Interview by Roy Roberson, Senior PastorPhotos by Holli Hamby
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of knowing or meeting several Christian authors. Most of them are accomplished preachers with big churches, and the incredible gift of communicating in unique ways that help me understand truth.
But, as a Pastor there’s something really exciting about having a member of your own church write a book. That’s why I was thrilled recently when a favorite friend of mine told me she’d written a book. Dee Ann Turner is a corporate executive at Chick-fil-A, but this fall, she’ll also be known as an author.
Dee Ann’s book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture will be released on November 3.
After a few informal discussions with Dee Ann about her book, I finally requested we sit and talk, so I could find out more about the writing journey.
When I asked Dee Ann how long it took to write It’s My Pleasure she smartly replied, “Thirty years.” That’s simply because Dee Ann began with the Chick-fil-A (CFA) Corporation 30 years ago this Fall.
But, it’s interesting to note that Dee Ann has wanted to write a book since she was 8 years old. In fact, she attended Cincinnati Christian University to study journalism. Clearly the dream of writing was big in Dee Ann’s heart, but that wasn’t the initial plan of God.
After returning to Atlanta and working for a marketing and advertising firm, her husband Ashley encouraged her to apply at Chick-fil-A Corporate. So at his recommendation she did, but was promptly rejected two weeks later. Her first response was, “Well, that’s that.”
But, time and persistence paid off. Eventually Dee Ann got an interview in the area of Advertising, and during her final interview the Vice President of Human Resources even offered her a job in his department. So, she could choose a position in H.R. or Advertising.
After a weekend of thinking and praying about it, Dee Ann accepted the job with H.R. and for 30 years has been on the inside of one of the greatest Corporations in America. Founded by Truett and Jeannette Cathy, CFA has more than 1,900 restaurants and has Annual Sales of more than $6.5 Billion.
Dee Ann has personally seen the company grow exponentially. And, given her role in Human Resources, she’s been instrumental in being a part of hiring and retaining extraordinary talent and creating a compelling culture at Chick-fil-A. One stop in any restaurant and you can quickly see why CFA is second to none in the restaurant industry.
Flash forward to 2013. Dee Ann is still serving the CFA Corporation faithfully, but her dream to write a book is dormant. There’s no book in the works or even on her radar during that year.
Instead, 2013 is a year filled with pain and grief. Both Ashley and Dee Ann experienced personal losses. Both Ashley’s parents passed away within 9 months of one another, and Dee Ann’s father passed away at the end of the summer. The Turners were also seeing changes in their home. One son started Law School and another was heading to college.
The loss of family members and the transitions in their personal lives was very difficult.
So, as Dee Ann turned the page on 2014 with grief in her heart, she began praying and asking God one question.
“God, what would you have me to do in these circumstances?”
Her choice to seek God in the middle of her grief gives a picture of who Dee Ann is deep down inside. At the core, she is a believer in Jesus Christ.
But, Dee Ann didn’t just ask God a question. She also made two promises to Him. She said, “If you put people in my path to meet, I’ll go meet them.” And, “If you tell me a place to go, I’ll go.”
Dee Ann said you could sum up her promise to God with one phrase…
“If you say so, I will.”
There’s a lesson to be learned in that prayer. When we ask God to show us something, explain something or do something, we need to be obedient to God as we seek the answer. Dee Ann promised God she should go wherever He led her to find the answer to her question, “What would you have me do in these circumstances?”
As 2014 unfolded two specific events took place that had an impact on the plan of God for her to write a book.
First, her son Trey began asking her when she was going to write the book she had always dreamed about writing. The question was fair, but Trey was insistent. And, since Dee Ann wasn’t ready to write a book she simply replied, “Trey, when God writes it in the sky, I’ll write the book.”
The second event that happened was Dee Ann made the decision to go to Boise, Idaho to check out a new market for CFA. At first glance, that seems insignificant. Boise was simply a place she’d never been, and CFA was doing great work in that city.
But, read on.
In June of that year Dee Ann got an email from a man named Mark Russell from Elevate Publishing. It simply said, “I don’t know if you remember me, but I interviewed you three years ago for an article for Christianity Today. And, I was wondering if you had a book inside of you you’d like to publish?”
God had Dee Ann’s attention.
She looked up to Heaven and said, “Well God, you didn’t write it in the sky, but you sent it through the sky. I promised if you say so I will, so I will call this man.”
So she picked up the phone right then and called Mark Russell. She asked why he was interested in her, and he simply explained it was because she had the unique blend of having faith in Christ, being a corporate executive and being a woman. But, there was one more reason he was interested in her.
He said, “For the last six months God has impressed your name on my heart.”
When God is at work, He aligns situations, people and opportunities to accomplish His will.
Since Dee Ann faithfully began praying about, “God, what would you have me to do in these circumstances?” and promising, “If you say so, I will…” six months earlier, she knew she had to meet Mark Russell.
They tried to arrange a meeting in Atlanta, but it wasn’t convenient for Mark at that time. So, Dee Ann said she would be happy to meet him and asked where he was.
His answer? Boise, Idaho.
After meeting Mark Russell and sharing her heart and desire to write a book, Dee Ann agreed to the idea of writing a business book. She had 30 years of knowledge and expertise in the areas of hiring incredible talent and helping create a compelling culture. The platform for writing would come from three decades of experience at one of the finest companies in America.
The writing began during a vacation later that fall. Within a week, Dee Ann had funneled 16,000 words on the pages of her iPad. Some of the writing was cathartic. She realized she was grieving the past year as she wrote. So many emotions were pouring out, the writing process was healing to her soul.
By early 2015 the book was finished and ready for publishing. Before that could happen she needed the endorsement of CFA President, Dan Cathy. He read the manuscript and loved it! Within a week he had given it two thumbs up and agreed to write the Foreward for the book.
The dream of becoming an author was about to come true for Dee Ann Turner. With a release date of November 3, 2015, Dee Ann is now preparing for a travel and interview schedule that’ll keep her hopping during the promotion of the book.
Of course a busy schedule brings challenges, but this part of the process brings incredible opportunities for Dee Ann to share her faith in the Lord and His hand in this journey. After all, God knew the desires of Dee Ann’s heart from the time she was 8 years old.
We often think about our own personal faith, and rightly so. We must hold true to our beliefs and faith in the Lord. No matter what is going on around us, God wants us to believe and trust in His providence and power.
But, we should also remember Psalm 20:4 which says, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” When we have a desire that honors God and can be used to express faith, help others understand Him or advance His purposes, it’s not surprising when God opens doors of opportunity for our plans to succeed. The key is being faithful and patient.
I’m excited for Dee Ann and Ashley Turner and their family. God has chosen to do a great thing by creating the opportunity for Dee Ann to write and combine her faith with her knowledge from the world of CFA.
What’s unique is often people don’t think faith and business go together. But, they always have at CFA and they will now again in her book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture.
Don’t be surprised if you see another book or two from Dee Ann in the future. I personally think this might just be the first, with more to come.
I certainly hope so!
*Be sure to reserve your copy of It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture today at deeannturner.com, amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. #ItsMyPleasure