Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy built a $1.5 billion empire by remaining steadfast to biblical principles

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Truett Cathy had just finished visiting with a kindergarten class and promised to send the students one of his books, signed, of course, by the author — with his trademark addition of a biblical proverb.
“‘I’m not going to tell you what it is,'” he told the children. “‘You’ve got to look it up in the Bible.’ The teacher said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you we’re not permitted to have a Bible in our schools’
“That’s hard for me to understand.”
And for Cathy, founder and CEO of fast food icon Chick-fil-A, it was harder to accept. The 83-year-old Georgia native had recently returned from the National Prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C., an event attended by President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, their wives and a religious figures representing various denominations. And while the separation of church and state prevents public schools from promoting any religion and forbids school from using public money to acquire religious materials, that wasn’t going to stop Cathy.
He purchased a Bible for every public school in Georgia.
“We got the support of the governor as well as the school superintendent to notify that these bibles were not bought by state funds but by Chick-fil-A, which is permissible,” Cathy says. “It’s one of the significant things I’m very proud of.”
Cathy’s belief is strong — he became a Christian at age 12 – and he reflects on his faith when making business decisions.
“I see no conflict whatsoever in biblical principles and good business practice, whether you’re Christian or not,” Cathy says. “Biblical principles do work. So, I do try to base my business decisions, as well as my relationship to our people and to the public, on biblical principles, because it very well states, treat a person like you’d like to be treated. That’s a message we try to get over to our young people as well as the adults.”
In a business with many young and part-time employees notorious for their short tenure, Cathy makes sure his employees are treated well. Those who work 20 hours per week for two years are offered a $1,000 scholarship to the school of their choice. To date, the company has provided nearly $20 million in scholarships.
Operators who meet certain year-over-year revenue increases are awarded the use of a new Ford vehicle for a year. Following one particularly successful year, Chick-fil-A awarded 46 Lincolns. The company only had 250 units at the time, and the expense nearly bankrupted the business, Cathy recalls, with a small laugh.
It’s hard to argue with Cathy’s results. There are 1,125 Chick-fil-A restaurants in 37 states and Washington, D.C. The company posted revenue exceeding $1.5 billion last year. And from Day One, Cathy has refused to open his restaurants on Sundays.
“We’re noted as the place that always closes on Sunday,” Cathy says. “We’ve been doing that for 57 years, so we dare not vary from it. We find that people can spend all the money they’ve got in six days; it really doesn’t take seven.
“It helps us attract a caliber of people that appreciate having Sunday off. Whether they go to church or not, it’s the most desirable day to be off.”