Biographies / Truett Cathy

Truett Cathy

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Autor:  anton  03 September 2010
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Samuel Truett Cathy

Executive Summary

As we enter the 21st century, the world is full of opportunities for entrepreneurs. The opportunity is what many entrepreneurs chase after. Just the idea of starting a business excited them. Entrepreneurs are people who have characteristics of a high need for achievement, a willingness to take moderate risk, strong self-confidence, and a passion for the business. We all question what is the best age for getting started. There is really no simple answer to that question. Most businesses require some background knowledge. A certain amount of time is usually required to gain the education, experience, and financial resources of starting a business. According to the textbook “Small Business Management” by Longenecker, Moore, and Petty, research conducted by Paul Reynolds reveals that the highest percentage of startups is in age group of 25 to 35 years old; Truett Cathy was a natural entrepreneur at the age of 8.

In this context is a quick overview of Samuel Truett Cathy’s life as a child, experiences as an adult, education and training, personality characteristics, and entrepreneurial activities.


Have you ever wondered what it takes to be successful? Some people are not born into success or wealth. Many successful entrepreneurs had a vision they turned into reality. Samuel Truett Cathy is one prime example of a man who lived out his convictions. An inventor of the beast-of-chicken sandwich, mall counter service in the days before food courts and Sunday closing as a policy, Truett Cathy celebrated his 80th birthday in 2001. Many might think of him as a true modern-day role model and hero. Some sees him as the Chick-fil-a man. From his book “It’s Easier to Succeed than to Fail”, Cathy represented a real-life case history showing that a determined and energetic entrepreneur can overcome anything. Cathy stated, “ The secret to success is not secret at all. It is very obvious, but we are too often blinded to the truth.” (Cathy, p. 191)


Samuel Truett Cathy, born in 1921, is founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A, Inc. Cathy started the business in 1946 when he and his brother, Ben, opened an Atlanta diner known as the Dwarf Grill (later named Dwarf House). Today, Chick-fil-A is the third-largest quick-service chicken restaurant company in the United States. There are more than 950 locations in 35 states and South Africa.

Family Relationships

S. Truett Cathy came from a big family. He was named Samuel after a friend of his parents, and also named Truett after, George W. Truett, a pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. His father, Joseph Benjamin, was an insurance salesman for Life and Casualty Company. Joseph collected on life and accidental death policies that yielded sometimes only nickels and dimes. Even though Cathy’s father was a hard worker, he could not make an adequate living for his large family. Often, he would bring home chicken, hams, and other goods from policyholders who were too poor to pay their premiums in cash. Joseph verbally abused his wife. He relied heavily on the older children to take care of him. Truett’s mother, Lilla Kimbell Cathy, ran a boarding house to help support the family. She worked like a slave, keeping house and cooking for her seven children and a houseful of boarders (Cathy, p.36-37).

Truett Cathy had four sisters and two brothers named Esther, Agnes, Myrtle, Horace, Glayds, and Ben. He was the sixth child in the family.

Selling Coke as a Child

Cathy developed his flair for business early in life. As a boy he exhibited no unusual talents except a sharp business sense. Growing up in a boarding house introduced Truett Cathy to hard work and taught him the value of diligent labor. He learned to shuck corns, shell peas, wash dirty dishes, set the tables, shop for his mother at the grocery store, and flip eggs and pancakes on the grill. By the time Cathy was eight years old he had figured out how he could make money. When he was in the second grade he realized that he could buy Cola-Cola in bottles of six for a quarter. He peddled the coke to his neighbors and sold them for five cents each and made a nickel profit. Cathy learned the key to his success selling coke from his neighbor. His neighbor told him, “If you’d ice these Cokes down, we’d buy more” (Cathy, p.37). Truett Cathy took the advice and met the demands of his customers. He later set a refreshment stand in his front yard and sold other soft drinks such as Orange Crush, Nu Grape, and lemonade.

Selling Magazines and Newspapers

Adding to his boyhood years as a beverage-stand proprietor, Cathy bought a $4 bicycle and developed a prosperous newspaper and magazine route. When the weather turned cold, he peddled magazine from door to door. He sold “The Ladies’ Home Journal” for ten cents, which he profited four cents. For the “The Saturday Evening Post,” he charged five cents and made a profit of a penny and a half. Cathy believed that a cent and a half was better than nothing. He thought that the rich people bought the ten-cent magazine and the poor bought the five cents magazine. Cathy stated, “I learned dependability and consistency, and the art of catering to the customer. I also learned to be a good steward over my money” ( When he was eleven years old, Cathy helped a newspaper boy distribute his papers in the early dawn. At the age of twelve, Truett Cathy got his own route for the Atlanta Journal. That was his daily job during his boyhood life. In addition, when he was twelve, Cathy received Christ as his personal Savior and decided whom his Master would be from that day on (Cathy, p.38).

Education and training

Truett Cathy attended Joe Brown Junior High School with his neighbor, Jeannette McNeil, who later became his wife. Also, they both attended West End Baptist Church. Cathy met Jeannette at the age of eight and secretly admired her very much. He lost track of Jeannette because she moved away. After Cathy graduated from high school, he and his brother, Ben, was drafted into the U.S. Army. Cathy stated, “God makes us into the persons He intends as we become obedient in the small details of life. I was ready to lay aside my own youthful endeavors and have my faith tested in the world of military service” (Cathy, p.39). Truett Cathy at age twenty-three and his brother at age twenty-one were discharged in 1945.

Sources of Ideas for Business

Truett Cathy and Ben often spoke vaguely about going into business together but did not know what type. Working at a restaurant called Dutch Kitchen Restaurant with Price Morton, a friend of Gladys (Truett’s sister), gave Cathy and Ben the ideas to open their own restaurant. While working at Dutch Kitchen Restaurant, the owner promised to let Truett and Ben each manages a restaurant of their own after their training; but the owner did not live up to the agreement. So, Truett and Ben quit and made plan for their own business.

Building the Business

It all started in 1946, the year after the end of World War II. Truett Cathy open a tiny, 24-hour restaurant called the Dwarf Grill (later renamed the Dwarf House) in Hapeville, Georgia from the money he got from selling his car, combined savings with his younger brother, Ben, and the $10,600 he borrowed from the bank. He sold hamburgers for fifteen cents and coke served from the bottle with a glass of ice were a nickel (

In 1967, Cathy pioneered the in-mall fast-food quick-service restaurant concept by opening the first Chick-fil-A shopping center restaurant in Greenbriar Mall located in Atlanta, Georgia. Locating restaurant in malls gave Cathy a niche that other quick-service restaurants did not have.

Experiences as Adult

In 1948, Truett Cathy married Jeannette McNeil, a 26 years old girl whom he met at the age of 8. They later had three children. Their oldest son, Dan Truett Cathy was born in 1953, Donald Martin Cathy was born 1954, and Trudy Ann Cathy was born 1954 (Cathy, p. 95-96). His two sons, Dan, 48, and Don, 47, have both followed their father, learning the business from the ground up. Dan is the executive vice president of Chick-fil-A, Inc., and president of Chick-fil-A International, and Don is the senior vice president and president of Chick-fil-A Dwarf House. His daughter, Trudy, is a missionary with her family in Brazil. Cathy and his wife, Jeannette, have 12 grandchildren (

Personality Characteristics

Understanding people’s personalities is important because personality affects behavior, as well was perceptions and attitudes. Personality is developed based on genetics and environmental factors. The genes we received before we were born influence our personality traits (Lussier/Achua, p. 35). Truett Cathy possessed all the characteristics of an entrepreneur defined in the “Small Business Management” textbook, and more. The Big Five Model of Personality listed in “Leadership” by Lussier and Achua revealed Cathy has high traits of surgency, agreeableness, adjustment, conscientiousness and openness to experience. The sign of high surgency trait showed Cathy’s personality as a person who wanted to be in charge and wanted to compete or influence. This trait indicated he is outgoing and likes to meet new people. Cathy’s strong agreeableness trait means he is warm, easygoing, compassionate, friendly, and sociable. The high adjustment trait that Cathy possessed showed he is emotionally stabled, relaxed, secure, and positive. These traits are developed through his religious beliefs. Cathy’s conscientiousness trait is definitely high. He is willing to work hard and put in extra time and effort to accomplish goals to achieve success. His openness to experience trait is high because Cathy has a strong desire to seek change and try new things to succeed (Lussier/Achua, p. 35). Cathy is a “Theory Y” person.

In addition, Cathy is a devoted religious man who built his life and business based on hard work, humanity and biblical principles. Based on these principles, all of Chick-fil-A’s restaurants, both domestic and internationally, operate with a “closed on Sundays” policy without exception. When not managing his company, Cathy performs community service and teaches a Sunday school class to thirteen years old boys, as he has done for more than 40 years.

Cathy is a true modern-day role model and hero to the community and many young people. Cathy’s approach is driven by personal satisfaction and a sense of obligation to the community and its young people. Cathy stated, “We try to feel a responsibility to young people as a work force that they should feel responsibility to the one that is employing them. We also have a responsibility to them to see to it that they perform at their very best. We tell them that even though this is a part time, temporary job, you are establishing some work habits and attitudes that will stay with you the rest of your life. For that reason, we feel obligated to these young people, to see to it that they perform at their very best” (

Chick-fil-A has awarded more then five thousand fellowships to young people. They give young people a thousand dollar scholarship to the school of their choice if they work for Chick-fil-A for two years and average working twenty hours a week.

Cathy valued the people that worked for him. He believed the principle for business success and failure is not because of the business itself, it is the people. He stated that people are what cause things to happen.

In 1984, Truett Cathy entered into partnership with Berry College in Rome, Georgia to sponsored WinShape Centre Foundation to help young people succeed in life through scholarships and other youth-support programs. The foundation annually awards 20 to 30 students wishing to attend Berry College (

In addition, Cathy and the WinShape Centre Foundation operated WinShape Homes. WinShape Homes is a long-term care program for foster children. Ten foster care homes have been started in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Brazil. These homes accommodated up to 12 children with two full-time foster parents with a positive family environment.

Along with WinShape Homes, Cathy started the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship sport sponsorship. In 1995, The LPGA tournament at Eagle’s Landing Country Club in Stockbridge, Georgia, raised $170,000 for WinShape Homes. Today, Chick-fil-A Charity Championship has contributed more than $1.5 million to WinShape Homes (

In 1985, Cathy started Camp WhinShape. The program is a two-week summer camps at Berry College to help boys and girls build self-esteem through physical and spiritual activities (

Truett Cathy has received awards and recognitions for many of his achievement. In 1991, the Shining Light Award was given to Cathy by the Atlanta Gas Light Company in recognition of his youth-oriented programs. In addition, he received the Pioneer of the Year Award for his professional dedication and contributions to the foodservice industry. He received the National Caring Award given to the “10 Most Caring People in the Nation” in 1992. In the same year, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Caring Americans. He was awarded the National Business Commitment to Foster Care Award in 1994. In addition, Cathy received the Newcomen Society Award for his recognition as an exceptional contributor to the American free enterprises system and the preservation of business history (

What Attributes to his Success

Cathy’s business success is a reflection of his success at life. According to Cathy, he learned through forty years of business experiences that there are three keys to success that work for all people under every circumstance:

· You have to want to succeed. You have to be willing to make a generous commitment of time and energy.

· You have to developed know-how. Merely putting time and energy into a project isn’t enough. You have to study your projected market. You have to develop skills. Prepare yourself physically, mentally, and intellectually through formal education.

· Finally, you have to do it. Some people prepare themselves by getting a fine education; they come from a good home; they have the right opportunities, but they blow them because they don’t put into action what they have learned (Cathy, p.15).

Truett Cathy business success is based on a winning formula of solid Christian principles and values. Cathy stated, “Everyone has a built-in success formula. God wants you to succeed, but let the obstacles come from Him, not from you. Don’t disobey His laws and put obstacles in His way” (Cathy, p.15).

Cathy had two corporate purposes. The first was “to glorify God for being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.” The second purpose was, “to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A” (Cathy, p. 157).

Truett Cathy promoted his products by giving free samples of his chicken products to people that pass by at the various store in the shopping malls throughout the country. This was the number one marketing technique for Chick-Fil-A. Cathy would make it a habit to be present at the opening dedication ceremony for each new store that open up. He would also help out as a regular employee as well. Some advices that Cathy gives to people that want to succeed are:

· Save 10 percent of what you make, give 10 percent of what you make, work 10 percent harder.

· Associate yourselves only with those people you can be proud of whether they work for you or you work for them.

· A good attitude is one of the best guarantees of success.

· You can’t succeed if you don’t start.

· Winners concentrate on winning. Losers concentrate on getting by.

· We make a living by what we get…But we make a life by what we give.

· If you plant for days-plant flowers. If you plant for years-plant trees. If you plant for eternity-plant ideas and ideals into the lives of others (Cathy, p. 24-146).

One principle that Cathy learned to believe in and it came in handy in the early days was that “every problem has a solution” (Cathy, p.49). He thought it was pretty strong. Cathy stated, “If we stay at a problem, keep thinking, and don’t quit, one day we will find the answer. That’s how it worked with the foodstuffs (Cathy, p. 49).

After perfecting and testing the sandwich creation for four years, Cathy established four tenets by which his company would be run. These are the four tenets:

· The company would not sell franchises but would form joint ventures with independent Operators.

· Chick-fil-A would build in only major shopping malls.

· Future growth would be financed mainly from within.

· The chief emphasis would be on people (Cathy, p. 125).

Failures from the Business

With any success in life, there is always a failure. Failure is what we are able to learn from, and through our experience we are, then, able to better ourselves to succeed.

Truett Cathy had witnessed his failure himself. On February 24, 1960, one of his Dwarf House’s in Forest Park, GA, caught on fire. The fire left Cathy devastated. Cathy stated, “I began to question why God had let this happen. Everything had fallen into place up until this time. I didn’t know where to start to put things right” (Cathy, p.61).

In addition to the fire, Cathy found that he had to be hospitalized for surgery to remove polyps in his colon. Even though Cathy was made several financial offers for his company, he turned down the offer. He refused others because he wanted to keep his company private in order to be able to run it on his terms. Cathy had been offered to partnership with Ted Davis, his friend, to open Kentucky Fried Chicken in Atlanta. Although the idea sounds temping to Cathy, he refused the offer because he did not want to stay open on Sunday. Through the early years the company has struggled financial difficulty.

My final thought of Truett Cathy

Truett Cathy’s life has been an inspiration to me. Cathy’s story served as a reminder to all of us that initiative, vision, and dedication are the essential ingredients to a fruitful life. Reading the book, “It’s Easier to Succeed than to Fail,” touched my heart. The book was written very simple and from the heart. It contained valuable lessons and inspirational challenges that will inspire young and old people to strive for the very best. I love the book. It is truly a must read book. I highly recommend the book. It will make you glad to be in a world with people like Truett Cathy.


Truett Cathy not only presides over one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains known as Chick-fil-A in America, but he’s also a dedicated husband, father, and grandfather. It is evident that through WinShape Centre Foundation, WinShape Homes, and Camp WinShape he has always had a special place in his heart for young people. He has been a role model to many thirteen-year olds boys he has taught in Sunday school. Through the years Truett and his wife Jeannette have been surrogate parents and big brother and sister to many. He has helped many young people to prepare themselves for leadership in the world. Truett Cathy has been an inspiration to many people he has touched.

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