Charles A. Smithgall, III was born in Atlanta, Georgia on July 19, 1942. When Charles was six years old, his family moved from Atlanta to Gainesville, Georgia where his dad started a radio station and newspaper. In 1961 Charles graduated from The Baylor School located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After graduating from high school, Charles attended Georgia Institute of Technology, which was also his father’s alma mater. In 1965, Charles graduated from Georgia Tech with a B.S. in Industrial Management.
Before Charles’s life in franchising began, he worked in the construction business for Holder Construction until 1975, at which time he left the company to complete the program for Management Development at Harvard Business School. Charles also spent a few years in the media industry, ultimately overseeing cable TV and radio companies. In the mid-1990s, a college buddy who had become an investment banker approached him with a different kind of proposition; one in the franchise world. In 1995, Charles kick started his franchising career with one store in Louisville, KY. Today, Charles is Chairman and CEO of SEI/Aaron’s, Inc., the largest Aaron’s multi-unit franchisee with 93 stores and annual revenue topping $135 million.