How Did You Do It, Truett?: a book on business ethics

I. Truett’s Story:

My favorite among Truett’s stories is the one about opening new stores and franchising his company. He would only allow 1 operator per Chick-Fil-A branch to make sure they were available to manage the business 24/7. He also required someone who was integrated with the community. The reason I liked this story so much is because I think it is very relevant to today’s business environment. Given the current financial crisis, multitasking as a means of cost cutting has become the trend. Consequently, managers end up spreading themselves too thin, sometimes at the expense of business operations. I also liked the fact that Truett recognized the need for integration into a community. With regard to being responsible for a new franchise, it’s difficult to tailor a store to fit a new place without knowing anything about the place. Every store has to fit in with the people it will be catering to, otherwise it’s not going to have too many customers.

This story contributed to his success as a CEO in the sense that he did not try to do too many things at the same time. Every aspect of his job always got his undivided attention at a particular time. I think this value of integration into a community is manifested in his attitude of listening to people and giving them what they want, which was reflected in the earlier part of the book.

Of all the advice Truett gives, I don’t think there is any better advice than the Golden Rule itself. This really hit home with the fact that Chikc-Fil-A is closed on Sundays and the employees are not required to work. Many companies today close on a Sunday for religious reasons but require their employees to report for that day. I think this advice will always be applicable to remind me to be considerate of other people and to respect them as I would respect myself. If there is some dirty job I want done but don’t want to do, most likely neither will anyone I pass it on to. This advice is definitely applicable when we are tempted to blame other people for whatever goes wrong be it at work, school or home without considering what we did wrong. This advice is about empathizing with our fellowmen and trying to understand how we would feel if we were put in a situation we don’t want to be in.

II. Chick-Fil-A’s Success Story:

Chick-Fil-A has a policy of offering free meals which goes a long way. Again, I cannot help but point out the financial crisis and how this kind of value added service can help customers and clients. This definitely makes Chick-Fil-A stand out amidst the other restaurants which are either downsizing their people or their servings. I see no reason why Chick-Fil-A customers and clients would opt to go anywhere else when they see how well they are treated by this 1 company.

This company is successful mainly because of the personal relationship that Truett managed to build with his operators. He respects opinions, he engages in dialogues to arrive at the right decision for the whole company. This attitude of making his leaders feel involved and important is what keeps them around in the long term.

Truett also believed in luck but was not sidetracked into believing that this was going to be the be all and end all of his success. In other words, he believes in luck. And he found that the harder he works, the luckier he gets. Hard work matters and this was evident from the way Chick-Fil-A upholds quality and cleanliness in their products. Last but not the least, Truett trusted in a higher power to show him the way. He was not arrogant enough to believe that he alone was the reason for his success. He kept Chick-Fil-A closed on Sundays to make sure everyone acknowledged the presence of God.

Chick-Fil-A is definitely an ethical company. I will never forget these lines: there is no such thing as business ethics, there is just personal ethics. Business ethics are just a reflection of your personal ethics. I think what makes Chick-Fil-A an ethical company is the very strict selection when it comes to managers and employees. People are hired based on their ‘servant leadership’ and willingness to treat others with the highest respect possible. Cathy emphasized the value of going the second mile, going above and beyond expectations, and serving from the heart. Ethics start from the top and it starts from the people who have it. A company cannot expect it’s people to behave ethically if they don’t have a good example to look up to.

Chick-Fil-A established relationships with customers and clients by finding out what they like. There was a portion of the book which explains how nuggets came to be a part of the menu and not just part of the party platter – because Truett talked to customers and found out that this is what they wanted. Conducting informal interviews and surveys is a way of researching to gather data. At the same time, letting a customer know that a company is interested in learning about their demands so these demands can be satisfied creates the long term connection that relationship marketing aims for.

III. Conclusion:

It was a beautiful book. I would recommend it to any entrepreneur who believes that he can claim to be an ethical person while pulling all sorts of stunts to evade liability to employees, customers and even the law. This book is a reminder that a business is a juridical person composed of real persons.

A juridical person has no soul but the real persons composing it have. What makes this book so appealing is it’s far reaching implications. While it was intended to be for business people, it has stories which apply to ordinary people as well. It teaches ordinary people the value of hard work, faith, and believing in what other people have to offer. If there is any criticism I can offer for this book, it is the lack of depth on public relations and management tactics. Again, it is intended for business people, and I think it would have helped them more if Cathy gave specific tactics on how to lead people within the world of restaurants and headquarters.

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