How often do you see potential in others?

Today is February 19 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you find potential in others?” In his 2007 book Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea's Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life, actor, director, and author Tyler Perry wrote “What I've found about it is that there are some folks you can talk to until you're blue in the face--they're never going to get it and they're never going to change. But occasionally you will run into someone who is eager to listen, eager to learn, and willing to try new things. Those are the people we need to reach. We have a responsibility as parents, older people, teachers, people in the neighborhood to recognize that.” Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well involves seeing potential in others. As Perry noted, not everyone wants to be mentored, encouraged, or supported, but for those that do, they just might be able to translate one dream after another into reality. Ashley Lamothe is one such example.


In 2011 at the age of 26, Lamothe became Chick-fil-A's youngest Black woman Franchise owner. In 2018, she would open-up her second Chick-fil-A restaurant. Her story has its origins for this native of Marietta, Georgia, when at 15 years of age, she began her relationship with Chick-Fil-A working as a team member. What originally started as a way for Lamothe to make some extra money turned into a significant opportunity for her to create a long-term career path for herself. Once she became a student at nearby Spelman College in Atlanta, she continued to work part-time at Chick-Fil-A and eventually became a director on the leadership team. A pivotal suggestion from one of her supervisors changed the course of her life. As Lamothe recalled in an interview “At the time, I thought it was just a great job to have while pursuing my degree in theater. One day at the job, an operator discussed my long-term ambitions. During that conversation, the operator recommended that I pursue a career in leadership. I’d never considered it. Sometimes you just need someone to help you see your potential.”


Yes, it is indeed true that a Chick-fil-A operator saw potential in Lamothe. It is equally true, however, that Lamothe was, in Perry’s words “eager to listen, eager to learn, and willing to try new things.” It is wonderful when someone see potential in you; but are you eager to listen, eager to learn, and willing to try new things? Upon completing Chick-fil-A’s leadership program the executive team asked if she would be willing to move to Los Angeles and open up her first Chick-fil-A restaurant across the street from the University of Southern California. Since she was willing to try new things Lamothe jumped at the opportunity and in so doing, became the youngest Black franchise owner.


To return the favor afforded her years earlier, Lamothe says she is particularly interested in helping others reach their potential and noted “I want to help my team members get to where they want to go, whether it is a career with Chick-fil-A, or studying law or medicine, or anything. I want to help them make that next step, just like so many have done for me. I encourage my team to follow their dreams, and to see what they may not see in themselves. At Chick-fil-A, it really feels like family.” Lamothe's hard work is paying off. In 2018 she was awarded the company’s Symbol of Success, an honor reserved for Chick-fil-A Operators whose businesses experience particularly high sales growth. Like Lamothe, Jade Colin also remained eager to learn and willing to try new things.


At 28 years of age Jade Colin became the youngest Black woman to own a McDonald’s franchise. The New Orleans native was introduced to franchise ownership when her parents bought their first McDonald’s eight years earlier. In 2012, Colin graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a degree in business management. She began to work in the restaurants learning policies and procedures. The businesswoman later joined the company’s Next Generation program, designed as a preparatory program for the children of McDonald’s franchise owners. During the first year of the program, Colin received the Outstanding Restaurant Manager of the Year Award for her region. The following year, she was honored with the Ray Kroc Award, which recognizes the top 1 percent of restaurant managers in the country. After completing courses at Hamburger University, which trains students in restaurant-management skills, Colin, then 26, opened her franchise.


Reflecting upon her journey navigating the chaos Colin advised people to take risks and be prepared for the hard work that comes with being an owner: “Take the risk and know that it will be a lot of hard work. Network and have a core team of genuine mentors. You need people who are in your corner that will positively motivate you. I say genuine because not everyone will have your best interest at heart.”


Has anyone helped you along your journey?


Have you helped anyone along their journey?