Clinic Stories

Forrest Ingram

Experts in many fields point to an attitude possessed by some people that allows them to succeed while others do not. It is variously called resilience, persistence, resolve or grit, the ability to quickly move past obstacles and hardships and to stay focused on the big picture.

When I worked in the poultry industry people were drawn to the big guns – the likes of Don Tyson and Frank Perdue – hard charging entrepreneurs who built massive enterprises and amassed phenomenal fortunes. But they often had megalomaniac traits – Frank Perdue killed a cashier when he crashed his Mercedes into a PA Turnpike toll booth. But I also met many leaders of small companies throughout the country who succeeded due to a blend of good character and a resilient nature.

One of those individuals who had a strong influence on me was Forest Ingram, the founder and owner of Goldenrod Poultry in Cullman, AL. If you Google him, not a lot comes up – there are a few landmarks in Cullman with his name. But Mr. Ingram did all that was essential sublimely well. He kept a small staff of talented, motivated people and trusted them to do their job. He was an active and generous member of his church, First Baptist in Cullman, an imposing edifice known as Fort G-d. He was fiercely independent and principled, - he would not accept the smallest gift, not even a pen, from a vendor. He maintained a streamlined, highly efficient operation whose cost structure was the envy of his cross town competitors at Tyson Foods. He did not seek attention, publicity or fame. He treated his customers like precious gems.

And he had grit. When his plant was shut down by a strike he contracted the nearby Tyson plant for the overnight shift and gradually restaffed his own plant in a process that took a year. When the city of Cullman tried to force his operation off well water onto municipal water he fought it and prevailed by building his own water treatment facility.

When I knew him Mr. Ingram was the largest private land owner in the state of Alabama yet he was modest and quiet, seemingly no different than many of his employees. The difference was that he had the ability to simply get things done. Were his successes not so profound, his internal qualities would have been completely hidden.

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