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[Special] Interview with the Founders: "Let Honesty Speak for Yourself"




Honesty though an ancient virtue, never loses its luster. In a world where falsehoods have become commonplace, we sometimes find ourselves unable to even feel offended by lies. However, when we witness unwavering honesty in both words and deeds, it moves us profoundly.

Abraham Lincoln, one of the most esteemed leaders in history not only in the US but also globally, is well known by his nickname "Honest Abe". From a young age, Lincoln was single-minded in his commitment to honesty. According to one anecdote, whenever young Lincoln discovered that he had provided a customer with incorrect change, even if it was only a few pennies, he would close the shop and personally go the extra mile to deliver the accurate amount, regardless of the distance.


Honesty was what Antonino and Jesua Gagliano too held with great intensity. As a newly married young couple immigrated from Sicily, Italy, their humble beginnings were far from extraordinary or impressive. Antonino, skilled in craftsmanship and driven by a passion for aiding others, established a one-man company 'Gagliano Plastering' at 1739 Dufferin Street.





Customer-Centric Focus


Getting trapped in conventional thinking is a common mistake made by numerous business owners. Customers may not have a complete grasp of their own desires, and it is only through the dedication and insightfulness of visionary leaders that innovative solutions can be brought to the table.



When customers came to Gagliano Plastering, their primary objective was to secure the finest plastering service for their valuable properties. Antonino, however, knew, without explicit communication, recognized an underlying, unexpressed necessity that extended beyond plastering alone. More often than not, these individuals found themselves in search of other renovation professionals, including electricians, carpenters, and painters. These endeavours proved to be time-consuming, physically

demanding, and cumbersome. Recognizing this, Antonino took decisive action to transform his business into a highly customer-centric enterprise: He personally recruited technicians from various fields, sparing customers the hassle of searching for multiple professionals. This approach was new and innovative back then. Thanks to this pioneering method, the TGA (Thank God Always) Group, a newly formed construction company, came into existence in 1959.



Because Quality is Our Pride


As a company expands, its owner is faced with an array of decisions that will determine its direction. The Gaglianos confronted this inevitable challenge, presented with countless options laid out before them, awaiting their choice. Yet, the Gaglianos' choice was remarkably straightforward. Rather than adding unnecessary embellishments or veering off course, they chose to double down the very foundation of their business. They reaffirmed their commitment to providing exceptional service to their clients. They believed the quality of their work would serve as their primary testament.


Driven by steadfast and bold dedication, Jesua provided invaluable support. On a particular day, Antonino came home late from a long day of work. Shortly after, Jesua received a phone call from a customer expressing concern over a single nail that had slightly come loose. It was an insignificant, negligible oversight. It was not easy for Jesua to urge her weary husband to return to the customer's location. Nevertheless, both Antonino and Jesua were well aware of the commitment they had made to their customers. They understood that it had to be upheld at any cost.


Antonino and Jesua's wish for their work to speak for itself was fulfilled as its honest quality acted as a compelling marketing tool: It led to their increasing renown in the city. Their satisfied customers simply kept coming back. Notable entities like Metro Toronto House and Ontario Housing also recognized the value of their services and sought their assistance.



Honesty the Cornerstone & The Birth of ARS


Every journey toward success is accompanied by challenges. There are always "takers", driven by their own selfish interests, who resort to unfair, unethical, and even immoral methods. Antonino and Jesua encountered such individuals at times, experiencing deep disconcertion and genuine frustration. However, they refused to stay disheartened for long. They swiftly redirected their focus. Through experiences, they found that forgiveness is the only antidote that will keep them moving forward. They understood that forgiveness commenced with self-honesty. By acknowledging their own pain, and recognizing their need for solace and encouragement, they discovered the power to forgive those who had wronged them and embark on their path once again.





Embracing honesty also involves admitting the need for assistance. After attaining a stable financial foundation, Antonino ventured into purchasing substantial land in the city of Bolton. The plan was to develop and sell new houses. This project quickly gained traction, resulting in the sale of all the properties even before the completion of construction. However, Antonino soon found himself in a dire situation. A critical mistake made by the surveyor in estimating the overall costs of construction and property sales had left Antonino burdened with substantial debt. The amount surpassed what he could manage with his existing mortgages.


Antonino decided to tackle the issue head-on. He paid a visit to CIBC, the bank that had provided him with the mortgages. With utmost transparency, Antonino openly discussed his predicament, humbly admitting that he was facing financial difficulties and required assistance. The CIBC officer, with whom Antonino had established a prior business relationship, was amazed by the level of honesty demonstrated. Deeply moved, an additional mortgage with a two-year grace period, exempt from any interest — a deal unheard of before. Determined to uphold his end of the bargain, Antonino worked tirelessly. As a result, he succeeded in repaying the entire amount within just six months, astonishing the bank once again.


The customer-centric approach of TGA continues to serve its customers with top-notch service. In 2008, Access Restoration Services was born to address the demand for professional commercial property restoration and disaster mitigation solutions. Fast forward to 2022, the company underwent a rebranding, adopting the name ARS / Global Emergency Management, to cater to the global market beyond Canada. Joe Gagliano, the eldest son of Antonino and Jesua Gagliano, carries forward his parents' legacy as the President of the company.



Wisdom for the Young


When asked for advice for young, ambitious professionals who aspire to reach their full potential, Antonino and Jesua highlighted two crucial elements: "Responsibility" and "Honesty."


Recognize the distinction between a simple "Yes" and an authentic understanding of "It's okay." Always go above and beyond the conventional expectation. Keep pride and arrogance at bay, and adopt humility as a pathway to learning from all individuals, even from your competitors and adversaries. Approach your commitments with utmost seriousness as if your life depends on them. Dedicate yourself to the development of your character and aspire to be a person of integrity. Last but not least, embrace honesty wholeheartedly, allowing it to be a testament to your character for it will take you farther than your wildest expectations.



 

Interview by Abigail Chung (media@arsgem.com)


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