I miss my Dad and I always miss him more at Father’s Day than any other time. One of the things I loved most about my Dad was that he was a fan. He was a fan of me. Sometimes, I did not know it. But now, as a parent myself, I look back on the decisions he made and the advice he gave me and I understand that he was just trying to do what was best for me. Sometimes he was right and sometimes he was wrong, which is pretty much my own batting average with my kids.
Dad was my greatest business mentor. I could always talk to him about what was happening at work and he gave me wise counsel. One time in particular, he gave me business advice that changed my whole life. I am thankful that I listened to him at that time. About 8 years into my Chick-fil-A career, another company pursued me and made me a very attractive offer. The company was similar in size at the time to Chick-fil-A and they were doing very well. They were privately owned and the culture was similar to that of Chick-fil-A. It was a huge promotion, a doubling of my income and the company benefits were as good or better as the ones I had at Chick-fil-A. The work matched my calling and the team with which I would have worked seemed like the perfect fit.
Even though my Dad advised against it, I resigned my job at Chick-fil-A and accepted the other offer. That day, my stomach was in knots and I knew I had made the wrong decision. In his wisdom and experience, my Dad could see a future for me that I had not yet grasped. He believed that Chick-fil-A would become extraordinarily successful and that I would benefit from it over the years. I was looking at the opportunity in the short-term. And if I am totally honest, I was looking for validation for my talent. The other company was willing to give it to me.
After a day of questioning what I had done, I asked Dad what to do. He said, “Be humble and ask if you can stay.” I went to see the President of Chick-fil-A. I explained that I believed I had made a mistake and I asked if I could stay. It was pivotal moment in my career. Everything would have been so much different had he not said, “yes.” I was shown tremendous grace and the impetuousness of my youth was forgiven. A year later, the other company was sold in a merger and I would have been out of a job. Instead, I had the opportunity to spend 25 more years at Chick-fil-A pursuing my calling, helping strengthen the culture and form life-long relationships.
A few years later, when I was named an officer at Chick-fil-A, Mom and Dad took me out to dinner to celebrate. My Dad reminded of something he had told me several times, including the day he dropped me off at college: “Live as though you are going to die tomorrow, but learn as though you are going to live forever.” (Gandhi) His message to me was that even though I had achieved success and even validation, there was so much more to do and learn. He encouraged that even though I had not envisioned such an opportunity for myself, to not be complacent in it.
Dad was a hard worker. When he was five, he accompanied his father on his horse drawn bread cart routes delivering bread to residents of Atlanta. Later, he worked for the City of Atlanta by day and went to law school at night. I rarely, if ever, remember Dad missing a day of work because he was sick. Everything he did, he did with excellence, whether he was closing a multi-million dollar commercial real estate deal or cutting his own grass every Saturday. He set a great example of work ethic that I have tried to model for my own children.
In his last days before he died, I was having some very challenging days at work. We were re-organizing and I was moving to a new leadership role. As I sat at his bedside, my phone rang constantly with requests to give input to the changes. Dad could barely speak, but he listened as I poured my heart out to him. Our “conversations” in the last few days would be the motivation for me to write my first book. Dad never knew about that or the amazing things that would follow – a second book, my own business, speaking and consulting around the world and living out my calling. He would have relished watching his three grandsons pursue and live out their own callings, too.
I am thankful for all the things Dad taught me over the years that help me even today as I lead in a totally different capacity than how he knew me. Somehow, I believe, he is still a fan.