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Lessons from the Top

By Kathy Henderson, Director of Carbon County Economic Development

Kathy Henderson, Director of Economic Development, CCEDC
Kathy Henderson

I don’t always eat fast food, but when I do, one of my favorites is Chick-fil-A.  It’s too bad I have to travel so far to get it.  

Why do we love Chick-fil-A so much?  Their food is a little more expensive than the other fast food places plus they are closed on a Sunday.  So how did they get to be so successful?

Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A perfected his fast food model over 70 years ago. Through the years, they have grown into one of the most profitable family-owned businesses in the country, and here are a few of the reasons why.  

1)Start small, seek feedback and perfect your craft.  Given the fact that most new businesses fail within the first three years, the best advice is usually to start small. 

Mr. Cathy started with a small restaurant in Georgia and worked hard to get his recipes right. He understood the importance of perfecting his business model by listening carefully to what his customers wanted then built on those requests.   

2) If you find a way to build a better mouse trap, don’t be afraid to try it. Innovation is one of the keys to being successful.  Don’t be afraid to be innovative and seize an opportunity.  

3) Whether you have a candy store or an HVAC business, your customers want to have as great an experience as possible.  If they need a new furnace or if they are in desperate need of a chocolate fix, you and your employees must provide them with outstanding customer service.  Being kind and gracious to your customers costs very little but creates goodwill and customer loyalty.

4) It is imperative to the success of your company and the loyalty of your employees to empower and encourage them to make decisions and try new ideas. Invest in your employees by providing quality training programs.  That investment will return to you many times over and will create a culture within your organization that will make your employees feel respected and valued.

5) Create a culture that engages your customers.  Chick-fil-A has the “Cell Phone Coop” challenge.  Families or groups, who place their cell phones in a small box on each table and leave them there for the meal receive free ice cream cones. The goal is to get people to spend the meal actually talking to each other. 

A remarkable company culture can’t be replicated with an app or a fancy ad campaign. It has to be created from within so that it radiates out.

6) Focus on people and community building. Many small businesses are sometimes overwhelmed with requests from community organizations to help support their events and feel pressured to help when their budget is very tight.  However, there is always some way that you can help even if it’s just a point of offering time or other talents to those organizations in need.  

Remember, the success of your business depends not only on your hard work, but also on the way you treat your employees and customers.