Member Spotlight: Martin Gfesser, Trendler, Inc.
Chicago Family Business Council: What year was your company founded?
Martin Gfesser: Our company was founded in 1932 by Tony Trendler.
CFBC: Tell us a little bit of the history behind the company?
MG: My dad, Tony Gfesser, worked for Trendler from 1952-1962. The owner, Tony Trendler, was in his late 80s and none of his kids were interested in the company, but he didn’t want to just close up shop. He and my dad worked out a deal where Trendler would sell the company, but my dad would have to keep the company name.
CFBC: What family members work with you in the business (if any)?
MG: I have three brothers, Andy, Anton, and Stefan, and they all work for the company.
CFBC: How did you hear about the CFBC and what motivated you to join?
MG: Our family was one of the first to join the Family Business Council.
CFBC: How has CFBC helped your company succeed?
MG: I find being able to join forums to help bounce ideas off other family business owners is a great strength of the organization. The forums have always been helpful to me and our family business. Years of successes our company has experienced have been thanks to the help of our forums.
CFBC: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your experience with your forum and the CFBC?
MG: It’s comforting to know you can share issues and not be judged. I appreciate having a group of peers that I can depend on and lean on in times of need that understand my needs.
CFBC: Is there one thing you have learned from being a member of CFBC that has impacted your business or your life the most?
MG: I learned a lot from my dad on how to be a leader. But, CFBC helped me find my strength to lead my brothers in our family business and make it successful.
CFBC: You mention your father showed you how to be a leader. Can you tell us more about your father?
MG: My father, Tony Gfesser, had the greatest impact on me. He was a leader in the business and at home. People at work really respected him because he was always tough but fair. I learned a lot from him. I have employees who have been here for 20-30 years who tell me how much I remind them of my dad through my mannerisms and how I handle issues. It feels great because I really respect my dad. He was a great business man. He kept everything simple. Even though he struggled with his vocabulary because he never went past 8th grade in schooling, he got the message across perfectly.
CFBC: You seemed to have gained many leadership skills from your father. But you had to start somewhere in the business world. What was your first job?
MG: I was a furniture salesman. As a family, we opened up we had 3 retail furniture stores that one of my brothers ran. We had one in Hoffman Estates, in Hanover Park, and the third was in Bloomingdale. It was called "Sit on It."
CFBC: What are your plans for the future?
MG: I plan to retire at age 55.
CFBC: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
MG: I enjoy golfing. I will golf anywhere that has 18 holes. I collect golf balls at all the courses I play at. So I like the variety of playing in different locations.
CFBC: How about music? Do you have a favorite song?
MG: I love them all. My wife always tells me it drives her crazy because I love all music. I could listen to anything and enjoy it. There isn’t any one genre that is above all else to me. I’m told I’m a great travel companion for this reason. I’ll listen to whatever is on.
CFBC: Lastly, can you offer one book recommendation to your fellow CFBC members?
MG: Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. Short and sweet. It’s really cool. I don’t want to ruin it for people. But it’s a life lesson on dealing with people.