Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy spoke at the Pavillion on Friday about the history of Chick-fil-A and provided his insight on leadership and success as part of the Leadership Luncheon series that takes place on campus each spring.
This year’s event was sponsored by Ole Miss Athletics, Ole Miss Business, the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management and hottytoddy.com.
Cathy said having a forward-thinking mindset and holding onto the “heritage of the brand” is one of the things that’s led to the success of the business.
“For me, it’s staying ahead of the curve on trends, understanding what the trends are and keeping a 72-year-old family business relevant,” Cathy said. “We’re doing a lot with technology. We’ve done a lot of terrific app development.
Cathy said he always likes to point out that his mission is to glorify God with his business and how he treats people.
“We are here to glorify God by being a faithful steward and have a positive influence on all of mankind,” Cathy said.
Cathy said his plans for success are to think differently, think forward, think cool and share ownership of the company’s successes and failures.
“Our business system processes have to be constantly changing,” Cathy said. “We have to change before we’re forced to change. We want to be aligned with trusted brands that are leaning forward for us that are going to take us and help us do the things that we don’t even know we’re going to need to do.”
Cathy also said “the most important decisions in life start with the letter ‘M,’” meaning the three important decisions someone has to make are who your master in life is, who your mate in life is and what your mission in life is. This was the advice his father, the creator of Chick-fil-A, told him and others for how to become a good leader for anything in life.
“Don’t settle for a job,” Cathy said. “Life is not about a job. Life is about having a life of purpose, meaning and significance. You are a special person with incredible talents and abilities. Find a purpose that moves you.
Integrated marketing communications graduate student Hannah Fields said she enjoyed the event and gained a lot of information from Cathy’s speech.
“It’s always so cool that Ole Miss brings out really cool people like the CEO of Chick-fil-A,” Fields said. “His point about knowing your master and your mission was really helpful. I liked that he gave us not just business and career advice but life advice as well.”
A group of students protested Cathy’s speech outside of the Pavillion. One of the protest’s organizers was junior general studies major Jaz Brisack, who was recently named the university’s 15th Harry S. Truman Scholar.
Brisack made a Facebook post that cites the CEO’s support of “anti-gay and anti-woman hate groups” as the reason for organizing the protest. The protesters held up signs and handed out flyers to people attending the event.