If you don’t know Truett Cathy, you probably know Chick-fil-A. If you know Chick-fil-A, you know they have the best the chicken sandwich around and the best service of any fast food restaurant in the country. You may also know Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday. You might not know this all comes from Truett Cathy and the way he has his shaped his company to reflect his personal values.
Truett will be 92 on the 14th of March. He started in business at the age of eight selling Coca-Cola door to door for a nickel a bottle. He is now worth upwards of $4 billion. But what makes Truett’s story truly remarkable is not how much money he has made but how he managed to became so successful.
“We had a corporate retreat a few years ago,” he told me when we met, “and we asked ourselves: Why are we in business? Why are we alive? What is the purpose of living anyway?”
After days of discussion, Truett and his team came up with a statement of corporate purpose that still guides Chick-fil-A today: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to our care and to have a positive influence on all the people with whom we come in contact.”
That is an unusual statement for any corporation to make, but even more so when you consider the nature of Chick-fil-A’s business.
“Whether we know it or not, we influence everyone we associate with in a positive or negative way,” Truett explained. “The ability to influence another person by what we do is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.”
“I say to my wife oftentimes, we are not in the chicken business, we are in the people business. You cannot be a success in life unless you develop a heart for other people. It is each and every one of our responsibilities to use what resources we have to help other people.”
Like Truett, are all in the people business. No individual stands alone, complete, distinct, and unadorned. Others act upon us as we act on upon them. We shape the direction of each other’s lives much as the wind affects the tree’s design. You can see even the slightest breeze captured in the movement of the leaves, but it is only with the passage of time that we see how the tree has been inclined.