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Dee Ann Turner, Vice President of Chick-fil-A, Visits Oxford for First Time

Dee Ann Turner visits Oxford, Mississippi for the first time in her life.
Dee Ann Turner visits Oxford, Mississippi for the first time in her life.

Chick-fil-A is a 70-year-old restaurant chain that is iconic not only for its delicious nuggets but for its genuinely kind employees. Now its secrets – well, some of them – for cultivating a positive and rewarding business atmosphere are on paper.

Dee Ann Turner, the vice president of corporate talent for Chick-fil-A, has been one of the company’s key strategists. In those 30-plus years, she has overseen recruitment, selection and retention of corporate staff as well as Chick-fil-A franchisees – all while keeping true to two values: the golden rule, and treating everyone with honor dignity and respect. During her time at Chick-fil-A, the company has grown from under half a billion in annual sales to almost $6 billion in 2015.

Last November, she released her first book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and Compelling Culture in which she shares these two timeless values that Chick-fil-A’s founder, Truett Cathy, instilled into the restaurant chain, especially in its hiring process.

The book, It’s My Pleasure, “reveals the core DNA of Chick-fil-A’s people’s selection process” according to Dan Cathy, son of Truett and chairman, president and CEO of Chick-fil-A.

Since then, Turner has been traveling far and wide to share crucial lessons from her book to various businesses such as Coca-Cola and universities such as Georgia Tech. She was recently on Fox and Friends out of New York in December.

Now, she is in Oxford for the first time in her life.

Turner has been staying at the Graduate and had dinner last night at Ajax. “I’ve never been in Oxford before.” Turner said, “I’ve had such a wonderful time so far!”

This morning, she spoke at FNC, Inc. and met with its leadership to share some of the principles in her book. Tonight, she will speak at the University of Mississippi’s School of Business and Lott Leadership to select business and public policy majors about customer service and corporate responsibility. Tomorrow she will speak to Southern Foodways Alliance and then the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce.

Where the word ‘corporate’ might leave a chilly impression for some people, Turner adds warmth and cheer to any conversation on corporate culture when she discusses the servant-leadership values Truett Cathy instilled into Chick-fil-A.

“Truett wanted to impact lives in a positive way – the lives of our employees and the lives of the people we serve,” she said.

Turner says people often ask why she shares so much and “gives away Chick-fil-A’s secrets.” Her response is that while she doesn’t share the recipes and other private information, it is important to Chick-fil-A to share the company’s principles, which it believes can help make the market better for everyone and even help strengthen our economy.

She said, “We’re not just a chicken business. We’re a people business. You can go anywhere to get food. But we want our customers to have an experience. We’re here to serve the people.”

These values are certainly reflected in the Oxford Chick-fil-A that Lance Reed operates on West Jackson Avenue. Turner said, “Everywhere I’ve been in Oxford, people talk so kindly of the Oxford Chick-fil-A. Lance and his team have done such a great job of living into our company’s vision. The recent Princess Ball organized by Chick-fil-A brought 900 Oxford area dads and daughters together over two nights.”

Reed explained that in hiring the right people, he uses the Chick-fil-A philosophy explained in Turner’s book based on a combination of character, competency (skills), and chemistry (the right fit). “The right combination of these characteristics in a person have proven to work out well for us. They help us develop and strengthen our company culture,” said Reed.

Turner said that, aside from the three C’s, the most important trait she looks for in hiring people is those who “have a heart for service.” She hopes the most important lesson that Oxonian businesses and UM students will take away from her time here is to realize “that people should be treated well.” 

As she wrote in her book: “Members of a healthy team celebrate the accomplishments of others, believing progress for some is progress for all.”

Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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