You know how I process hard things? I write. And I can’t get to Atlanta to the funeral for Chick-fil-A’s founder Truett Cathy – so I will write and remember some of my favorite memories.
I also want to be clear on two things.
1) This is not for sympathy for me.
I am fine. Sad of course but I only worked there a short time (full-time staff almost 6 years then occasionally doing projects since Ella was born the last 8 years). Pray for his family. His wife of 60+ years. His grandkids, children and great-grandkids. There are staff members and Operators who served faithfully with him for 40 years. So, let’s pray for them – please don’t worry one second about me.
2) This is about honoring Truett.
Mostly, I wanted you to know some of the sweet stories behind this precious man. And understand why he was so darn special. He was one of a kind. And make you feel even greater about the food you love.
My Truett stories in no particular order… and just a sampling of them…
My face is smiling right now just thinking of when he would enter a room. Just think of the cutest grandfather figure in the world and then multiply that x 100. When he came into the room there wasn’t fear or trembling, there was silence. We couldn’t wait to hear what he was going to say. The audience would lean in close to hear – because wisdom would always flow. And something FUNNY and HAPPY would always come. He would lead us in a cheer, “Is everybody HAPPY? H-A-P-P-Y?” You could look across the room and see just grins. The staff and Operators of Chick-fil-A truly LOVED the man. He’s leading that cheer right now I believe.
Value of a Dollar
I’ll never forget the first time I got invited to go on Moo Force One – the corporate jet. Honestly, I have no idea where we went or who else was on that plane. All I remember is that I got to sit by Truett and I wasn’t going to let the chance pass me by. I asked him, “What would you like me to know as a newer member of your staff?” And he said, “please remember the value of a dollar.” And he went on to talk about the depression and how he hasn’t forgotten. And that we are to be great stewards of everything at Chick-fil-A. Every dollar. That it matters. To think carefully about our projects and vendors – and costs of each little item. How we are charging the restaurant Operators with marketing costs and how we can save them and the customers more money. Priceless advice from a true business man full of integrity.
One thing I adored about the home office was his open door policy. If he was there – you could go in his office. You could take your mom to see him or just pop in (unless he was in his meeting). Y’all the CEO of a company was delighted to hug your mom or a guest and make them feel welcome. It’s one of the many reasons the culture is noticeable when you walk in the door. It is different. It is like a family. It is where I watched the second plane hit the tower on 9-11. There were only a few TVs in the building and a group of us huddling in his office with tears falling down our faces. He wasn’t there but I’ll never forget that moment.
I was teaching one of my last training classes to a group of marketing directors – they had flown in from around the country. I was really really pregnant with Ella. I had just grabbed Truett to come in and greet the class. They were listening like everyone does with perfect stillness. He just captures a room with this timeless advice from leadership to life to marriage to parenting. He’s a wild card with a mic and I love it. Jesus normally comes up and I love that too. He went on to share that he is so proud of the 97% retention rate at the home office and hardly ANYBODY leaves… and my face turned red. I knew I was leaving. He looked back at me. I don’t know if he knew yet. But he said, “the only real approved reason is when mom’s leave to stay home with their babies.” With a joking tone and smile back at me. It was this moment for me. Leaving a job I loved more than anything in the world was hurting my heart so bad – but in that moment, it was like I had a blessing. It was OK. I was doing what I felt God wanted me to do, for our family.
The reason for 97%
Side note on retention. There is a reason people work at that company forever. Truett doesn’t just hire anyone – it’s like getting into the CIA. He’s going to make sure you are going to be there for the long haul because he’s just not going to dish out free lunch, free vacations, free benefits and TONS of professional growth dollars into someone that is job hopping. He wants a leader that is ready to serve others – someone that gets the corporate culture and mission. Thousands of applications come in and they are pretty picky… so I have no idea how I got in. I am forever grateful. Truly. That they said yes and gave me the chance to learn from many of the finest people I have ever known. When they say family matters, they mean it. They would pray for my mother-in-law (who was battling breast cancer) in a meeting. They would let me leave early or come in late on her chemo days. They threw BIG parties and took time to celebrate my wedding, my baby on the way, my anniversaries at the company and more. My family and friends were welcome to eat anytime. They poured into me and helped me grow – emotionally, spiritually, physically and more. I am a better person because I was an employee at Chick-fil-A.
I also loved how fun Truett was – all of the time. He never took anything too seriously. His priorities were always in line and he reminded us to do the same. He was super fun. I asked him to come to the first Cow Appreciation Day and asked if he could dress like a cow – of course he did. He rode up in his truck with his son Dan and they let me paint spots on their face. Are you serious? Unreal. Anyone else remember the ORANGES FOR SALE!!!! coming over the loud speaker. Makes me giggle.
Then, the year I got married – I needed a car to “drive away” – and he happens to have one fancy car collection so I offered to rent/pay him for one and he said, “no, just give me a donation to one of my Winshape homes.” Ron/I went to his house and were shocked to pull up to one humble ranch. The house he has always lived in. This is a billionaire with no mansion. One humble grandparent looking house. He does love cars and I think he deserves to have a collection. Ron wanted the NASCAR car – and I picked the Rolls. 🙂 He was so gracious to let us do that. Generous every day of his life.
Those are just my stories among the thousands. Don’t forget he invented the chicken sandwich, is grandpa to foster kids all over the world, has changed thousands of marriages through WinShape Marriage, impacted children through WinShape Camps, stuck to his convictions and closed every Sunday since his first store and raised an army of wonderful kids, grandkids and great grandkids.
I am so beyond blessed to have know this great man. Much of the values and virtues you experience from this site – are because of what I experienced while working at Chick-fil-A.
Let’s honor Truett with two things.
1. Go eat at Chick-fil-A today or
2. Write an old boss a letter and THANK HIM or HER for the impact on your life – before they are gone
I did write him a letter before I left years ago. Wishing I had just written one more. Cathy and White families. You are in my prayers this week and beyond. Thank you for sharing him with us and carrying on his legacy so well.