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Kevin Williams

Cherokee County’s own Chick-fil-A entrepreneur is Kevin Williams. Recently opening the third franchise in our county, he is a very rare multiple franchisee for Chick-fil-A, which is now the third largest fast food restaurant chain in America.

Kevin is every bit the enthusiastic entrepreneur you would expect to meet running a highly successful business – well, actually three successful businesses in our county. But he is far more than that.

My association with Chick-fil-A began when my neighbor hired me to work in his Hapeville Dwarf Grill, a small but successful family run business. His name was Truett Cathy who later became Chick-fil-A with his signature chicken sandwich. Kevin Williams, though not related to Mr. Cathy, is cut from the same kind of personality cloth!

First a family man, Kevin and his wife, Gwen have four children: three are grown and out of the home while the fourth is a senior in high school. The Williams’ celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this year. Kevin described Gwen as the support system that allows him to reach out for new exploration. Being a dad is “an awesome privilege” to share with her.

Just a little conversation with Kevin causes one to realize what motivates him. He lives to fulfill his mission “to inspire the next generation.” In many ways he learned that from meeting Mr.Cathy when he came to speak at Smokerise Baptist Church in East Atlanta. Cathy’s example of teaching a boys Sunday school class is reflected in his book, “It’s Better to Build Boys than to Mend Men.”

Listening to Kevin talk about his business model is like being part of an inspiring leadership talk. Not only does he teach his employees to say the famous words that have characterized Chick-fil-A, “My pleasure,” but he emphasizes it with his own motto, “Kindness over everything.”

While still a senior at the University of Georgia, Kevin volunteered to work at the Chick-fil-As around Athens, but began his career with First Union Bank where he worked for three years before getting his first CFA franchise. Because of his work ethic and success in Midtown Atlanta, he was given the opportunity to open the Riverstone store near Walmart. His second store is the Marketplace location and the newest is the Hickory Flat store at Ga. Highway 140 and East Cherokee Drive.

Truett Cathy chose as his favorite verse of Scripture, Proverbs 22:1 — “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” “For me,” Kevin said, “the key is “irrational kindness.”

While encouraging each of his employees with his “Can I do anything for you?,” question, his contagious smile and encouraging words build an atmosphere of pleasure. Kevin is still dreaming. One of his next projects is a 109-year-old farm where he hopes to build a counseling-training facility where the motivation that comes through so easily from him can be shared with his employees and potential young people he can encourage. I’m sure it will happen. He’s a man with a mission: “to inspire the next generation.” With Kevin leading the way, they may turn out to be the next great generation.

Dr. James E. Kilgore retired as the president of the International Family Foundation Inc. and is a Canton resident.

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