Pop-A-Lock - February 2020

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FEBRUARY 2020 The Time I Met Colonel Sanders And What He Had to Say About Being an Entrepreneur

I once met one of the most iconic businessmen in the world and got him to give a lecture to my marketing class when I taught at Arkansas State University. When I met him, he was an icon in the South, and now his restaurants serve Kentucky Fried Chicken all over the world. I’m sure you’ve guessed who I’m talking about. Back when I did a brief stint teaching marketing classes at ASU, Colonel Sanders himself gave a lecture to my students. I had received my MBA from Arkansas State University and was asked to step in and teach marketing during the upcoming school year. I was a bit hesitant at first but ultimately decided to take the 10-month contract. I’m glad I did because it got me a pretty unique opportunity, to say the least! One day, I read in the paper that a new KFC was opening in Jonesboro and that Colonel Sanders would be at the restaurant’s grand opening. As I was reading, I thought, “Man, it would be great if I could get him to speak to my class.” Then, I decided to give it a shot. I had to figure out how to get in touch with KFC’s marketing department without Google, and somehow, I got them on the phone and asked if Colonel Sanders would be free to give a lecture to my marketing class while he was in town. Even more miraculously, they said yes. So, there I was, a 20-something instructor, about to host the man who would later become a pop culture icon the world over to speak to my marketing class. As we were getting everything set up for Colonel Sanders’ presentation, a few professors caught wind of what was happening and asked if their students could attend as well. When the Colonel gave his presentation, he had an audience of around 200 business students. I don’t remember a lot of what he said exactly (this was over 40 years ago), but I remember him being charismatic and being a great storyteller. He stood in front of the room in his trademark white suit and shared the story of how KFC came into being. He emphasized that it was never too late to start a business, and he encouraged the students to consider becoming entrepreneurs.

Before KFC, the Colonel had left multiple failed businesses in his wake. When he finally started the business that would make him famous, he was in his sixties. He was in his 70s when he gave a presentation in front of my class. As I listened, I think his story planted the seed in my mind that I would like to be an entrepreneur someday. As a young person, I had always wanted to coach basketball, and because of the Colonel’s lecture, I then also wanted to be an entrepreneur. I had thought about the first idea a lot, and eventually got to live it, but I hadn’t thought about the second idea very much until Colonel Sanders’ presentation. When I think back on it, that was one of the key moments that spurred me on to becoming an entrepreneur later in life. Not a lot of people can say they were personally inspired by Colonel Sanders to become a business owner, but I can. I guess you never really know who’s going to inspire you to pursue your calling! -Doug Barnes

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