Three Ways S. Truett Cathy Inspired Me to Be a Better Man

Inspiration comes from many places. I have many instances in my life where I have witnessed a great leader and learned important leadership principles for my business and my personal life. One of these examples for me is S. Truett Cathy, the late founder of Chick-fil-A restaurants.

Here are three ways the man inspired me, in his own words:

“I struggled to get through high school. I didn’t get to go to college. But it made me realize you can do anything if you want to bad enough.”

I admire S. Truett Cathy for many things, but one of the most important was his work ethic.

He once said he had a low image of himself and that he had to create some good work habits and attitude. He thought it might be because he was brought up during the deep depression. While he eventually shed his low image of himself, he never did speak of himself too proudly—even after he became a billionaire philanthropist. If you asked him what he did, he would tell you, “I cook chicken for a living.” Of course, we all know he is understating things. Chick-fil-A was worth $5.5 billion at the time of his death last September.  Cathy himself was worth $1.9 billion, a fact I’m sure was difficult for him to believe with his roots in the Great Depression.

That success is not an accident; it’s hard work born of a great work ethic.

“We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.”

Two other reasons I admire S. Truett Cathy are his loyalty and dedication to his family. He believed in priorities. Obviously, his faith is a huge priority for him, but equally important was his family. He was married for 65 years. From day one, he and his late wife Jeannette (who just passed away in July of this year) worked together as a team. A marriage is based on teamwork and they built their life and business on that core value.

We all know how difficult it can be when you reach a certain level in business to make your family a priority. The only way to make your family a priority is to insist on keeping it a priority—even when other things claim to be “more important.” It’s not easy to do, and I admire how in spite of his success his family remained a priority in his life.

“Nearly every moment of every day, we have the opportunity to give something to someone else – our time, our love, our resources.”

I have written before about the importance of giving back to others. I believe in volunteering and helping others, a value in my life since I was a teenager. The Cathy family saw the importance of giving back to the community. Cathy once said, “My wife and I were brought up to believe that the more you give, the more you have.” The Cathy family always encouraged their restaurant operators and team members to give back to their local communities. In addition, they developed the WinShape Foundation, a scholarship and youth support program, and the WinShape Homes in 1984, a long-term foster care program that has helped more than 500 foster children through 13 different homes. They also provided more than $23 million in scholarship assistance to more than 23,000 employees. Jeannette was often credited with the philanthropic efforts of the Chick-fil-A organization. Their dedication to helping others has inspired me to do what I can to help others as well.

To read more about this inspirational man, I would encourage you to read this article, “Service with a Smile.”

Who inspires you and why? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments?

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Cameron Shaw is the Energy/Utility Specialist for AP Recovery, the undisputed leader in off-site recovery audits and prevention technologies for disbursement management. Cameron knows the key to helping people is to add value. With over 20 years helping clients understand and optimize their energy and utility expenses, he knows how to help companies reduce their unnecessary costs.

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