Speech: Cheryl Bachelor, 2017 Executive Honoree


ALICIA THOMPSON: Good evening. This is what happens when you’re short. Good evening, I’m Alicia Thompson with Porter Novelli, and I am distinctly honored this evening to present our milestones and mentoring executive award to Cheryl Bachelder.

I first met Cheryl in 2006 when she joined the board of AFC enterprises parent company of Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen. Though we did not work closely together during that initial period, I watched her from afar and was absolutely admired her leadership.

My first opportunity to work directly with Cheryl came in 2007 when she became CEO of the Popeye’s brand. Within weeks of taking on the role, she was to address the entire organization at the annual International Franchise Conference.

We met in the lobby – I don’t know if you remember this – of the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando, when she arrived just days before that private presentation.

Over the next few days, I listened on the speech rehearsals, and I remember thinking to myself, this is one bold lady. Not only was she going to step on the stage in front of 1,100 plus franchisees, restaurant operators, and corporate team members for the very first time in a few days and tell them the brand was old, tired, and in need of a major rejuvenation. And that was going to be required to make it a hot concept again.

What a way to introduce yourself.

And bold she was. When she stepped on that stage a few days later, she did tell the audience that the brand needed a refresh, but she didn’t just tell them how she was going to do it. She talked about how we – as a collective group in that room – was going to do it. And together, we actually did.

She designed the roadmap, but more importantly, she guided and mentored all of us – franchisees, operators, and team members alike. Pouring into our leadership development so that we could then go back and lead our teams to fulfill our shared vision for the brand.

You see, Cheryl’s personal purpose is quite clear – to inspire people, to inspire purpose-driven leaders, to exhibit competence and character in all aspects of their life. And anyone that spends five minutes – and some of you have had the chance to do that – know that she lives that purpose every single moment.

Cheryl credits a myriad of mentors for her success and her own passion for mentorship, but none as much as her father. A successful businessman who instilled in his four children, the responsibility to always treat others with dignity.

She says, “My father was by far the most valuable mentor in my life. He was an incredibly smart, innovative, and principled leader. He was my greatest leadership teacher.”

One of the ideal Cheryl leans on for inspiration was articulated by Albert Mohler, who wrote, The Conviction to Lead. He said, “Leaders are made by other leaders, who go on to make more leaders.”

Well, I am the leader I am today because of Cheryl’s mentorship. She challenged me to be a leader who gives, a leader who loves, and most importantly, a leader who serves.

She encouraged me to identify and cultivate my own personal purpose. To be bold and courageous. To be confident. To be a leader of character and competence. And to put service before self. She invested in my professional development and growth, and I can’t thank her enough for that investment.

So on behalf of myself and the many, many other mentors – some of whom are here – that you have mentored over the years and for those of us you continue to mentor, I am thrilled to celebrate you this evening. So please join me in honoring my mentor, an amazing leader that I had the privilege to work with, and can now call a colleague and friend, Cheryl Bachelder.



CHERYL BACHELDER: This is hard. Thank you, Alicia, for that honor and to The Plank Center, as well. What a day this has been.

It is really humbling to be honored by someone that you’ve worked with for 10 years. Who is so talented in her own right. A leader that I’ve just watched rise to the top of her field over these last 10 years.

It’s also a real privilege to be honored by this industry, which I did not grow up a part of, but I’ve always had the deepest respect for you because you tell such important stories. But tonight, you’ve made a particular impression by hosting an event on the importance of mentoring next generation leaders, and I cannot thank you enough for that commitment.

Now as I listened to Alicia talk tonight, I’m reminded why we’ve had so much fun together as mentor and mentee, and I’m never sure which is which. In our relationship, we have shared some very important principles.

First, our view of public relations. We both believe the best story is truth well told, just like McCann Erickson said in 1912. We don’t make stuff up. We don’t manipulate facts. Instead, we work with the truth, and we find the most compelling way to tell it because we have a deep conviction about the integrity of our stories.

Second, we share a view about business. We are both deeply committed to the future of leaders. We’ve never met a person that did not deserve the dignity of coaching and development. We want to know their strength, their values, their life experiences, and we want to help them unlock the best version of themselves.

Then, we share this view of the world that you heard her talk about. We think we’re on this planet to serve others over self-interest. That does not mean we get it right every day. It means we aspire to the tenets of our faith which are to do nothing selfish, but rather, in humility, to count others as more significant than ourselves.

These views have been powerful in the time that we spent together. At Popeye’s, we had this unique opportunity to establish a new culture that led to the transformation of this company. At the heart, was mentorship because our company’s stated purpose was, to inspire servant leaders to achieve superior results.

But perhaps even more important than that, we led a class called, Journey to Personal Purpose, to help everyone in our company discover their calling, and how they could bring their best selves to work.

So I thought I’d close with the words that inspired in me, personally, that whole idea of purpose. It was a bit of a wake-up call. And if you’re looking for it, it’s on the page one of a book called, The Purpose Driven Life. And this is when my eyes woke up.

“The purpose of your life, It’s not about you.” Rick Warren goes on to say this, “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, and even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. Contrary to many popular books, movies, and seminars, you won’t discover life’s meaning by looking within yourself.”

And that led me to believe that we find meaning, to find meaning in our life and work, we must look to something greater than ourselves, and a view that all these people entrusted to our care as leaders, are more important than us.

So tonight, I think it’s particularly touching that we are in the presence of a lady who had such a purpose, and left such a legacy as an event as this. And we thank you, Betsy Plank. Thank you very much for this honor.


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