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By Jason A. Smith
Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy said he wrote his newest book, "How Did You Do It, Truett?" as a way to address a question he gets asked all the time.
"People always ask me how I got started," said the 86-year-old businessman, who will sign copies of the book Saturday from 1-3 p.m., at the Barnes & Noble at 1939 Mount Zion Road in Morrow.
The book, he said, tells the story of how he first began developing a head for business when he was a young boy, buying, and then selling, soft drinks for a profit of five cents each.
"I always thought of myself as a good salesman," said Cathy, owner of the second-largest chicken restaurant chain in the country. "It had always been my desire to own a business."
The company's 1,350 stores in 37 states earned $2.2 billion in 2006.
Cathy said one of the main reasons for the success of Chick-fil-A is his adherence to the Golden Rule, and running his business in a way that doesn't conflict with his faith. Chick-fil-A celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year.
"We try to build our business on biblical principles," he said. "Biblical principles work."
In addition, he credited part of his success to the dedication of people who work for his company. His business has a turnover rate of just 3.5 percent.
Among the principles he counts as essential components of good business practices is a desire to "do the right thing all the time, not just some of the time," and to maintain a good reputation, both personally and professionally.
He said his inspiration for such an outlook is based on Proverbs 22:1, in the Bible, which says, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold."
Cathy has also devoted a great deal of time to teaching those principles to younger generations as an employer, as a Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, and as an author.
He said he views his business and his books as ministries that allow him the opportunity to train young people to develop good habits.
"We all want to grow up to be somebody," Cathy said. "A person can do anything they want to. It takes personal sacrifice. You can't have it all at one time."
Cathy has also worked to influence young people's lives in other ways. In 1984, he and his wife, Jeannette, established the WinShape Centre Foundation, which provides foster homes for about 100 children, a summer camp and college scholarships.
Chick-Fil-A operators also partner with local churches in the monthly All Pro Dads program, which gives fathers an opportunity to take their children to lunch.
Chick-Fil-A employees also can earn $1,000 for the school of their choice after averaging 20 hours of work per week for two years.
More than $22 million has been awarded to employees through the scholarship program.
Barbara Bird, community relations manager at Barnes & Noble, said she feels "very privileged" to host Cathy at Saturday's book signing.
"He's known, not just locally, but worldwide," she said. "His business focus is based on biblical teachings, and it's very successful."
She said 10 percent of all sales for the store on Saturday will go to the WinShape scholarship fund.
Cathy said he is grateful for his success and the opportunity to tell his story in the book, and that he wants to continue to follow the principles that brought him to this point in his life.
"I pray that we would be good stewards of what God has given us," he said.