How One Working Mother Became Chick-Fil-A's First Female Officer
We recently got to know Dee Ann, one of our 2018 Conference speakers and Chick-Fil-A Vice President of Enterprise & Social Responsibility a little bit better. Read on for a little Q&A with her about starting out at the young company, transitioning from HR to officer, and her advice for working mothers. You can read more about Dee Ann here and be sure to check out her book!
First of all, I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t LOVE chick-fil-A. You’ve been with the company since 1985. Can you tell us what it was like to start there in your role at HR?
Yes, I hope everyone loves Chick-fil-A! When I started at Chick-fil-A, there were only about 150 restaurants and the company sales revenues were about $175 Million. Now, we are 2200 restaurants strong and nearly $8 Billion in sales revenues. I had a terrific opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. With a marketing background, I never intended to make HR my career, but God obviously had a different plan. It took me a few years, but I finally realized that my calling is to help others find their calling. The most exciting part about Chick-fil-A in 1985 is that we were still a relatively small company and it was easy to take on new responsibility because there was always something that needed to be done. I learned and grew a lot because I was able to take advantage of that opportunity.
How did the transition happen from administrator to officer and what was the biggest challenge you faced in your new role?
Thankfully, it was 16 year journey from administrator to officer and I had many steps along the way to help me develop. The biggest challenge was probably early on as I was our first female officer. I was still young and learning how to navigate the organization. When you “grow up” in an organization, sometimes, people forget that you are not still the youngster you were 15 years before or now, 30 years before! The work felt like my natural gifting, so that was much easier, but I had a lot to learn about managing myself and leading others.
You have three grown boys! Many of our attendees are working mothers, which can be a challenge in and of itself. Can you tell us a bit about your experience balancing the workforce and motherhood?
There are so many great role models of working mothers today. There were not many of us when I started. I still remember going to look for childcare through church connections and one “church lady” telling me, “women in this county do not work outside the home.” I have been fortunate to have an amazing husband who has supported me and been a great Dad to our three boys. He shared the home responsibilities with me and we managed to get all of the important things done. I will say that it is impossible to do it all, so each family has to decide what is most important and let everything else go. Your children will probably not care who did the laundry, cleaned the house or went to the grocery store. They do care who goes to their ball games and who tucks them in at night. If you are able to outsource the unimportant stuff or take advantage of technology to expedite those tasks, it frees you up to focus on what matters to you and your family.
What is one piece of advice you would give a working mother today?
Yes – always, at the end of the day when you lay your head on your pillow, tell yourself, “I did the best I could.” Because you did. Even if things did not go well, you did your best. Don’t beat yourself up, shame yourself or take a guilt trip. It’s wasted energy and not a good example for your children. It’s ok for you to tell them, too, that you did the best you could in these circumstances. Tomorrow is another day.
Your best selling book was released in 2015, tell us a bit about the process of writing a book.
My Dad and Truett Cathy were my two biggest business mentors. They died about a year apart from one another. Writing has always been a way of me working out my own grief. I began writing a blog about all that Truett had taught me. Soon, I had written 16,000 words and realized I was on my way to a book. I decided that I wanted to write the book because I wanted to be sure that those of us who learned personally from Truett would never forget what he taught us and those within Chick-fil-A who never met him would know these important lessons. The writing was the easiest part. I never dreamed that so many people would take and interest and the book would do so well. It was in its second printing before it was released and I am now reprinting for the fourth time. Writing a book is a little like having a baby. For nine months while pregnant, the only thing you can think about is actually HAVING the baby. The same with a book, all you think about when writing it is releasing the book. Then all of a sudden, you have the baby and they put the baby in your arms, and you then realize you have to raise the child. When the book is complete, you then realize the monumental task of promoting the book and being a good steward of the opportunity. Without a doubt, the very most rewarding moments are when I have the opportunity to talk to and meet Chick-fil-A team members and tell them about the wonderful person who founded the company that they work for. I love sharing both stories about Truett and stories about them because it is their hard work that brings the culture of Chick-fil-A to life.
What are you most excited about for the W Conference 2018?
The W Conference meets a deep need that I could not find when I was starting my career – encouraging women where their work and faith intersect. I most look forward to engaging with other like-minded women, learning from their stories and offering mine to them.
What’s something you like to do in your spare time?
My most favorite activity is watching my children play sports and over the last 23 years. I just love to watch them play. Beyond that, I love to take long walks, travel with the love of my live, drink good coffee with friends, rest in the presence of my Savior, live life a little on the edge and indulge myself in all kinds of water sports!