Greg Staif has been at Brinker International, Inc. for 25 years. He’s a CPA and has spent the majority of his time at Brinker on the Accounting and Operations Finance teams. A little over a year ago, however, he got an itch to branch out to compensation. A mid-career, 180-degree turn was daunting for Staif, but anxiety quickly turned to excitement and effectiveness as he began a new chapter in a long career.
About a year ago, you made a move from the finance side to the compensation side. How are you enjoying it one-plus year in? What sparked that move?
About a year or so ago, a temporary assignment came up. I was going to come up to comp and help them for three months or so, but after that time, they asked if I wanted to stay and take over the director of compensation role. I’ve had a blast up here, it’s a whole different world.
I used to sit down with the finance team and be like, “Man, that comp team, all they do is sit around and calculate bonuses.” And now, having been entrenched on the other side, there is just so much more involved (laughs).
When you said you felt the desire to try something different, did you feel it was necessary to reinvigorate yourself? Was there something about compensation that always interested you?
It’s a combination of both. I was at a point where I was trying to look long-term careerwise, see where I was going. I love the company I work for. My wife worked here for a long time (25-plus years) as well. It’s what we love. It’s in our blood and I can’t imagine going anywhere else.
Fortunately, I was given this opportunity at my age. It’s not often at this age that you get the opportunity to do a complete 180 in your career. I got that here. There’s a lot about it that fascinates me. So, it’s something different, but it’s an area I’ve expressed interest in. I always knew it was much more than just calculating bonuses.
I’m very grateful I was given that opportunity, and while it was hard to leave my previous role — having been there for 15 years — I’m still blessed to maintain those previous relationships. I’m just coming at it from a different angle.
What is it about Texas that you enjoy most?
I live in McKinney, it’s a northern suburb of Dallas. I’ve moved around a bit, but I’ve been back in this area for 25 years now. I love it here.
A lot of it is family: My parents are here, my sister and her family are here. I’ve just always loved the people here. Not as much hustle and bustle as other cities I’ve lived in. After law school and before I went back to Dallas, I lived in Chicago. It’s very different, living and working there. I love traveling and vacationing there, but I couldn’t imagine living there.
A lot of it is the people and how they treat you here. I love the weather; I’m a huge pool guy, we spend a ton of time with family and friends by the pool in the summers.
What is it about you, in your opinion, that helps you thrive in the comp field?
I have built relationships with many on the operations side of the business, and I also bring knowledge of the business on both sides. Taking that knowledge and those relationships and incorporating them into our bonus programs, making suggestions on changes and improvements, is helping. What I learned in my old finance role is helping close the gap between the comp side and operations.
How about travel?
I do love to travel. I spent my junior year of college in Salzburg, Austria, living with an Austrian family. I was there in 1989, so right before the Berlin Wall came down. I was able to travel around before all the change.
I actually went to class in the house where the von Trapps lived in “The Sound of Music.” In fact, that’s where I proposed to my wife: at the lake next to the von Trapp house.
Any other unique travel stories in your family?
My wife and I have a tradition: We’re big football fans, so we have a football weekend every year. We pick somewhere where we can go to a college game on Saturday, and a pro game on Sunday. We’ve been doing that since we started dating.
We’ve been to Lambeau Field several times. We’ve done that and a Wisconsin Badger game, that’s always fun. We’ve done Notre Dame on Saturday, then Bears/Cowboys on Sunday. We’ve been to South Carolina/Panthers, LSU/Saints, Ohio State/Browns. We’ve done many.
How about charities? Any philanthropic endeavors that mean a lot to you?
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, we’re hugely into that. We’ve been involved for around 10 to 13 years, ever since Chili’s Grill & Bar started a fundraising campaign with them in the Memphis area. The campaign that started in Memphis is now brand-wide at Chili’s. I got involved in our annual fundraising efforts through managing the accounting and reporting of money collected, so I got to know a lot of people from St. Jude through it.
I’ve been to the hospital several times. We have a cookout there for the patients and their families. In fact, my wife and I went in November to tour St. Jude again — it was her first time. Our company has raised over $75 million for them. We have a building there, the Chili’s Care Center. I’m very proud of that relationship.
What is it that you enjoy so much about St. Jude?
I think it’s that if a patient goes in, they don’t have to pay. They never charge a family a dime. And, having seen some of the facilities there, not just the hospital itself, but the places they set up for families, they try to take care of everything so the family doesn’t have to focus on anything but getting their child better.
You walk into the hospital, and you know there are a lot of kids who are really, really sick there. But when you walk into the building, it has such an incredible vibe. It’s uplifting given the circumstances. And I’m a softy, so there are a lot of tears when I’m walking through that place. It’s an emotional trip and knowing Chili’s has played a part in the hospital is a great feeling.
As far as a bucket list — something you want to do, somewhere you want to go, something you want to see — what’s at the top of that list at the moment?
It’s something I’ve done, but I want to take my family back over to Europe, particularly Austria and Germany. See some of the things I got to experience when I was in college, things that played a role to me in my college days.
As you get older, the kids are working and it’s hard to coordinate schedules and all that. But I’d love to expose them to that, show them a different way of life.
I got a book for Christmas from my wife about bucket list items. It’s just filling out different things, what you want to do. I haven’t started it just yet — but I will.