Truett Cathy & Chick-fil-A (Eat Mor Chikin)

My daughter at Chick-fil-A
Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A restaurants, started delivering newspapers as a boy in the 1930s. Beginning at age 12, and continuing for the next seven years, he would rise before the sun and deliver the morning paper so it was there when others were just waking up.

Recalling what he thought about the people and the task in those youthful days, Cathy said, "I treated each one like the most important person in the world and delivered each paper as if I were delivering it to the front door of the Governor's mansion"[1].

In May 1946, Truett and his brother Ben combined their money and took a risk. They opened a 24-hour diner in Hapeville, Georgia called the Dwarf Grill. Notably, just like the Chick-fil-A restaurants that followed, the Dwarf Grill was closed on Sundays.

Ben Cathy died in an airplane accident in 1948, but Truett pressed on with the brothers' dream of restaurant success. For many years, he experimented with different recipes for the first fast-food chicken sandwich. Finally, in 1963, he settled on what would become the trademark Chick-fil-A sandwich. The first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened four years later in a mall on the southside of Atlanta.

Under Cathy's brand of servant-leadership, the company grew exponentially. Later, in 1982, Chick-fil-A's corporate purpose was solidified in words: "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."

The company's way of doing business matches the saying for which their employees have become known: "My pleasure." The combination of good food, good people, good locations, and good marketing (who doesn't love those cows slyly trying to save themselves by telling everyone to "eat more chicken?"), converged to move the company from "good to great." In 2000, just over thirty years since they opened the first Chick-fil-A, the company reached $1 billion in sales. Just nine years later, in 2009, they celebrated $3 billion in sales.

If the story ended there it would be an incredible story of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. But it doesn't. For many people Truett Cathy is more than the creator of a sandwich or the founder of a company.

For some employees, he is the one who provided the means to go to college. Since 1973 he has awarded $25 million in $1,000 scholarships to employees to attend college.

Truett and Trevor (Long Beach, CA in Feb. 2009)
For some children, he is "Grandpa." Cathy and his wife, Jeannette, founded WinShape Homes, which now operates 8 homes (in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Brazil). Each home can accommodate 12 children and 2 full-time foster parents. Additionally, the WinShape Foundation, which exists to "shape winners by preparing young people to succeed in life," hosts nearly 1,800 children annually in their various programs from summer camps to weekend retreats.

And for some 13-year old boys, he is "Mr. Cathy, the Sunday School teacher." For over 50 years, he has given his time and energy working with the youth at his local church. Cathy says, "Giving is one of the privileges we have. ...Very few people recognize the pleasure of giving - especially when you don't expect anything in return"[2].

For all these things, and many more, Truett Cathy has been the recipient of numerous humanitarian and business awards. Among the many awards are the President's Volunteer Service Award (from George H. W. Bush) and the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership.

And now, even though he has a net worth over $1 billion and will be 91-years old on March 14, he insists that he has no intentions of slowing down. The work ethic, and business ethics, of the paperboy-turned-restauranteur are still as strong as ever.

[2] Sherri Brown, "Chick-fil-A's Truett Cathy Honored for Charity," November 20, 2008 (, accessed 3/5/12.

Related Posts:
Are Leaders Born or Made?
Let the Old Folks Speak


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