Business alums put their degrees to work

Jaret Mitchell

When given the choice between chicken or beef, Jaret Mitchell, ’00, will always choose chicken, not because it’s his favorite, but because it’s his livelihood. A business administration major who wanted to own his own business, Jaret never thought he would be in the restaurant business – especially the fast food business. But after raising his store’s sales 17 percent and winning Chick-fil-A’s Symbol of Success award in 2007 and again in 2011, Jaret’s business acumen is hard to miss.

Through friendships and an on-campus speaker, Jaret learned about Chick-fil-A and its unique company values. First, the dad of a mutual friend was a VP for the company. Later, a Chick-fil-A recruiter came and spoke in one of his business classes.  

“The more I listened, the more I realized that my values matched the company’s,” said Jaret. “It was a five year journey from graduation to opening up my own store in 2004. I started working at a Chick-fil-A south of Atlanta the summer after my junior year, and after graduating in December, I went back to that same store and was promoted to general manager.”

After working as general manager for a year and a half, Jaret joined the Interim Manager Program, a program designed for young people who needed more experience in leadership.

“The program makes you an employee of the company and helps develop further management skills at stores that are in between owners ,” said Jaret. “It’s a time to prove yourself.”

Jaret served as an interim manager for six months, and then became operator (or owner) of the Altoona, Pa., store for three more years, knowing that it wouldn’t be his final placement.

“The Altoona store was only a stepping stone to owning my own, free-standing store in Royersford, Pa., where I am today,” he said.

Much of managing a business, said Jaret, is utilizing people according to their strengths, and maximizing those strengths to their fullest potential. “One of the big things is getting the right people, and getting the right people in the right spots. The more responsibility a position requires, the more important it is to play to someone’s strengths,” he said.

While Jaret is the store owner, he considers himself a part of the team – responsible for a specific part of the business’ common goal. Chick-fil-A’s leadership model focuses more on teamwork than “command and control” models, and this, too, is part of what makes the company unique, said Jaret.

Starting with only 45 employees and growing to 70 employees – the majority of whom are between the ages of 15 and 18 – gives Jaret a chance to make the business about more than just the chicken. With young employees, Jaret and his managers play a part in teaching them what the work force is really about, and what it means to be a good employee.

Part of being a member of the Chick-fil-A team is working together for a common goal. For Jaret’s Royersford store, his managers decided to go for the gold – or at least the keys to a brand new Ford. In 2007, and again in 2011, the managers decided they wanted to grow their store’s sales by 17 percent from the previous year’s sales to earn the Symbol of Success award – a new set of wheels. For most Chick-fil-A stores, the average growth is 7 percent, so the growth is significant, said Jaret.

“The average free standing store volume is 3 million,” said Jaret. “When you start looking at 17 percent over 3 million, it gets to be very big numbers. Chick-fil-A standards are through the roof, and the bar is set very high.”

The Royersford store earned an F150 in 2007, and in 2011, Jaret chose a Mustang.

While the Symbol of Success was a team effort, Jaret relies on his own team to continue keeping his business successful. While he says it’s important to remember that you’re not as important as you think you are, your team is very important. He encourages future business owners to develop a personal development plan where learning is continued outside the classroom.

Much of the business theory Jaret studied at Bryan isn’t applied everyday on the job, but he said his life-long pursuit of learning was kindled at Bryan.

“I started reading business books – not textbooks – in Dr. Bruehl’s classes, and my habit of reading the Wall Street Journal everyday started with Dr. Lay’s WSJ reports,” he said. “I learned a lot of good life habits – Bryan gave me a baseline knowledge in a lot of areas. I know where to go to look for different types of information, and I learned more about myself and working with people through classes like worldview and psychology.”

Jaret and his wife, Sarah Hess, also a Bryan alum, live in Royersford, Pa., with their twin boys, Jude and Levi.