By: Kaitlyn Hiltz // May 9th, 2016
The next testimony from our Success Story Series comes from another Chick-fil-A Owner/Operator, Jonathan Purser, out of Calhoun, GA. Jonathan’s story is truly touching and a testament to hard work, consistency, and the beauty of what happens when you set your gaze on the bigger picture.
Background – Jonathan started his career with Chick-fil-A in 1988, as a general service team member, in a season of his life where he was trying to earn some extra money. While staying dedicated and seeing the opportunities in front of him, he received an intern position in 1989 and eventually earned his role as Operator in 1991. His impressive 25+ year career has made him an experienced business owner, a staple in his community, and a highly valued leader in the greater Chick-fil-A network.
We have gotten to know Jonathan through Lifeshape International, a non-profit organization established by Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy. Lifeshape has sponsored visiting executive trips to the BDC’s for many Chick-fil-A operators. Jonathan has headed up Lifeshape’s participation in BDC Uganda.
“Going international is something in my blood. My family was heavily involved in it”, Jonathan explains. His international trips started back in college, where he took an early interest in missions travel. This summer he’s approaching his 6th overseas trip specifically with Lifeshape, where he will visit BDC Uganda for the 3rd time.
Why Serve? – After visiting various nations and groups in need between 2010 and 2014, he felt the need to dig in to one culture and received a fateful call from a Lifeshape Project Manager, suggesting he join a team in Uganda, who were planning to present and teach Chick-fil-A’s SERVE leadership model.
“As Operators, we have been given much and are extremely blessed, thanks to the original vision of Founder, Truett Cathy. Basically, when you’re blessed, you start to think about why you’re blessed, and how you can share it—by being a blessing to others. Which, as Christians, is really a core obligation of our faith and should become a natural outpouring to do those things locally and abroad. [I’ve always felt] it’s a way of taking a story and expanding it beyond your own borders. It’s having a greater, positive impact for the Gospel.”
Jonathan explains, “Chick-fil-A’s methods are very purposeful and enable us to take what we’re doing here and now, and make it kingdom-minded and eternal.”
What’s Next? – This July, Jonathan will be leading a team of visiting executives who plan to conduct a 2-day conference, focusing on a new set of training content for running a high performance, well-led organization. They’re hoping the 4 modules of this new model will be effectively received and then followed up with continued coaching. This year, they’re really seeking to go into the businesses of BDC grads and interact with them from a seasoned fieldwork perspective; visiting established enterprises and further assisting them through the present growth challenges they might be experiencing. “The goal is to go deeper in fewer enterprises”, Jonathan explains.
Challenges & Rewards – Like anything worth doing, international travel and being a visiting executive comes with challenges. Mainly cultural ones, as “the things we take for granted (systems, infrastructures); things that are simple and basic in America are simply not available in Uganda. There’s some necessary interpreting of the concepts, context, and meaning of business principles in their culture, as well as communication (verbiage and language) differences, [even though the BDC is English speaking].” Jonathan affirms, “These are vital things to take into account for maintaining effectiveness in a short period of time.”
These challenges are never without great rewards either. Jonathan discusses how everything you share has value, is appreciated, and well received.
“We are considered experts and the level of appreciation and response is extremely high; as is the retention. [Year-to-year], they can quote back your suggestions. They share their progress, and it’s exciting to see someone take your guidance and gladly apply it and prosper from that.”
Jonathan also shares how he’s even personally benefitted from a man named Frank, who serves as their driver while in-country. They’ve been able to cultivate a special kind of transparent and honest relationship; while being able to better understand the culture and realities of the spiritual, relational, and other life struggles from his perspective. Together, they’ve witnessed real understanding from experience to experience and ascertained some significant progress over the past couple years.
“You see transformation right before your very eyes and you see the work of God being done through the Holy Spirit far beyond our capacity”, Jonathan shares.
Jonathan also credits the relationships and partnerships he’s built with BDC leaders, Moses and Carolyn, as one of the most rewarding parts of his trips. The repeat visits allow them to build on the equity they’ve established and pick up right where they left off.
“Over the course of my stay, I’d get to see some of the same participants and projects and get to know them individually and more personally as well. We’d often meet at restaurants, hotels, etc., and even many of the employees would recognize us year-to-year. I don’t know that the same would be true here in the States.”
Looking Ahead – Jonathan’s contributions have greatly enriched the work of the BDC and he effectively shares the heart of our programs when he says:
“Step out of your everyday life and look at those who have less, and those who have not been blessed as much as yourself. Figure out: Why you have been blessed and what does it look like for you to pass that blessing on down the line. Your blessing is an opportunity to share it with others. International work is a great means for paying it forward.”
As a Visiting Executive, “you’re part of a story bigger than yourself. It’s a process of transforming nations and it’s very exciting, it’s very rewarding, and it keeps me focused, fresh, and invigorated year to year.”
We are looking forward to seeing with Jonathan and the rest of the Lifeshape team produce with BDC Uganda this summer.