The Number One Career Advice from Former President of Chick-fil-A

Let me introduce you to Jimmy Collins. Jimmy was born in an unpainted share-cropper house in the middle of cotton fields and dreamed of becoming an executive. From his first job of delivering groceries on a bicycle at 12 years old, to establishing his own business as a commercial kitchen design consultant, to his 32 year career with Chick-fil-A, Inc., he learned and applied the principles that you also can learn. Jimmy retired from Chick-fil-A, Inc. as president, Chief Operating Officer. He describes his role there as the chief follower of the founder, S. Truett Cathy. He is the founder of Creative Followership and an author.

I want to share with you the best career advice I ever received.

As a youngster, I was constantly searching for career advice, tips and directions on how best to advance my career. I read books, listened to cassette tapes and attended seminars searching for the secrets to success.

After a while, it finally dawned on me that there are no secrets. During my search, I did learn a lot that I found useful, but something was missing. I needed a personal mission statement that would guide me.When I finally found this advice, from the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, I knew immediately that it was perfect to guide my career. I whole-heartedly recommend it to you.

He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit;
And, he who cares for his master will be honored.  – Proverbs 27:18

Think though this with me.

He who tends the fig tree …

That is very clear. If you want the figs you have to tend the tree, fertilize, water, prune it.

… will eat its fruit;

The person who tends that tree will eat its fruit, that is, enjoy the results of his labor.

And, he who cares for his master …

Obviously, the master in today’s terminology is “The boss.” It is also essential that you care for the boss. You are taking responsibility for the boss’ interest which is the fig tree.

… will be honored.

The person who cares for the boss’ interests will be honored. When you take care of the boss’ interests, you will get the good performance reviews, prime assignments, and the best raises and promotions.

Surely, you will see as I did the easy application of this simple and clear advice in your own career.

I never worked for a boss who had fig trees, but they all had a business that I was hired to tend. My first boss, Mr. Brown, had a neighborhood grocery store and my last boss, Truett Cathy, had Chick-fil-A restaurants.

By tending Mr. Brown’s store and Truett Cathy’s restaurants, I was able to enjoy the fruit of my labor; they paid me from their profits.

As a result of taking care of Truett Cathy and his interests, my absolute loyalty was rewarded by his unwavering support, and I was honored appropriately.

As a result of taking care of Truett Cathy and his interests, my absolute loyalty was rewarded by his unwavering support, and I was honored appropriately.

King Solomon’s wise advice defines Creative Followership. It will work for anyone at any level of responsibility in any organization. It worked for me! It will work for you!

He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit;
And, he who cares for his master will be honored. – Proverbs 27:18

This is …

The Best Career Advice, Ever!

Jimmy Collins

  • Jimmy Collins

    Yes, Paul! King Solomon’s advice worked for me. It is the foundation of Creative Followership.

    Young people, remember i was one of those many years ago, are no different today. Like me, they are searching for the pathway to success and satisfaction for their careers. And, they want to have that career result in appropriate recognition and reward.

    For that, King Solomon advice is The Best Career Advice, Ever!


    • Jimmy-
      Thank you for this advice and I wanted to personally thank you for reading an early copy of my first book through a mutual contact, Mark Jones.

      Your advice has been unparalleled.

      Paul, thank you for stellar content as always.

      • Jimmy Collins

        Thanks for your kind and generous compliment, Matt! I look forward to seeing your finished product. Jimmy

  • Jimmy is so right Paul – We really are stewards – Even if we are self employed we are still steward of our business. We have to look beyond our own interests and care for others. Only then can we reap the fruit.

    • So true Jon! Thanks for sharing that with us.

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  • This is a very important premise to take to heart. Most of us, including me did not think this way when I was in Corporate America. I felt like I was owed something but in actuality I should have been caring for the fig tree no matter how bad the situation was, I should have been a better steward of the Leadership God put in front of me. Thanks for sharing this Paul.

  • Pamella Raines

    I love the reference to this Proverb. Another scripture that hit me during recent times of career and financial stress is Joseph, who was sold into slavery and became entrusted over the affairs of Egypt under Pharaoh not once but twice. Thanks!

  • peaceodarock

    Great advice! The problem I have encountered in my 30+ year career is “masters” not worthy of honor. I know the proverb does not differentiate but it is extremely difficult to honor those who do not honor God, like Truett Cathy. Now those masters who do are few and far between but when found, …. the sky is the limit on honoring them!

  • Steven Provenzano

    Well stated, Paul; when we serve others more than ourselves, it all comes back to us, and we often rise beyond our own expections.

  • Maxaipa

    Here is a quote that is applicable to what has been posted, “If you expect the world to be fair with you because you are fair, you’re fooling yourself. That’s like expecting the lion not to eat you because you didn’t eat him.”
    The reality is that you can tend the fig tree and look after the bosses interests as diligently as possible and still be denied the fruit and the appreciation of the boss in this economy. Further many bosses know and use this to exploit worker after worker after worker as they don’t care about wisdom, truth or righteousness, only about their own interests and business.
    This is even true in the church and ministry as those in charge will justify their treachery by saying sacrificing one or two workers, pastors for the greater good of the entire ministry is acceptable.

  • I, too, learned many valuable lessons from Jimmy, a great mentor for many years. Thanks for sharing Jimmy’s wisdom, @PaulJSohn

  • I have also been honored to guard Truett Cathy and his interests in Johnson City, Tennessee for 34 years. Jimmy and I worked together and shared many rewarding conversations. I am very proud to call Jimmy my friend.