Covert Cows And Chick-Fil-A® By Steve Robinson

By Gino Barbaro

When Jake recommended that I read Covert Cows by Steve Robinson, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Jake often recites that we want our property management company to be the Chick-Fil-A®of apartments. And after finishing Mr. Robinson’s book, it is only cemented his vision for our company.

Steve does an amazing job in describing the ascension of Truett Cathy’s company, the founder of The Dwarf Grill, that eventually became Chick-Fil-A, and his ability to tell stories makes the book entertaining, as well as a marketing masterpiece. It is often said that when you are looking for something, it magically appears. Jake and I have been looking to scale our marketing, and viola, Covert Cows suddenly appeared.

If you’re looking to build your brand, growing company with purpose, or becoming better marketer, look no further. Steve Lee is at a framework to achieve all of these goals. Chick-fil-A was such an innovative company in so many ways, including the Blue Ocean Strategy of dominating the fast food restaurant space in America’s walls, and utilizing billboards as a way to grow the brand in a more cost conscious way. Steve knew that it would be nearly impossible to compete with other fast food brands in marketing spend, so he turned to billboards to spread the message. Chick-fil-A made the Blue Ocean Strategy cool and hip, even before most of us knew what it meant.

For those of you looking to grow your brand, Steve highlights three outcomes of a great brand. They are:

  1. People come more often.
  2. They pay full price.
  3. They tell others.

In the book, Steve shares the strategies on how Chick-fil-A accomplishes all three of these outcomes. What I admire most about Chick-fil-A is the fact that they deliver a quality product with impeccable service in an industry where expectations are low. With Steve’s guidance, along with the entire Chick-fil-A family they had set new standards and crushed their Blue Ocean Strategy.

Steve also shares his failures along the way, such as his $2 million fiasco with trying to ramp up sales with coupons. Ultimately, the lesson taught him tha coupons and discounts undervalued the business and Chick-Fil-A looked like all other fast food brands. There are a lot of learning lessons along the way, and Steve makes sure to add the successes along with the company struggles and missteps.

The quote that Steve included in his book from Truett Kathy’s office sons is what Jake & I are trying to achieve at Jake & Gino.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.

Steve followed up this quote with stating “A great brand is a great reputation.”

In the book, Steve outlines the three constituents for every business, another reminder for every entrepreneur to remember who they are serving.

  1. Customers.
  2. Operators.
  3. Shareholders.

Chick-Fil-A always remembers to be in service of their customers, and that service will lead to shareholder wealth. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, “Profit is the fuel. It is not the destination.” Always take care of your customers, and your customers will take care of you.

I don’t know if Steve or Chick-fil-A truly understand what type of legacy they have created from a chicken sandwich. Chick-fil-A is the steward of everything that has been entrusted to them and they have left a positive experience on all who come in contact with them, and they have left an indelible mark on me and Jake. They have told us that stewardship and community is what to strive for.

Thanks to Steve for sharing his incredible story and how he helped transform the vision of the visionary Truett Cathy. Now it’s time to go grab a chicken sandwich and a milkshake.

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