by Victoria Collier

The University of West Georgia’s Richards College of Business recently featured David Daniels, owner and operator of Chick-fil-A in Carrollton, who lectured on his secrets to success as the most recent installment of the BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise. The series is a vital part of the Richards College of Business learning experience.

David DanielsUWG President Dr. Kyle Marrero praised the program as he opened the event.

“This series is so important to us because it brings our students together with people who are truly empowering economic development in our region,” he said.

Faculty and students of various majors came together in the Townsend Center to hear about Daniels’ journey to success and the steps required to become a better leader.

Daniels came onto the stage with a bag of chicken biscuits and asked the audience, “What are some things that you think you have to do in order to be successful?”

Students responded with “Have a plan,” “Work hard,” and “Don’t be afraid to fail.” One student's answer was what Daniels was looking for: having morals.

Being a Servant Leader

Daniels explained that integrity and character drive a person to be a hard worker.

“The word integrity sets up morals and values that make us who we are. It’s up to you all to make sure we don’t lose that. Make decisions that come into alignment with your values,” he advised.

He asked the audience to really think about who they are and what they believe in. Many audience members were moved when he shared his passion for traveling to Haiti where he mentored business owners and volunteered to help young boys recently freed from human trafficking. His passion for helping others put things into perspective for students and he used this as a teaching moment to explain that integrity and character define who he is as a person and how he responds to situations.

However, Daniels’ biggest secret for success is to become a servant leader in one's community.

“Your influence is the greatest gift you can give to other people,” he shared.

He said he is a firm believer that self-interest squashes a person’s effectiveness and diminishes their personal success. This method of thinking takes away from learning experiences and only focuses on self-gain. Daniels gave an example by getting on his knees and brushing his assistant’s shoes. He compared this to how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the last supper.

“When you truly have a leader’s heart, it really doesn’t matter who you serve […] a true servant leader says, ‘I’ll serve you no matter what.’ To be a servant leader one must look at people as a way to leave significance, not as a means to be successful.”

Daniels explained that a servant leader serves others because it’s the right thing to do and, with this mindset, success will come naturally.

Discipline Yields Smart Choices

Daniels also encouraged the audience to exercise discipline to see success in multiple areas of their lives. He described discipline as, “making yourself do things that you don’t want to do.” He used his own life as an example. Ten years ago, Daniels said he weighed 346 pounds, but through personal discipline he lost more than 100 of those pounds.

“Discipline is making the decision before you’re ever given the choice,” Daniels said.

He urged students to consider the choices they make in life and reminded them that making smart choices requires discipline.

Daniels also shared that a good attitude can go a long way. He explained that one’s attitude is something you can’t hide from the world. He described an “uncommon” attitude as one that separates you from other people. By adopting a positive attitude, discipline and working hard early on, it establishes a good track record and becomes a part of who you are.

“If I can stress anything to you all tonight, it’s that with everything you do and every decision you make, you’re planting seeds for the future,” Daniels said.

Keep Thinking Ahead

“You don't become successful by accident; you don’t step into greatness by accident. It’s about making great decisions and understanding how to move forward,” Daniels revealed.

He encouraged students to sit down and write out a plan for the next five years. By having a tangible list of goals and a plan, it puts things into perspective for anyone trying to launch a successful career and gives them an idea of how to get where they want to go.

David DanielsDaniels also highlighted teamwork as a necessary skill for success, because in life you’re going to have to work with people you don't like and have different opinions. Daniels encouraged audience members to find mentors who will provide an additional perspective and coaches who will help cultivate their skills.

“You have to learn to get along with people and develop relationships because you need to be able to build teams. If you can't build effective communication and trust with people, it’s going to be really difficult to be in a position where you're given real responsibility as leaders,” Daniels explained.

Daniels concluded his lecture with an impactful Chick-fil-A commercial that asked people to think of others first, leading him back to his first point: “The secret to being successful is how we serve other people, and looking for those opportunities serves you.”

He challenged the audience return home that night and think of ways to improve on the skills he listed and to become better servants to others.

Posted on February 13, 2017