Leading up to Super Bowl XLVI, we heard a lot about Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis being the host facility. Lucas Oil, founded by Indiana native Forrest Lucas, is obviously committed to its community. The company paid $120 million for the naming rights to the stadium in 2006 for a twenty year period. As I learned more about Lucas Oil and its founder, I was impressed with the deep commitment to community. For years, larger companies have realized that it is important to be a good corporate citizen. Communities benefit from their corporate partners and companies in return benefit from positive customer relations, goodwill in the community, and reputational capital. Being a community minded corporate citizen is not just for big companies. In fact, many small business entrepreneurs have learned that community involvement is a win-win proposition.
Steve Grantham Jr., president of J&R Restaurant Group, is committed to a leadership philosophy of investing in the community. J&R Restaurant Group, a franchise of Outback Steakhouse, owns eight locations in Mississippi and West Tennessee and employees more than 500 people. Grantham grew up in Jackson and graduated with a degree in business from the University of Mississippi. Just out of college, he went to work in the telephone industry in sales and enjoyed a great career spanning over twenty years. When WorldCom acquired MCI in 1998, Grantham was the sales director for MCI overseeing 29 sales and service professionals in five states and managed revenue responsibilities for over $600 million annually. He later worked with Verizon business sales in all 50 states as a project manager overseeing WAN/LAN deployment for Outback Steakhouse installing 1,000 plus locations with t-1 internet access. In 2006, Grantham took over J&R Restaurant Group when his father Steve Grantham Sr. died. Grantham Sr. and his business partner Dr. Faser Triplett originally operated eight Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Dallas before selling them back to the franchisor and acquiring the franchise rights to Mississippi and West Tennessee.
Grantham shared that his leadership philosophy was shaped significantly by his father. His father taught him to “give as much as you can without expecting in return.” Grantham shared that, “My main focus is Outback’s way of ensuring that we take care of our people. Giving back to our communities is a top priority.” He noted that the company has a long history of community involvement. This involvement includes supporting local military personnel and their families. The company also has complimentary sit-down dinners each quarter for the staff and children of Sunnybrook Children’s Home. They also provided relief for the citizens of Yazoo City after the devastation of the 2010 tornado, and the company is very active in the search for a cure for Friedreich’s Ataxia, which is a debilitating neuro-muscular disease that is caused by a lack of energy production that our cells need for proper function and survival.
Grantham and the team at J&R Restaurant Group are a great example of how to strategically invest in the community. They aren’t just reactive; instead, they are strategic and purposeful in their investments. Steven A. Rochlin, former director of research and development for The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College noted that, “not only is corporate citizenship consistent with good business practice, it is in fact a business essential.” While many of Mississippi’s larger companies have been sold over the last couple of decades, we still have many thriving businesses which can contribute to their communities. We will continue to build our state if governmental entities, non-profits, and private companies work together to accomplish the greater good for our communities.
>> Martin Willoughby, a business lawyer in Jackson, is a regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. Willoughby can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.
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