Gary Pittsford Retires With Parting Advice for Retailers

Gary Pittsford Retires With Parting Advice for Retailers

After over five decades advising independent and small business owners, Gary Pittsford is hanging up his financial planning hat and tenure as partner and chief valuation officer of Creative Planning Business Services. Well, almost. 

“It’s time for me to slow down at age 77. I officially retired from active involvement with Creative Planning at the end of 2023, but will be a consultant with them for a few more months in 2024,” Gary says. “There are several conventions that I have promised to speak at and some articles that I want to write. Going forward I want to help this industry that has been so good to me over the last 50 years.”

As he ends his tenure in the industry, Gary chatted with Hardware Retailing about his career, mentors who have guided him along the way and what’s next in retirement. 

Hardware Retailing (HR): What was your favorite part of your job?
Gary Pittsford (GP): My favorite part is sitting down with the store owner and the spouse and trying to figure out what they want to do and how to do it. A lot of them will tell me they have three children and one of them helps run the business but the other two don’t, but they want to be fair to all three. So we come up with ways they can move the business and make plans for the next one to five years. It’s fun getting to know the owners and figuring out what they want to do because once I know what they want to do, I can help them do whatever they can imagine. 

HR: What do you enjoy most about working with independent or small businesses?
GP: I really enjoy working with small business owners because they tend to have more complex issues to work through. There are a lot of different complexities that business owners have that makes it more challenging and more fun to help them. 

HR: How did you first start working with independent home improvement retailers?
GP: I had a lot of clients in Fort Wayne and spent quite a bit of time in that area. The then-president and CEO of Do it Best Don Wolf approached me because he had seen me speak at various events and asked if I would help some of their retailers. From there, I was asked to speak at Do it Best conventions. A few years later, True Value approached me about speaking at their events, a few years after that, Ace asked me. It just exploded from there. It was fun to work with everybody and over the past 40 years, we’ve worked with thousands of home improvement stores.  

HR: Within the retail hardware industry, what is the most common piece of advice that you give business owners?
GP: Whether they are wanting to sell the business to someone outside the family or pass it along to a family member, they need to make their financial statements look as good as possible. Most business owners love to work with customers, talk to vendors, do the advertising, unload trucks and put products in the warehouse. 

But many don’t really love looking at a profit and loss statement or a balance sheet, but they need to be taking a closer look at those statements, especially in the last three to five years before the transition, to make those statements as profitable as possible. The more cash they generate, the easier it is to transition to your family or to transition to someone outside the family. The more cash flow you generate, the more valuable your company is. 

A lot of store owners don’t think about the valuation side, but getting a valuation from a valuation firm that knows the industry is so important. That valuation can show what’s going right and what’s not going so well for the company, so the owner can make those changes necessary to be as financially healthy as possible. 

HR: What are your plans for retirement?
GP: I have several hobbies I want to spend more time on. Attached to my house is a woodworking shop, and I like to make tables, chairs and all kinds of different furniture. I have two sons and they love to go fly fishing with me. I like to do a lot of hunting, usually either elk, moose or bear hunting in Canada or Alaska. My wife and I also have a place in Florida where we escape the winters in Indiana.