No. 1223



Back in the early days, Truett Cathy, founder of the Chic-fil-A restaurant chain, had a very special tip for training employees. When he had them seated before him he would pose this question: “How do you know when someone needs encouragement?” After a bit, and a few puzzled stares, he would answer his own question. The answer is, “It is when they come in the door.”
Now that is pretty simple, but it is also true. This is just another way of saying that we all need encouragement every day of our lives.
When it comes to training or setting someone up as a role model, I only have one criteria, that is if they have actually been successful doing it themselves. When it comes to the late Truett Cathy, there is little doubt that his training methods worked. At the time of his death, Chick-fil-A had more than 1,800 restaurants in 40 states (plus the District of Columbia). But it was not always that way. In 1946, Cathy and his brother Ben were the only staff manning the Dwarf Grill – later known as the Dwarf House. It took more than 20 years for the first Chic-fil-A to open in an Atlanta mall in 1967. From those humble roots, Truett Cathy and his family made restaurant history -- and made a difference in the world as well.
From the generations of teaching a 13-year-old boys’ Sunday school class at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, to the team members he inspired across the nation, to the customers who trusted his brand, Truett Cathy never wavered from his commitment to serve people. According to Dave Ramsey, one of his disciples, Truett had seven principles that guided his business and personal life. They are:
No. 1. - Define your values and stick to them. One of those was being closed on Sunday. In some communities this has gotten him in hot water, but he never wavered on this commitment. No. 2. - A little customer service goes a long way. If you have ever been to a Chic-fil-A restaurant you know the employees always say, “It’s my pleasure.”
No. 3. - Make family a priority. This is why they don’t open on Sunday. This is a day to give his employees an opportunity to spend time with their family, and to attend church if they so desire. No. 4. - Know why you exist. Unlike most restaurant chains that focus on quality and service, Truett’s statement reads, our priority is “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chic-fil-A.” No. 5. - Plan ahead. From the very beginning, Truett began to groom his family members to take on leadership roles in the company.
No. 6. - Invest in others. He always said that he was not in the chicken business he was in the people business. To live out this commitment he started the WinShape Foundation, which encourages leadership development and offers academic scholarships for team members. No. 7. - Don’t be afraid to start small. I have already given you his background, and it does not need to be repeated here.
Back to that unique tip I started with, “We all need encouragement.” I believe this simple statement has been amplified wonderfully well by sharing these seven principles that guided Truett’s business and his life. For most of my life I have been an encourager, but I never realized until now just how important this personal trait really is. For the rest of my days I plan to do that as often as I can. Will you join me by being an encourager for other people? God bless, Jim.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)