Krispy Kreme CEO Says, "Work on Building a Life, Not a Resume"
October 13, 2011
Krispy Kreme Chairman, President and CEO James Morgan visited the Catawba College campus on Oct. 13 to share key thoughts and encouraging words with the students gathered in Keppel Auditorium. Morgan was the speaker at Catawba's Ketner School of Business Eighth Distinguished CEO Lecture Series.
With a warm and engaging manner, Morgan made it clear that he was very happy to be speaking to a gathering of college students on a campus near his Winston-Salem based company. He quipped that he had a Plan A and a Plan B in place for his visit. Plan A, he said, was that the students "will remember something from what I say," and Plan B was that they would remember him as "the guy who brought the doughnuts."
Morgan set the tone for his remarks by sharing the content of a recent newspaper article regarding hiker safety in relation to grizzlies and black bears. The article, he recalled, admonished hikers to wear bells to alert the bears to their presence and to carry pepper spray in case they encountered bears on the trails. It also outlined how to differentiate the excrement of grizzlies from that of black bears.
In your life, he said, "you're going to come across some grizzly bears and if all you go out with are bells and pepper spray, it's very possible that you're going to feel as if you were eaten alive." He then shared three thoughts that could help the students avoid the figurative disfigurement that he described.
First, he said, "Pursue your passion – don't go do what you think you're supposed to do – you'll either be chasing somebody else's dream or somebody else's dream for you." He recounted a story of a well-educated American banker vacationing in a fishing village in Mexico who came upon a native fisherman. The fisherman had caught several yellowfin tuna that he was unloading and the banker complimented him on his catch and asked why he had come in so early after only catching a few. The fisherman replied that what he had caught was all that he needed to take care of his family. The banker asked what the fisherman did with the rest of his time, and the fisherman said that he spent time with his family and friends and relaxed.
The banker told the fisherman that he could be a success if he caught more fish, sold them, and used the money he earned to buy more boats. The banker said that to manage his growing business, the fisherman might have to move to a bigger city and hire people to work for him. After 15 to 20 years of working and managing his fishing business, the banker said that the fisherman could issue an IPO, sell his business, and retire to a small coastal fishing village.
"The lesson of this story is that the fisherman was already pursuing his passion and living a very restful lifestyle," Morgan said.
Morgan explained that he too "had a passion for what I thought Krispy Kreme could be" and that passion drew him out of retirement to run the company. Since he joined, he and the employees have rewritten the mission of the company. It is not "to sell more doughnuts," he explained, noting that the new mission also says nothing about increasing sales or shareholders. "Our new mission is just 12 words: 'To Touch and Enhance Lives Through The Joy That Is Krispy Kreme.'
"Krispy Kreme creates memories and that is worth living for," Morgan said.
Morgan shared his second thought with students by cautioning them "Each day of your life you're writing your own epitaph." He recalled a story from his own life when he told his children that they were not going to have to move to another city for him to take a job. Instead, he told them they were going to continue to live in their home, stay close to their friends, and remain in their same school. His son ran out to share the good news with his neighborhood friends while his daughter went to her room.
When Morgan followed his daughter to her room to make sure she understood what he had told her, she told him that the last time he had worked for the company he was going to work for – the company that would allow them to remain in their home -- "I never saw you." This gave Morgan pause and made him think of the epitaph that he was writing through his life and to ponder whether "I was doing things for or doing things to my family."
Two of the best epitaphs Morgan said he had ever heard are from the Bible. One from Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." The other epitaph he shared was the final words of Jesus found in John 19:30: "It is finished."
In the third thought he shared, Morgan encouraged the students to "look for and seek out opportunities to lead." He told a story about his time in the Navy serving two very different captains at different times on the same ship. The first captain wanted to be promoted to admiral and made the 600 men on his ship miserable by being tough, hard and not understanding. The second captain had no such ambition; he simply wanted his ship and the men on it to be the best they could be. The second captain trusted his men to do their jobs well and only stepped in if they asked him to. The second captain did not let his men carry their burden alone.
"The first captain spent his life building a resume, while the second captain spent his time building a life," Morgan concluded. He noted that later in his life, he searched for and found the second captain and was able to reconnect with him and tell him how valuable his mentoring had been.
"Youth doesn't prevent you from leading," he said. "You're never too old to lead. My generation needs you, believes in you, and is counting on you. My generation will pray for you without ceasing and you will make it right. I truly hope and pray that each of your days is blessed."
Morgan was named President and CEO of the Winston-Salem based Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. in January 2008. He has been a member of the Krispy Kreme Board of Directors since 2000 and was elected its Chairman in 2005.