Based in Atlanta, this company is one of the nation’s largest privately held restaurant chains and Cathy has become one of America’s most respected businessmen. The company’s motto is, “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich.”
Today, sales have grown to more than $1.2 billion and they have experienced growth for 34 consecutive years. What makes this story even more remarkable is that Cathy is a committed Christian and has taught a 13-year-old boys’ Sunday school class in Jonesboro, Ga., for more than 50 years, and his stores do not open on Sunday, one of the biggest sales days for restaurants.
A Georgia native, he grew up in Atlanta during the Depression. At the age of 8, he showed his entrepreneurial skills by setting up a Coca-Cola stand in his West End Atlanta front yard. While operating his beverage stand and delivering the Atlanta Journal in his downtown public housing neighborhood of Techwood Homes, Cathy developed the people-first business philosophy that distinguishes Chick-fil-A today.
In a recent interview with NBC Nightly News, Cathy said, “I see no conflict between Biblical principles and good business practice. Corporate America needs faith in something more than just the bottom line.”
Many times Cathy has been asked why Chick-fil-A has not gone public, which is unusual for a restaurant chain of its size. His answer is that, “Too often Wall Street analysts are more interested in profits than they are in principles and people. If I had a widow invest her savings in Chick-fil-A and the company didn’t pay the return she expected, I would feel obligated to make up the difference to her. Feeling that way about it, I might as well sign the bank note and be personally responsible rather than take other people’s money.”
He also believes the reason many companies fail is their desire to grow faster than they can manage. When a downturn comes along, they have to lay people off. As he says, “You don’t build a good reputation by discharging people, but rather by developing people.”
Cathy has written a new book titled, “Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People,” that is now available in bookstores and most online book retailers. In his book, Cathy shares many life lessons for business, family and faith, encouraging readers to open themselves to unexpected opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life. The author of this book certainly lives what he preaches. Along the way to his 80-plus years, he has built 11 foster homes for the more than 150 children who call him Grandpa, and sponsored scholarships for 16,500 Chick-fil-A restaurant employees. His “giving-back” philosophy, which is consistent with my own, has earned him the title of “The most generous man in business.”
His commitment to people has also earned him tremendous loyalty from his people. On average, fewer than 5 percent of Chick-fil-A operators leave the chain in any given year, while most remain with the company for more than 20 years. The average store operator earns more than $100,000 with some earning in excess of $300,000. Unlike the fictional stories in the popular Horatio Alger rags-to-riches books, Cathy did not have to employ fictional stories to make points about his success. He actually lived them and his story is true.
To me, what is most refreshing about the life and success of Cathy is that he has proven that honoring a holy and righteous God and obeying His laws can best help us to achieve long-term success. Unfortunately, many people have never learned this simple truth. In today’s dog-eat-dog corporate world of big business, some executives have flunked the test and are sitting behind bars, while others are on the way.
In reality, whether it’s right or wrong, we do learn from others. If you are aspiring to achieve success or greater success in the business world, or just in life, you might want to check out “Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People,” by S. Truett Cathy. It could make a wonderful difference in your future.
A fellow Georgian, former President Jimmy Carter, says of Cathy’s life and book, “Truett’s commitment to principles has enabled him to achieve both spiritual and financial prosperity. In his wonderful book, he tells how this simple philosophy led him to become a mentor and role model to young people, a customer-oriented restaurateur, a community leader and philanthropist. It is one of the most remarkable success stories of our time.”
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)