Dealing with Professional Discouragement

Discouragement is a challenge for every executive.

Actually, discouragement is a challenge for every one of us, no matter what our role, in our personal life, and in our professional life.

As a teenager, I realized that I could face discouragement without fear. I learned that I had control of my reaction to discouragement and if I put up a good fight, I would win.

My fighting method was to constantly remind myself, “I am not easily discouraged.” It was amazing how that helped me through difficult times.

Later, I learned that what worked in my personal life also worked in my professional life.

It worked so well that I made it one of my Principles of Creative Followership.

 Do Not Be Easily Discouraged

Here is an example of how I practiced it.

It would have been easy to become discouraged in 1971, as we were working to expand Chick-fil-A.

By the end of 1970, we had seven Chick-fil-A restaurants in shopping malls—three in Georgia, two in North Carolina, one in South Carolina, and one in Texas. Not many for three years of effort.

Even though enclosed malls were opening at an increasing rate all over the country, we were having great difficulty getting locations. The malls wanted tearooms, coffee shops, and fine dining. In addition, most of the major mall developers wanted only tenants with AAA credit ratings, which Chick-fil-A did not have.

Chick-fil-A offered high-volume, quick service, but the response of the developers was, “We are not interested.” I had heard that before, many times, but I am not easily discouraged.

When we learned that the Rouse Company, one of the premier mall developers, was to open a new mall in Atlanta in the summer of 1971, we went after a location. Off I went to their offices in Maryland, armed with determination and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, they did not want what they thought of as a fried chicken restaurant in one of their classy malls.

I made so many trips to their office that when I arrived the receptionist would announce, “Chicken Little is here again.” They were courteous but firm in their reply: “We are not interested.” But, I am not easily discouraged.

Then, when we learned that the leasing agents were visiting the construction site, Truett Cathy and I took Chick-fil-A food to them. Still they said, “We are not interested.”

That is when I started a postcard deluge.

 

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We had picture postcards of Chick-fil-A sandwiches and the Oglethorpe Mall restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. Each day, every day, I sent a postcard to the vice president of leasing. Typical messages were “Only Chick-fil-A serves America’s favorite main dish as a sandwich!” “At Chick-fil-A in Greenbriar Mall, 1970 sales equaled $626.32 per square foot, without opening on Sunday!” “At Chick-fil-A, service IS instantaneous!” “At Chick-fil-A, we have no bones to sell, only chicken!”

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After several weeks, I received a telephone call: “Stop the cards; we will make a deal.”

If I were easily discouraged, we would not have gotten the location in Perimeter Mall — a restaurant that has been one of Chick-fil-A’s top performing mall locations for more than forty years. Not only that, but making the deal to locate in Perimeter Mall opened doors with many other developers, and it established for us a mutually beneficial, ongoing relationship with the Rouse Company.

The losses that people experience when they are easily discouraged are immeasurable. On the other hand, the gains from overcoming discouragement may be difficult to measure but are major contributors to our success and satisfaction.

I recommend that you work to develop this same attitude.

Do Not Be Easily Discouraged

Are you willing to try it?

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