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In some ways, the past twelve months was a year I could have never imagined. I still look at the cover of “It’s My Pleasure” and I am amazed to see my name on it and the opporutnity God blessed me with to write it. It was the dream of an 8-year-old girl to write a book and several decades later, a dream came true. A year ago today, “It’s My Pleasure” was released and I began a very personal development journey.

I thought I was writing something for myself to cathartically work through the grief of losing my Dad and the founder of Chick-fil-A, one of my greatest mentors, Truett Cathy. For our organization, I believed that I was providing a tool that would always remind us what Truett thought was most important in our business: “We are not in the restaurant business. We are in the people business. People decisions are the most important decisions we make.” It seemed important to me that we not forget those principles and that Operators and their team members and support center staff that followed him, but never knew him, would know that about Truett and our business.

What I found as the book was published and I began to share it, is that Chick-fil-A is truly beloved by many and our marketplace is hungry to hear about an organization that has remained true to its Purpose, Mission and Values for decades. Yes, others not familiar with Chick-fil-A were curious too, and I think those people liked what they learned.

For the most part, for the last year, I have been a storyteller, weaving together the heritage of Chick-fil-A with the principles that have aided our success and the stories that I either experienced or heard firsthand.

The message of “It’s My Pleasure” has been presented in eight countries and 23 states, of which I was personally involved. There may have been many others. Chick-fil-A partners, including The Coca Cola Company, Dr. Pepper Snapple and Cooper Wellness, all welcomed the message. Certainly, talking with Elizabeth Hasselbeck and Steve Doocy on FOX & Friends last December was a highlight. But just as exciting was visiting with hundreds of team members in Salt Lake City and the San Antonio Chick-fil-A Operator Team.

Nine universities hosted me last year, including the United States Air Force Academy’s Leadership Symposium. Students are energizing and they certainly convinced me that our future is in capable and committed hands.

If there was a theme to my year, it may have been collaboration. I saw this in action so many times. In Tampa, Florida, two women’s business mentoring groups join forces for one big event each year and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet these ladies and see how they collaborate and compliment one another. Samford University’s Brock School of Business hosts a monthly breakfast for Birmingham’s business leaders. I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of them, mostly due to the sterling reputation of the Chick-fil-A Operators in Birmingham. They have faithfully lived out the message of “It’s My Pleasure” in that city for decades.

It was such a humbling honor to be among those who serve our country and communities. In addition to the USAF Academy, a group of firefighters in Salt Lake city welcomed me. They are committed to improving the culture of their community. Healthcare was particularly interested in “It’s My Pleasure,” including First Care Clinics, Dayton Children’s Hospital and St. Mark’s Medical Center. All of these organizations want to create remarkable experiences for their patients.

All kinds of conferences, businesses and industries welcomed me from human resources professionals, to supply chain groups to The Association of Christian Retail. Of course, my favorite businesses to visit were Chick-fil-A Operators and their team members. They are the heart of “It’s My Pleasure” and I enjoyed the time I spent with them in Florida, Texas, Utah, and many places in between.

The podcast, television and radio interviews gave me the opportunity to develop and hone some very useful media training. Along the way, I met some really interesting people from whom I learned so much. It was so humbling that they would spend time with me and hear my story.

“It’s My Pleasure” launched on November 3 last year, but in the backdrop, I had begun a brand new role at Chick-fil-A leading a brand new function – Enterprise Social Responsibility. All work above for “It’s My Pleasure” was my ‘beyond the full-time job’ work. With this new role, I found myself in a very strange place to be after serving Chick-fil-A for three decades – I knew very little about the work I was leading and I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. Add to it that I was promoting a book, something else I had never done before, and that was a recipe for either a disaster or the greatest learning and development journey ever. The latter seems to have been the result.

With the help of a great team at Chick-fil-A, and the support of countless co-workers, our new team completed our goals and will internally launch a social responsibility platform in January. It was the hardest year of my career, but in the end, I find myself so grateful . . . yes, that I survived, but also for all that I learned and all that I became in the process.

Next week, I will conclude this year’s promotion of “It’s My Pleasure” with an event that I am very excited about in Indianapolis, America’s Best Hope, produced by Truth at Work. There will be thousands on site and thousands watching the simulcast across the nation, including my mother in Atlanta. Enduring Influence on the Leader’s Journey is my message and I will be sharing powerful stories from my Chick-fil-A experience.

2017 will bring more opportunities to share the “It’s My Pleasure” message but I look forward to doing so at a slightly slower pace, hoping to soak in some other big events in my life. In addition to the launch of the new Social Responsibility @ Chick-fil-A platform, I will focus on helping the love of my life recover from back surgery, assisting my son and daughter-in-love move into their new home, celebrate my mother’s milestone birthday, watch my middle son launch his career and experience my youngest son’s senior year of high school and all the important decisions he will make about his future. Reconnecting with friends that I have dearly missed will be another high priority for me.

Thank you all for this amazing first year and walking the learning journey with me. Your endless encouragement helped me stay the course even when it was hard and you made the big moments that much more special. The message of “It’s My Pleasure” is a gift to be stewarded as the content has been lived by millions of Chick-fil-A fans, Operators, team members and staff members. It’s not just my story; it belongs to all of us.

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