Four years ago today was my first day as an executive assistant. I had just finished publishing my first book, Hidden in Plain Sight, for Youth Alive North Texas, a ministry I had interned with since 2010. I was not planning on publishing any more books, which was evidenced when I entered the business world right after the book released.
However, after five months I decided corporate America wasn’t the best fit for me and launched my own business instead. My boss, Dan D’Amico (the CEO of the company), gave me his blessing and released me peacefully. We have met for coffee since and he’s excited to see where God is taking me.
I’ve been a lot of places in the past four years. I’ve participated in two U.S. missions trips, three mission trips to Mexico, and a 45-city speaking tour after the release of one of my books. I’ve published a total of eight books, and left Texas on a new adventure in the Great Northeast.
Today, exactly four years later, a leadership book I am co-writing received an endorsement from the President of Chick-fil-A, Inc. This is a huge honor, and I am stunned that it came TODAY of all days. This book is called Leader Farming: Growing Leaders to Grow Your Business. It contains the wisdom of Chick-fil-A Owner/Operator Zach Thomas (pictured above, center); I just helped with the research to back up what he is already living out in his business.
One of the things Zach talks about in this book is how the best leaders give their employees freedom. This includes both freedom from being unnecessarily micro-managed and freedom to leave the company when the time is right for them to go on to bigger and better things.
I am grateful that Dan had this mentality. I remember the night I sat with him on the back porch of his home and told him I was considering leaving. He did not guilt me, manipulate me, or terminate me on the spot. He even allowed me to choose whether I wanted to stay a full two weeks or leave immediately (I chose the latter).
Here is part of a text I sent Dan today: I would not be where I am today without your investment in my life. It was through conversations with you that I had the courage to start my own business and stick with it. No matter where I go from here, I will remember how God brought us together and you launched me into the business world. You are a great leader and it was an honor to say my first “real job” was with you!
If Dan had shamed me for leaving or manipulated me into staying, I would not look up to him in the manner that I do today. It seems counter-intuitive, but natural turnover can be a blessing in disguise for your business. Not only does it lower the amount of unengaged employees on the payroll, it allows for smooth transitions like the one I had with Dan. The fact that he still cares for me and is interested in what I’m doing with my life years later tells me that he is the best kind of leader, and I am grateful that I worked for him for the short time I did.
Leader Farming is going to be a fantastic book. We have received great feedback and endorsements from several high-level business leaders, including a foreword by Dr. Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders. A paperback pre-release limited edition of the book will be available in July, and the hardcover book will be available to the general public in August or September (depending on the workload of the printer). In the meantime, here is a sneak peak at the working back cover copy. This will most likely be a bit different on the finished book, but sometimes it’s fun to share things while they are still in process:
When Zach Thomas first became a Chick-fil-A owner/operator in 2008, he thought it would be easy to lead a team of nearly 100 Millennials, given his previous experience as a U.S. Army Ranger instructor, college pastor, entrepreneur, and chicken farmer. Instead, this Gen-Xer found himself in over his head and unable to connect with this generation, which was more interested in serving themselves than helping him grow his business.
After a series of life-altering events, Zach began to develop a new leadership strategy to grow his business by growing the future leaders that were already working in his store at the entry level. This fresh strategy, which he calls Leader Farming, is composed of principles he learned from a variety of sources—farming, the military, working in a church, and being personally mentored by leadership experts Tim Elmore and Andy Christiansen.
Zach went from being a chicken farmer to a leader farmer—growing leaders at a Chick-fil-A in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia. *Insert sentence about how today, he has developed 3 leaders who have their own CFA stores and increased sales by 100 percent* This is not a theoretical book about what might work, but a proven approach to effectively lead Millennials and Centennials and build a sustainable business.
Leader Farming addresses the challenges of employee engagement, turnover, recruiting, and leadership development, in order to help employers win the war for talent in a Millennial-dominated workforce. You will learn how to develop leaders, balance freedom and discipline, build a recruiting program that runs itself, and grow your business without burning yourself out.
Choosing to become a Leader Farmer will get you off the rollercoaster of a business that seems to be functioning well in June, only to be in a state of chaos by September. You will learn how to cultivate a healthy culture, develop emerging leaders, and create systems and processes to help you plan ahead—including a continual recruitment plan to ensure you maintain an advantage in the war for talent. Your business will be marked by increased engagement, decreased turnover, and sales growth as the team you build will grow your business and make it more sustainable. Perhaps best of all, you’ll sleep better at night and leave a lasting legacy by treating everyone who works for you with honor, dignity, and respect.
Leader Farming will teach you how to effectively lead Millennials, without losing your mind.