Sunday morning I arose at 4:10 a.m. to take a 6:40 flight to Chicago on American Airlines. At boarding time, the agents explained that there was a problem with the small jet aircraft and we should probably rebook on another flight. They couldn’t say what would happen with any certainty. What to do?

With the state of the airline industry now and having guessed wrongly in the past, I quickly rebooked to an 11:35 a.m. flight. It seemed as though there might be no capable mechanics in the city. Everyone involved was nice but clueless as to the success of Flight 2992. Stay tuned for a conclusion.

I retrieved my car and drove down a few miles to Cracker Barrel #366. I might as well enjoy a great breakfast. Such a deal it was! Momma made her big pancake breakfast for me, with pecans added, and the eggs just the way I asked for them.

As I waited just a bit for the food, several different servers topped off my coffee and spoke to me pleasantly. It was still very early on a Sunday morning, but it was well staffed. Each person seemed busy doing his or her job and happy to be there. After I finished, I became curious and asked to see the manager.

You see, there is a year-long road project taking place in front of the restaurant and all the way east to the Embassy Suites on the other side of I-29. I expected the patron count would be much lighter than the usual Cracker Barrel. But by 8, folks were streaming in as usual in their stores.

Chris, the manager, nicely dressed with a tie, came over soon. I asked him to sit down for a few minutes. Introducing myself, I told him I had eaten in their restaurants all over the country and that I was impressed with everything I had seen and experienced in his. Obviously he was pleased to hear it.

I asked, Out of curiosity, how is the road construction affecting your business, and what have you done to counter it? He explained that his executive team had feared the worst but were pleasantly surprised – the drop in traffic was much less than they expected. They made sure to be positive about executing well in those things they could control and communicated that attitude with all of the employees. It obviously had worked well.

He emphasized that his team and Cracker Barrel took the long view. They had not cut staff to the bone, demoralizing those who were left as some companies do.

This is how successful people, from CEOs to restaurant managers, build successful and long-lasting businesses. They take care of the details and their most important asset, their associates. Then their associates take good care of their customers.

I don’t believe in accidents, so I am not too concerned that my day’s plans were changed and I would be a little late to my study group meeting. I had a great experience with a different industry and I had time to tell you about it.

Cracker Barrel stock is way up in the past several years. American Airlines is still in its umpteenth bankruptcy proceeding, not trading any stock. Is there an airline person out there thinking about this kind of stuff?

Ron Finke is president of Stewardship Capital in Independence. He is a registered investment adviser. Reach him at