By Joel Hall
Cindy Cathy, and her husband, Don "Bubba" Cathy, senior vice president of Chick-fil-A, have made millions from the successful restaurant chain. They've also fixed hundreds of marriages through WinShape Marriage, a Christian outreach program which conducts scenic marriage retreats.
Surprisingly, with the Cathy family's tremendous wealth, the family has not owned a television in 28 years. Cathy shared this and other nuggets of information, wisdom, and encouragement with women on Tuesday during this month's meeting of the Clayton State University Women's Forum.
"The busier you are, the more intentional you have to be about the time you use," said Cathy, explaining the importance of separating work from family time.
Having recently returned from a vacation with her daughter to St. Thomas, and sporting a head full of braids, Cathy told the audience at Clayton State that learning to focus, stepping outside one's comfort zone, and utilizing local resources are keys to operating a successful business.
"You've got to be ready for unexpected opportunities when they arise," she said.
"Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can."
Cathy, a member of the Clayton County school board in the early 1990s, also spoke about the importance of having a good name, and of conducting business ethically. She said she was often "the swing vote" on the board and that she had to make many ethical decisions that were sometimes unpopular.
Situations, such as the Clayton County schools' current accreditation issue, which could result in the school system losing its accreditation, "would not happen if we chose to do the right thing every time," said Cathy. "There are some people on the board, who are not doing the right things, so it makes the whole board look bad.
"You don't want your children to be a political football," she continued. "You want to make the best decision for them."
Benita Moore, former president of the Women's Forum and associate dean of the College of Professional Studies at Clayton State, has known Cathy since they both attended Jonesboro High School. She said Cathy's message is simple, but powerful.
"What's on the surface isn't always reality," said Moore. "You have to keep digging and make the right decisions, and sometimes they aren't popular decisions."
Reda Rowell, director of development for Clayton State, said Cathy's speech demonstrates the need to be able to "see the big picture," but "not willing to compromise the small things.
"Everything she said about starting where you are and using what you have is applicable to any situation," said Rowell.