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Executive Chat - February 2020

Executive Chat

Featuring George Tinsley, President & CEO of Tinsley Family Companies

by Rebecca Patt, Senior Vice President of Development, Wray Executive Search

You have been turning obstacles into opportunities throughout your personal and professional life. How would you tell your success story in just a few paragraphs? 

I have lived and learned the principle that we should not be judged by where we start in life but rather how we live and where we finish. I started life from a challenging position of poverty and abandonment. Due to love and nurturing from my adopted family, caring people, and the grace of God, my life journey has propelled me to lofty heights of success and accomplishment.

I climbed the ladder of success first as a student, then as an athlete, becoming a three-time NCAA Division II college basketball champion and graduating college with the distinguished Oak & Ivy award for leadership. After graduation, the Oakland Oaks drafted me into the American Basketball Association, and I played professional basketball for three years. During this time, I got married and a few years later became a father. After my basketball career ended, I enjoyed a successful teaching, coaching, and corporate career.

At the age of 26, I was fortunate to be reunited with my paternal mother and paternal father along with 16 brothers and sisters. Shortly thereafter, my corporate role at KFC, which involved training franchisees on how to operate their restaurants, created a significant growth opportunity for me to become a KFC franchisee. This led me into business and success as a multi-unit franchisee, serial entrepreneur, civic leader, and motivational speaker.

I have combined hard work and determination with a positive attitude, faith in God, and the love and support of family and friends to turn my many obstacles into abundant opportunities. Much of what I have accomplished has been with my wife and business partner at my side. My wife believes in me, and we share common goals for our family and business. Leading a successful business with your wife is rare but can be achieved.

Today, we own and operate four companies with 60 restaurants in two states and over 1000 employees. We have instilled our family values throughout our business in part by treating our people as who they truly are, our most important assets. My family, my business and civic life reflect a strong commitment to excellence and “giving back” and embodies the biblical principle: “To whom much is given, much is required.”

You had the opportunity to start your restaurant career working side-by-side with the legendary Colonel Harlan Sanders. What did you learn from this?

We worked together for three years prior to his death. I learned that if you take care of the customer, the bottom line will be there at the end of the day. Great food in a clean restaurant and "wow" fast service certainly gives a winning recipe to success. We attribute our 36 years of award-winning business to those standards.

What is most exciting to you about your business and its growth through the years?

To see our employees grow over the years. They have grown into their lawyers, doctors, judges, educators, professional athletes, college & high school coaches, entrepreneurs and just good community citizens. They all started as hourly employees and worked their way through school as employees and then went off to seek their dreams. They always keep in touch and reflect on the values that they learned in our business as youths.

I am also very proud of our community involvement, being directly involved in various boards and mentoring programs.

You’ve launched a side career as a professional speaker and coach. What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you as a result of speaking engagements and coaching?

Through speaking and coaching, I have been able to emphasize the values of focus and hard work. I emphasize that no matter where people come from or what the obstacles might be, they can overcome any adversity that may perceive to be in their way. Speaking and coaching has given me the opportunity to be more upfront and personal and to respond to questions for better understanding.

You have a podcast, Obstacles to Opportunities, and you are also the subject of a book, The Determined Entrepreneur. If you could share one inspirational thought right now that feels the most relevant, what is it?

Smile every chance you get. Not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had anticipated, but because you choose to be happy and grateful for all the good things you do have and all the problems you know that you don't have.

How do you stay involved in basketball today?

I am a member of the National Basketball Retired Players Association and past Chairman of the Board of Directors. I served on various committee chairs on the Board for seven years, and now I am an active member. I work with the Orlando and Miami Chapters of the NBRPA as well.

I am a Polk State Basketball Booster Board member where I support the Head Coach Brandon Giles who is a former Auburndale KFC employee. He is like a son to me after his father passed away at an early age. His father was also the former Coach of the Polk State College Basketball Team.

I personally work out and play basketball five days a week at my local Just Move Gymnasium in Winter Haven, Florida. I still play competitively in the Senior Basketball League with the 70 to 74-year-old division where we have District, Regional & State Championships on a yearly basis. We have National Championships every other year as well. Lastly, we also have World Championships every two years at four years at Disney Wide World of Sports Complex. We won the World Championship three years ago there. I also mentor several active and retired professional basketball players.

What’s your favorite way to spend time when you are not working?

My favorite time away from work, which is 24/7, is still playing competitive basketball with friends. I tried golf but just cannot resist picking up the telephone or responding to messages.

To learn more about George Tinsley, check out

Rebecca Patt specializes in retained executive search for the restaurant industry with Wray Executive Search. Need to hire an ace executive for your team? Email her at

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