The greatest gift any father could give to his children is love and perseverance. Michael Flory, co-owner of Custom Built has those qualities in spades. Overcoming a personal tragedy at a young age, Flory now finds happiness and peace in his relationship with God and in his dedication to his wife, Cassie, of 15 years and his eight children. Flory was born and raised in West Lansing and is the youngest of five siblings. His parents were active and inspirational in his life and encouraged him to pursue his love of sports and curiosity of business. Tragedy struck the Flory family when Michael’s grandfather shot and killed both of his parents and seriously wounded Michael and his siblings. After the incident, Flory still pursued sports and worked along side his older brother Chris Scott, who helped raise him and his siblings, but as Flory grew older he lost interest in things he had once loved. He found himself struggling with personal demons of his own. Flory fought with depression, which led to a suicide attempt and overwhelming rage and sadness. Flory was saved, however, when a personal experience with God drove him to find peace. “When I was young I was constantly seeing doctors and got into a lot of bad stuff. At 20 I tried to commit suicide, a failed attempt, obviously. Another night, I just knew that night would be the end of my life, but I ended up going to my brother and sister in-law’s home. My sister-in-law was home and she began to pray for me. I couldn’t tell you how I got there or why I was there, but what happened that night was an experience that changed everything,” Flory said. “I heard from God that he was going to get me through. I did a 180 and began to follow Christ and gave my life to Him. He said he was going to heal me and He did.” After finding Christ, Flory’s life completely changed and he found light and happiness as he moved forward. Flory met his wife Cassie when he became involved with a campus ministry. The two fell in love, married and had the first of their eight children soon after. Flory and his wife put their trust in Christ to help them make decisions about their future. “My wife was in med school when we got pregnant and we asked the Lord what we should do and what made sense for our family. My wife ended up leaving med school, but we still had bills to pay and it was at that point that I really started in business,” said Flory. “I was working full-time and also helping Cassie’s dad on the side with building projects and one thing lead to another and in no time we had a couple more kids and I had started my first business.” Flory shared a company with his friend before selling his share and starting his own venture. In 2006, and several kids later, Flory merged his business with his brother’s company and Custom Built Design and Remodeling was started. Though entrepreneurship comes with a unique set of challenges, Flory finds motivation and credits his success to his relationship with God and the influence his late parents had on him when he was young. “Really, where I get my motivation (is) from the relationship I had with my parents and the relationship I currently have with God. I had parents that loved me and gave me a good foundation. Their love helped me find my identity. I have goals and aspirations. And when I surrendered my life to Christ everything changed. I experienced the love of God. And when I experienced that love, it impacted me so deeply that I was able to look at my life more clearly … If you have a vision you can succeed at anything.” Flory’s vision and his ability to see the big picture has carried him through and helped him find balance and meaning in his career, which also includes his new role as President of the Home Builders Association of Greater Lansing, and his family. Flory, along with his wife Cassie, has eight children, Isabelle, 13; Aiden, 11; Anneli, 9; Kyle, 9; Shiloh, 7; Lily, 6; Noah, 4 and Sophie, 1. Flory makes family time a priority and manages his work life and family life in a similar fashion. “Years ago a gentleman asked me some really pointed questions about how I was able to keep up doing what I was doing, working so many hours and having a family. And really the answer is I do everything the best I can wherever I am right then. It is hard to balance, because I want our company to do well, but I also want my family to do well,” said Flory. “So, it came to a point where if I say I am leaving at 5 p.m., I leave at 5 p.m. Some nights that is easy and some nights that is hard, but I just couldn’t keep working 90 hours.” Flory made adjustments to his work schedule to make more time for his family, but he manages his calendar the same way regardless of if he is in the office or at home. “I made adjustments, I don’t do Saturday appointments any more and we make up for it by going out early. I had to put boundaries on my time. There are always going to be seasons where you work extra hours, but you have to build it into your schedule just like everything else,” Flory said. “We have a family meeting every week on Monday night and I treat that as if it is just as important as a business meeting. It is our chance to talk about life and you can’t take that for granted. We build an agenda so that everyone gets to talk and it works the same way it does in business. We take the kids on dates so they each get time and I make sure to put that in my calendar the same way, because it is just as important, if not more. If you have a plan, you will execute it.” Flory takes his role as “dad” seriously and values the time spent with his children. He and his wife always wanted a big family and although by today’s standards eight kids is rare, Flory says they are the greatest adventure of his life and he wouldn’t change a thing. “Being a father is an adventure, a privilege and an honor. You can’t be governed by fear with kids; you have to be governed by love. Don’t worry about details; just give it your all. Any way you parent your kid, with some exceptions, is the right way as long as you are there,” Flory said. “I think some people look at our family and think ‘how do they do it?’ My kids are a blessing. I am adventurous and my role as a father is a huge adventure.” Fatherhood has taught Flory a lot about himself as well as his children. He says some of the greatest lessons he’s learned have come from his kids. “Fatherhood taught me I am not really equipped all the time. Each of my children is so different. Even if you parent them all the same, they all have their own things. Some of the biggest things my kids have taught me is that they all want to be loved differently and heard differently. I had to learn to listen to better understand each of them individually. That is a huge part about fatherhood. If you listen, they will share their hearts with you, their worries, their fears, their hopes and their dreams.” Although he thinks a few may follow in the family business, Flory’s only wish is happiness for his children. His main goal is to help them grow in their relationship with God and to be there for a hug when they need him. “The best part of being a dad is being able to give back into their lives and see them grow up. (I get to) help them grow in their relationship with Christ and see them become their own person,” Flory said. “My kids bring me happiness and that is what I want for them. There isn’t much that can replace the love that you feel when your child hugs you.”
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.