This week’s blog talks about individuals around us who could serve as mentors or models of excellence. Do you ever make the effort to seek out these persons and examine their lives? What is it about these persons that makes them successful? There has to be something about these persons that sets them apart from others? What is it?
Most persons we would consider successful and persons of excellence make an intentional effort to watch persons who are successful. Even the best sports teams make an effort to research and study other teams and find out what it is that makes them successful. So, it seems to be a key characteristic of “persons of excellence” to seek out successful people and find out what sets them apart.
I recently read an article by Dave Ramsey who makes no secret about how he studies successful people and does all he can to imitate what makes them great. As Dave is known to say, “You become an eagle by flying with eagles.” Dave’s friends say that he is always ready to meet – yellow notepad in hand- with individuals who have won in business and in life. Many of these individuals have become personal mentors for Dave.
One mentor who had a huge impact on Dave’s life over the years is Chick-fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 93. In honor of Mr. Cathy’s life, Dave recently shared the following seven principles that are applicable to all of us in making a living and in building a successful life:
- Define your values and stick to them. Cathy believed that one of the keys to success was to focus on what never changes. A well-known example of this is the Chick-fil-A corporate policy that their restaurants are closed on Sundays. This policy is rooted in Cathy’s commitment to honor Sunday as the Lord’s Day. It was a part of who Cathy was, and he never compromised on it.
- A little customer service goes a long way. Chick–fil-A is known for its commitment to customer service excellence that creates that an incredibly loyal customer base. When a customer says “thanks” for service received, the usual routine at a Chick-fil-A restaurant is for the employee to say “It’s my pleasure.” What kind of “service” we provide not only at work, but for others whose paths we cross each day should be a major priority for us. Wouldn’t you agree that it certainly is for “persons of excellence?”
- Make family a priority. Chick-fil-A is known for going beyond being a family-owned business and works hard at being family friendly. In addition, special family nights and related emphasis affects not only the culture of the workplace, but also have a powerful impact on the culture of the communities it serves.
- Know why you exist. To take this to a more personal level that we can relate to, we should all have a purpose in life to strive for. Business expert, Jim Collins, says that successful companies understand what they do best and then focus on doing it. This policy is certainly personally applicable to each of us as well.
- Plan ahead. One of the most significant things that Dave learned from Mr. Cathy and his family is how to prepare for the future. Taking steps to plan ahead financially is one of the principle concepts that is taught by Dave Ramsey. You’ll see this core concept in Dave’s emphasis on regular financial budgeting. Dave also learned the importance of planning ahead for corporate growth and inevitable changes that will occur, both professionally and personally, over time.
- Invest in others. Cathy liked to say that he wasn’t really in the “chicken business” at all. He was in the “people business.” “Persons of Excellence” are always in the “people business” whether at work or out and about with their daily tasks. What are some ways that we can invest in others either professionally or personally?
- Don’t be afraid to start small. At the time of Mr. Cathy’s death, Chick-fil-A had more than 1,800 restaurants in 40 states plus the District of Columbia. What a tremendous success story considering that Cathy and his brother were the only staff manning the Dwarf Grill – later known as the Dwarf House which was the predecessor to the Chick-fil-A brand we know today. It took more than 20 years for the first Chick-fil-A restaurant to open in an Atlanta mall in 1967. What a tremendous legacy of progressing from humble roots to making entrepreneurial history. Most importantly is the difference which Truett Cathy and his family made in the world as well.
What is the lesson to be learned from Dave Ramsey’s example of seeking out and learning from those who are successful? A take away for me is that most of us will likely never have a chance to meet or be mentored by “giants of commerce” such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Truett Cathey, or even Dave Ramsey. However, there are always those “persons of excellence” in our communities who are more than willing to give of themselves as a mentor or simply to share ideas. Is there someone in your community who could serve as a role model for you? Be sure to take time to look. Very likely, there is someone ready to listen and provide valuable advice. You simply have to seek them out!
Whom do you watch?
“Invest 1/3 of your life in serving, 1/3 in earning and 1/3 in learning.”
Dr. Nido R. Qubein