Cathy, S. Truett 1921-
CATHY, S. Truett 1921-
PERSONAL: Born 1921, in Eatonton, GA; married; wife's name Jeannette; three children; ten grandchildren. Religion: Baptist. Hobbies and other interests: Motorcycling.
ADDRESSES: Office—Chick-fil-A Inc., 5200 Buffington Rd., Atlanta, GA 30349.
CAREER: Dwarf House Restaurant, Hapeville, GA, owner-operator, 1946—; Chick-fil-A Inc., president, 1946—; Clayton Fixtures Inc., Forest Park, GA, principal, 1980—. Military service: U.S. Army, 1944-46.
MEMBER: Pi Kappa Alpha, Iota Upsilon chapter (Georgia Southern University).
AWARDS, HONORS: Outstanding Business Leader award, Northwood University, 1988; Silver Plate Award, National Restaurant Association, 1988; Horatio Alger Distinguished American Award, 1989; Most Admired CEO designation, Business Atlanta, 1990; designated Executive of the Year, University of Georgia, 1990; Pioneer of the Year designation, Nation's Restaurant News, 1991; National Commitment to Business Excellence in Foster Care honor, National Foster Parent Association.
It's Easier to Succeed than Fail, Thomas Nelson (Nashville, TN), 1989.
Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People, Looking Glass Books (Decatur, GA), 2002.
(With Ken Blanchard) The Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: S. Truett Cathy is the founder and president of a fast-food chain specializing in chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-A. The success of the company came about despite Cathy's insistence on choosing spiritual principles over business principles: none of the company's operations open on Sunday, and none are franchised to the individual operators, whose initial investment seems like chicken feed compared to the franchise fees of similar restaurants. With little advertising, the company has risen to third, behind Kentucky Fried Chicken and Copeland's, in the fast-food chicken business. Cathy's three books each focus on the challenge of living spiritual values in business life, bolstered by the credibility of Cathy's own success in doing so.
Cathy won the famous Horatio Alger Award in 1989, a prize recognizing Americans whose perseverance and determination allow them to rise from poverty and other hardships. Cathy grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s, while his mother supported the family by running a boarding house in Eatonton, Georgia. Cathy soon caught the entrepreneurial spirit, selling Coca-Cola on the front lawn for spare change, then moving on to newspapers and books, and then to insurance. Cathy never attended college: after serving in the Army during World War II from 1944 to 1946, he opened a restaurant with his brother Ben Cathy. The Dwarf House, located near Atlanta, was a success for the brothers, but Cathy became the sole proprietor in 1947 when Ben died in a plane crash. The Dwarf House kitchen developed the quick-cooked boneless chicken breast that would become the Chick-fil-A sandwich. In 1967 Cathy opened a separate location in Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall to sell the sandwich, and Chick-fil-A restaurants were born.
Chick-fil-A's sales quadrupled between 1977 and 1981, causing other businesses to take notice of Cathy's unusual approach. "The Food Business is a divine business," he once told Forbes reporter Barbara Rudolph. "Waiting on people is like a ministry." In addition to closing his restaurants on Sunday, Cathy asked Chick-fil-A employees to attend a half-hour devotional each week, and included a sermon from a minister at the grand opening of each new operation. At that point, Cathy had 180 stores, and Rudolph questioned whether he could compete and grow under the current business model. By the time Cathy was winning awards for corporate leadership in the 1990s, he had proven he could: Chick-fil-A units were numbering above 430, and by 2002 Cathy had 1,040 restaurants in the United States. In addition, Chick-fil-A has long maintained the highest employee retention rates in the industry, which Cathy attributes to his Sundays-off policy and a strong ethos of loyalty in the company.
Cathy wrote his first book about his success in 1989, It's Easier to Succeed than Fail. Reviewer Michael Schrader, writing for Nation's Restaurant News, said, "Cathy's advice is simple: Set goals, associate with winners, work hard." The book also emphasizes how Cathy's Christian faith provided the foundation of his methods, and motivated him to help others. Rev. Charles Carter of the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, told reporter D. M. Levine in Nation's Restaurant News, "No one will ever know how many young people Truett has helped along the way....He helps them with family problems, medical bills, clothing costs, and college expenses." Cathy has also made that a centerpiece of his business model, charging operators seeking to open a new restaurant only $5,000 to start, in contrast to the hundreds of thousands in cash franchisees pay to start in other fast-food chains. Cathy said to Levine, "We'll provide the bread and water for you and your family, and we won't take your life savings. In return, all we ask is a real strong commitment." Chick-fil-A employees have also been able to earn scholarships since 1973; as of 1991 7,000 employees had done so. In 1984 Cathy launched the WinShape Centre Foundation (for "shaping winners"), which sponsors a scholarship program jointly with Berry College, Camp WinShape, and WinShape Foster Care. Within ten years the foundation had given more than ten million dollars in scholarships.
In 2002 Cathy again took on the role of the author, publishing two books discussing his business principles. In Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People, Cathy tells the story of the growth of Chick-fil-A and the WinShape Foundation, challenging readers to follow in his path by putting people first. At the time his book appeared in 2002, Cathy was also asked to appear before the U.S. Congress, where he addressed the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection. In a 2002 interview with Sarah Smith Hamaker for Restaurants USA Online, Cathy said the committee "wanted to know how you can operate a business honestly, and they asked me to talk about putting people before profits." Cathy described his business practices according to the five steps outlined in the book: "climb with care and confidence, create a 'loyalty effect,' never lose a customer, put principles and people ahead of profits, and close on Sundays." Cathy's other 2002 publication, The Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure which is coauthored with Ken Blanchard, makes a similar point in a different style. The book is a parable of the Broker and the Executive, as the Broker strives to understand how the Executive leads and succeeds by giving to others. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that "while the characters in this little parable . . . are more stereo-typical than archetypal, the values presented are first-rate." A reviewer for Bookpage said that the principles of The Generosity Factor "can inspire success in the workplace and in the heart."
As of 2002, Cathy had expanded Chick-fil-A to thirty-four states, successfully bringing his fast-food chain beyond its Southern base. In Restaurants USA Online Cathy said the company remained committed to corporate responsibility: "We have a responsibility to our employees to give them abilities and securities. We ask them to invest a good part of their life in our restaurant and we need to give them something back."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bookpage, July, 2002, review of The Generosity Factor, p. 21.
Business Atlanta, November, 1990, Faye McDonald Smith, "Vision and Integrity," pp. 28-34.
Forbes, June 4, 1984, Barbara Rudolph, "Never on Sunday," pp. 176-77.
Nation's Restaurant News, January 1, 1986, D. M. Levine, "Old-Time Religion Guides Chick-fil-A; Bible Sets Tone for Cathy," pp. 1-2; September 25, 1989, Michael S. Schraeder, review of It's Easier to Succeed Than Fail, p. 109; June 17, 1991, Charles Bernstein, "MUFSO Pioneer: Chick-fil-A Founder Cathy," pp. 1-2; October 21, 1991, Peter O. Keegan, "Industry Lauds Cathy as Pioneer of the Year," pp. 1-2.
Publishers Weekly, July 15, 2002, "Cultivating Virtue," p. 71.
Restaurant Business, May 1, 1992, Shelley Wolson, "Never on Sunday," pp. 110-11.
Restaurants & Institutions, July 22, 1992, Nancy Ross Ryan, "The Scoop on Chicken: S. Truett Cathy," p. 52.
Northwood University Web site,http://www.northwood.edu/ (October 15, 2002), Cathy's acceptance speech as Outstanding Business Leader of 1988.
Pi Kappa Alpha Web site,http://www.pka.com/ (October 15, 2002), "Hard Work and High Principles: Truett Cathy Embodies the Virtues of PiKA."
Restaurants USA Online,http://www.restaurant.org/ (October 15, 2002), Sarah Smith Hamaker, "Doing Business the Chick-fil-A Way."
Zondervan Web site,http://www.zondervan.com/ (October 15, 2002).*
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