important to you and you know, how you want to educate your children and, and all of those things and making sure that there's alignment and then there's accountability.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. That's great. I hope that people listening and I hope that I take it home as well to actually go home and have that intentional conversation versus it just kind of haphazardly happening around us or by accident.

Speaker 3: Yeah. I think [00:48:30] if you're, if you're intentional about it, then you have a plan. Uh, if you're not, then you have disagreements. You know, you have something as simple as schooling, uh, you know, Christy and I, you know, put our son in public school for the first several years of his education. And we were aligned that we had a good school that he could go to. And, um, you know, while we live in a bubble where, you know, most of our friends have their kids in private schools, [00:49:00] we thought, you know, this is a good school. And we want our kid to be in a melting pot world because that's the world we live in. And so we'll put him there until he, you know, tells us until something tells us that this isn't the right place for him to learn. And, you know, cotton was in public school all the way through third grade.

Speaker 3: And in the middle of his third grade year, he started to have some issues around school and we could see that he wasn't learning and at the capacity that we thought he should. And so we kind of checked in and said, [00:49:30] is this still right for him? And is it still right for our family? And the decision was, it might not be. And so we went out and did some searching and we found a school that we both loved and felt really good about. And so, you know, it was full core press. How do we get cotton into this environment? Because we believe that this is what's right for him now. And so instead of, you know, having one parent who, you know, internally is struggling with, I really think my kids should be a public school, but I'm going to let them go to a friend's school. Cause that's what my wife [00:50:00] wants. And like all of a sudden you have turmoil and conflict, which trickles down to your children, like, you know, kind of having a unified position and plan and being aligned. Um, and in all things I think is important for not only your marriage, but also again, as a guide to your children, how do you want your children to interact with their significant other when they grow up? Hopefully you want them to collaborate and be a team. Yeah.

Speaker 2: Yeah. [00:50:30] That's great. They, there being an example across all fronts, uh, it seems to be a consistent theme and a, I couldn't agree more, um, um, I'll ask you, I've got a kind of a list of, uh, uh, column, short answers are rapid fire. So however you want to approach it, but what impact has having kids had on you,

Speaker 3: Man? That's a broad question. Um, I would say probably [00:51:00] the most profound is just the acknowledgement of joy kids are, should be joyful. And I think that as you get older in life and life kind of beats you down, it's hard not to become a cynic, be very cynical, um, and just seeing joy and the play and play and fun. Um, I think that I, you know, continued to learn from my child, that you've got to find joy and pretty much everything that you're doing, because if it's not there [00:51:30] and what's the point,

Speaker 2: Um, what is on your not to do list as a father?

Speaker 3: Um, I don't want to, uh, I don't ever want my children to be ashamed of me. Um, and nor do I want to shame my children. Um, you know, I don't think that there's anything good [00:52:00] that comes from, from either of those places. And so I, I tried to do things that would make my children proud. Um, and at the same time, I don't ever want to shame them, uh, in a public environment to where they feel like they've, you know, we can have a relationship about something, a discussion about something that's gone terribly wrong, but it doesn't need to happen in front of the world. [00:52:30] Yeah.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Uh, what's the greatest hope that you have for your children?

Speaker 3: You know, I want my kids to be happy. Um, we were put here to enjoy this place, and so I want them to, to be happy and to be joyful. And I don't think that, you know, if the other pieces of their life aren't in place, then joy is very difficult to achieve. But if they're, [00:53:00] if they're living a good life and they're doing the things that they love, and they're excited about what the next day brings, I think I've done a good job.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Um, uh, you're writing a autobiography and you're on what chapter, what's the title of the chapter you're in now?

Speaker 3: Uh, I feel like, um, the title of the chapter is from scoop to, um, you know, I started my, [00:53:30] my life out, uh, scooping ice cream at a marble slab Creamery, uh, and, uh, in a beat up marriage, um, with the child that I couldn't support emotionally or financially. Um, and I've worked really hard, uh, both on my career and on my personal life. And I think that I'm in a position where, you know, I, I'm a good parent. Um, I'm a good husband, a good person, [00:54:00] and, you know, I've positioned myself and my family, uh, to where we have a lot of financial freedom. And so, um, you know, it, it didn't start out, uh, looking all that grand, but now I find myself at a place where I've kind of, you know, I've, I don't think I've reached the top. Uh, I think there's a lot of, a lot of, a lot of room to go up, but I've definitely hit a place in my life where, you know, I'm, I'm a stable guy, [00:54:30] uh, and, and grounded and balanced. And that was not where I, I began this journey when I was some 23 years old.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Um, so how, um, who's your favorite television dad,

Speaker 3: Favorite television dad? Uh, yeah, that's a tough one. Favorite television don't really watch a lot of television. [00:55:00] Um, you know, it's kind of hard to pull him out now given his, some of his discretions, but, um, I was a big fan of the Cosby's when I was a kid. And, um, I loved how he interacted with his kids. Um, and so I liked, I liked bill Cosby in his role in that show. Now he's funny, funny, um, [00:55:30] caring and loving. He was funny, but he was also very wise. And so that's, you know, with Cod cotton has a great sense of humor. And so does Megan, they're both funny people and, um, I can come across and be pretty comical from time to time. And so I try to, to be funny and, and always be laughing. But then at the same time when it comes down to the lessons, I think that I have a lot of wisdom that I can share. And so I liked that.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Um, [00:56:00] when do you feel the most, uh, love in your life?

Speaker 3: Uh, I feel the most love in my life when I'm with my son, but like on a daily basis, um, at the end of the day, me and my wife and my son and my 120 pound rich back tend to end up on the couch. Yeah. And it's the end of the day. He's about to go to bed and we're all just kind of there. And I definitely, [00:56:30] it's a, it's a very loving period of the day and it it's daily. So I'm very fortunate to have that

Speaker 2: The gift, if you could ask, or if you ha if money was no object, time-space, whatever, if you could give a gift to every single father on the planet, what gift would you give them?

Speaker 3: Well, I mean, time, you said time was no object. Money was no object. You know, I think about [00:57:00] the gift of clarity about what really is important in life. And to that point, it isn't money. Um, it, isn't things, it's moments. Uh, it's the moments that you have that you capture and you, you, you can't, can't ever let go of that. And so, you know, the clarity of what is most important in life, and as it relates to, uh, to being a father, understanding that [00:57:30] this child, that you've been blessed with, they're looking at you and learning constantly about how you're doing what you're doing. And so being, having that clarity of knowing that this is a gift and a privilege to have this child in my life. And so I'm going to stay focused on what is really important. And what's really important is that you love them and you love them with your words. You love them with [00:58:00] your time. Uh, you love them with your actions. Um, and so I think that, you know, th the clarity to really see what's important as a father.

Speaker 2: I have, I have three last questions. Um, this one is, um, how would you describe the father? You'd like to be remembered as,

Speaker 3: Uh, I would like to be remembered as a father who was, um, [00:58:30] loving and consistent. Um, you know, I don't need to be, uh, remembered as the nicest guy. Um, because sometimes as a parent, you're not nice, but you need to be consistent. And so, you know, loving, I love my children and you know, where I'm at with my son today is a very [00:59:00] different place than I am with my daughter. My daughter's probably not happy with me because I'm loving her and I'm trying to help her elevate her position and kind of find some balance in her life and some direction. And so, you know, I am loving her. She's probably at me, but that's way because I'm consistent, I'm consistently trying to help her adult. And so, you know, [00:59:30] cotton today, thanks. I hung the moon, you know, we're hunting and fishing and playing and you know, he's a little boy.

Speaker 3: And so, but I'm consistently, you know, keeping the same messages in the background, you know, if we're playing ping pong and he decides he's going to quit in the middle of the game, no sir pick up the paddle, finished the game. And so being consistent and being, being loving, I'd like for my, my, [01:00:00] uh, my kids to remember me as those two things, then, then, uh, also that, you know, that like to be remembered as a dad who did a good job, that they feel like they, when I leave this world that they're in a better place because I was here.

Speaker 2: Yeah. The billboard question. If you had a billboard on in Atlanta downtown rush hour traffic, that they could fit one piece of advice to all [01:00:30] parents out there, uh, what would you put on that billboard

Speaker 3: Parenting advice? Yes,

Speaker 2: Sir.

Speaker 3: Just level.

Speaker 2: Just a lot of them

Speaker 3: Just love them, love your kids. They're there, they're their gift. It's such, I mean, it's such a privilege. And as a father who had a child early in life, and then question whether or not he would ever have another child, um, you know, didn't know when that opportunity came around the second time, [01:01:00] you know, I was well-positioned to, to be a dad because I had learned some tough lessons through divorce and separation of the child. And so, you know, at the end of the day, you just got to love your kids. You just got to keep loving them. And sometimes loving them doesn't mean just hugging and coddling. It's, you know, making the hard decisions and, and helping them make the right decisions. And even though it's difficult, you're still loving them. I used to have a coach [01:01:30] when I was in college, when we had screwed up, we had to do what were called fifths. And it was a lap around the football field, the interior, which was a fifth of a mile. And, um, you know, as I was, you know, struggling to make it around the track on time, he would say a dull. I'm just loving you son. I'm just showing you a little love right now. And he was, and so you just gotta love him.

Speaker 2: That's great. [01:02:00] And then, uh, my final question, uh, in the event that this recording lasts forever, uh, your kids, their kids, their kids, their kids, all get to hear it, any sort of, whether it's a piece of advice or an expression, you know, of emotion, any, uh, anything that you'd like to record for the benefit of the

Speaker 3: Dole family for generations, you've been given one life to live and every day is a gift. And so you should approach each day with [01:02:30] that in mind. And if you're not finding joy in what you're doing, then you should be thinking about what you're doing. It's great. Well, that's it. Thank you. All right, Chris. All right, man. I appreciate it.


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