A while back, the Public Broadcasting System aired an interview with Mr. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-a, and his son, Dan Cathy, the president and CEO of the corporation. Because I am so fond of Chick-fil-a, I was interested to hear what Mr. Cathy and his son, Dan, would say. Even though Mr. Cathy has since passed away, his wisdom and business acumen still remains for future generations.
The history of that great corporation began here in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1946, when Mr. Cathy and his wife, Jeanette, opened a restaurant called The Dwarf House. The restaurant got its name because it was so small. There were only four or five booths for patrons to sit in and five or six bar stool seats at the counter. Over the years the Chick-fil-a restaurant chain has grown impressively. In 2020, despite the Covid situation, the corporation reported revenues of 4.3 billion dollars in sales and has no debt. That is an enviable position for any company!
During the recorded interview, Mr. Cathy was asked what he considered to be the keys to a successful business. As he began to answer the question, I quickly reached for a pen and paper because, being a businessman myself, I wanted to know the answer to that question.
Without hesitating for even a moment, he said that there were three qualities they look for when interviewing a potential owner/operator or employee of Chick-fil-a. Those three qualities are character, competence, and chemistry. Mr. Cathy went on to explain that character is a person’s ability to be honest and demonstrate integrity. A person with character will always do what is right in any given situation. A person of competence, he said, is someone who has an ability to read a situation and act appropriately, making wise, practical decisions. The third quality he listed was chemistry. Mr. Cathy explained that a person’s personality needs to fit well with others in the corporation. People need to be able to get along with each other, being thoughtful and kind, rather than selfish and self-centered. Mr. Cathy said that anyone who demonstrates character, competence and chemistry will do well in any endeavor.
Isn’t that good information? Isn’t that good advice? I have lived long enough to see the value of those three traits in business myself. I appreciated his ability to quickly and succinctly state the obvious: character, competence, chemistry!
I was rather surprised to hear that out of the hundreds and hundreds of applicants who apply to Chick-fil-a in order to become an owner/operator, less than five percent of those who apply get that opportunity. Because Chick-fil-a has chosen their associates carefully, they have built a great organization.
When Mr. Cathy was asked to summarize one secret key to his success he quickly answered, “When people go out to eat, they want to have a good experience. We tell our employees to simply treat others the way they would want to be treated themselves. When you go to a restaurant, do you want someone to be nice and courteous to you? Do you want your server to smile and have a good attitude? Do you want other people to provide you with good service? If that’s what you would want, then give those same things to other people. It is as practical as the Golden Rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’” Isn’t that a simple secret? The good news is that it is not a secret any longer! We can all use it!
You might say, “Isn’t all of this just common sense?” To which I would answer, “Yes, it is”, but the trick is not simply found in the information, it is found in the application of that information. We can all know something without actually using it. Besides that, I can still hear my father saying, “Common sense isn’t very common!
This week start looking around you at the people with whom you associate. Do they demonstrate character, competence and chemistry? Do they treat other people the way they want to be treated themselves? I trust that is the case. As for you and me, why don’t we add this bit of wisdom to everything we do in our business life…and also in our personal life and family life? These are proven ideas that have produced great success worth billions of dollars every year! Let’s get in on these good ideas today!
Tip: Three keys to business success.
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm