While a chain of fast-food chicken restaurants may not seem like a usual source of inspiration, Roy Reed finds much to admire in Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A .
Sales for the Atlanta-based business were close to $3 billion in 2008. But it wasn’t the brand’s growth strategy that first piqued Reed’s interest in the company. Rather, it was the establishment’s “closed on Sunday” policy that intrigued the owner of Memphis Pool .
Knowing that Chick-fil-A was using Sundays to honor priorities more important than business “set off a flash in my brain and alerted me that there was something behind [this company],” Reed says.
The firm closes to allow its employees a day for family, to relax and to observe their faith if they choose to do so.
Despite being the only major fast-food chain in the United States to close on Sundays — one of the busiest days in the restaurant business — Cathy has led Chick-fil-A through 41 consecutive years of growth, with its restaurants achieving higher sales per unit in six days than most national chains produce in seven.
And while many have questioned whether Cathy’s policy is sound, Reed admires his “principles before profits” business philosophy, and at times has himself endured losses rather than compromising his values.
Reed also believes a major factor in the ongoing success of Chick-fil-A lies in Cathy’s commitment to Christian principles and to treating others as he would want to be treated.
“[Kindness] and courtesy are very cheap, but bring great dividends,” says Reed, who adds that the organization is excellent at abiding by the Golden Rule: “Always put yourself in the place of your customer, client or prospect. Doing that keeps the field level fair,” he explains.
There are other parallels between the lives of Cathy and Reed.
Each built his company on hard work, humanity and Biblical principles, and each believes in using caution when expanding. Reed says he doesn’t do anything in a hurry, and likens growing a business to pouring layers of concrete.
“[Success] needs to cure properly before putting a load on it. Once a business growth spurt has taken hold, then it is safe to pour another layer,” he says. Not that Reed is scared of change. “Never be afraid to attempt something different or untried [and], in the process, always be listening to your inner voice. God put that ‘voice’ there to protect us from ourselves.”
Cathy and Reed also feel strongly about giving back. Cathy operates foster homes for more than 150 children and sponsors a large summer camp each year. In addition, he has provided more than $23 million in college scholarships since 1973, and does a great deal of elementary school outreach.
“The thing about his story that inspires me the most is how he just keeps on giving to others,” Reed says.
While he does not believe he’ll “live long enough to even get in the shadow of Truett Cathy,” Reed regularly contributes to charities such as the Salvation Army. And he has a goal of developing a program supporting potable water for families in developing nations.
Perhaps Cathy sums it up best: “A business, successful or not, is merely a reflection of the character of its leadership.”
With a business that has thrived since 1952 and recently expanded to three locations, the continued success of Reed’s company can be attributed in large part to his own highly principled character and commitment.