Scott Griffith’s family moved from Lima to Vandalia in 1971.
He didn’t know back then that the move for his father’s new job as the general manager of a Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken restaurant would lay the foundation for the path he would follow the rest of his life.
Griffith’s family moved next door to the family of his now wife, Kim, and just a year after the move, his father bought two Lee’s Famous Recipe locations in Springfield.
In his teens, Griffith started working at his dad’s restaurants and worked his way up from cook to manager, and Kim was hired to work in the franchise’s home office. As the two got along, fell in love and got married, they started a journey to not only sell chicken, but also to invest in the communities that were investing in them.Choosing chicken
Griffith says both he and his siblings – a brother and sister – grew up working for their family business. But, he was the only one who sought to build a career out of it.
“One year for my dad, me and another guy went around to every Lee’s in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky and did a repair modification to the fryers that we had,” Griffith says. “I had an early experience where I saw every open restaurant in four states, and I always knew this was for me.”
Griffith went to college at The Ohio State University, majoring in business and marketing. Kim also attended OSU and graduated from Wright State University with a degree in early childhood education.
In the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Lee’s as a company changed ownership and much of the brand’s survival was due to the investment and commitment of franchisees throughout the company, Griffith says.
By the mid-80s, Griffith’s family continued growing their local Lee’s footprint and was given the green light to open three more Springfield locations. The major growth happened in just 11 months and caused the business to struggle, he says.
“In the '80s we grew really fast,” Griffith says. “We ended up selling some restaurants, closing some restaurants, and we got down to five restaurants, which was a number of stores we felt we could handle.”
Sky-high interest rates, Griffith says, also didn’t help.
“We wanted to grow, but we weren’t selling enough chicken to pay the rent,” he added.
In 1992, Griffith took over the business when his father retired, and he says the rough waters hadn’t yet calmed. But, he and Kim buckled down and were determined to make it work. Kim focused on running the office and caring for their two sons while Scott says his sole motive was to sell chicken.
“We did OK. We did well, up through 2008-2009 when we hit the perfect storm,” Griffith says.
During that time, they faced a legal battle with contractors at their Bellefontaine location, and Griffith’s dad announced his had pancreatic cancer. Griffith’s father then passed away just 30 days after his first grandchild was born.
Shortly after, the Great Recession hit, causing sales to drop and leading to more stress on the Griffiths.Give to receive
In the late 2000s, Griffith was determined to boost business, and following a Chamber of Greater Springfield meeting he says he realized how important social media would become to spreading the word about Lee’s.
During this slow time, Griffith says they also realized the importance of the catering side of their business.
He credits Kim with taking the lead on catering. She tripled the catering business and built consistency among all their stores, which she was then able to share to help build consistency with catering across the Lee’s brand.
In an effort to drum up more business overall, Griffith says he decided to throw himself into the communities in which they served.
Griffith says through community service and networking, he was able to help people see Lee’s not only as a place to stop for lunch, but also as a place to choose to cater their next event or even an upcoming wedding.
“We were in four counties, and I put my hand up to do community things everywhere,” Griffith says. “We agreed I would spend half my time doing community work, but gusts of 100% community work were happening a lot of the time.”
He says he’s thankful for the leadership and 160 employees within his local Lee’s stores, without whom he says he would not have been able to spend so much time out among local communities.
By 2017, Griffith says his commitments had reached a high, where he was agreeing to be involved in more than 30 community organizations and events.
“I did too much. I spread myself too thin,” he says.
But, Griffith doesn’t regret his involvements. He says by jumping in, he found other community leaders “who were driven to change our world one ministry at a time.”
He decided to find a focus on specific pillars of service both he as an individual and his business would be committed to serve.
“We had to really boil it down to find how I go from 'yes, yes, yes,' to finding focus. We decided to focus on kids, boys, men, the needy, jobs, and community – even narrowed down, that’s a pretty big list still,” he says.
Shortly thereafter, Griffith says he helped found a local chapter of the organization Business Network International (BNI), whose mission states “givers gain.”
He says his focus was reaffirmed among BNI’s mission, the Golden Rule, and a Zig Ziglar quote: “You can have anything you want in this life if you will just help other people get what they want.”
“That has been the foundation of the reason I would do things. Not to immediately close a sale, but to plant a see or build a relationship that someday people might need us and look favorably on us to use us,” Griffith says.
Community investment and return
Though Griffith and his businesses have donated and supported local organizations and initiatives monetarily through the years, his greater investment could easily be attributed to the time and energy he’s given.
Supporting local school fundraisers, mentoring students, supporting local developmental disabilities initiatives, contributing to a men’s ministry, and serving The Salvation Army are just the tip of the iceberg for Griffith.
“We’ve found that having a servant’s heart is key to being in this business,” he says.
As local leader, he is dedicated to not only seeing his own business grow and succeed, but also to seeing local individuals, other businesses, and area communities as a whole thrive.
When Griffith – whose Lee’s office is based in New Carlisle – started sensing that businesses on the West side of Clark County felt disconnected from other areas of the county, he helped created the Western Clark County Business Association, now known as the Gateway Business Group. The organization has worked to connect many of the almost 400 small businesses in western Clark county through mentoring, networking events, and educational gatherings.
“One of our old owners used to say, ‘Just don’t block our driveway, and we’ll get our share,’” Griffith says, speaking about his belief that community business growth helps all the businesses in an area rather than causing them to compete against one another. “We’re confident that in doing what we do, we’ll get our share.”Life after Lee’s
It would likely be difficult for Griffith to count the number of pieces of chicken he’s sold to customers through his 48 years in business and 28 years as a Lee’s owner.
But, he is very clear on his community-minded background and on where his future takes him from here.
At 65, Griffith says he and Kim and looking toward retirement. With a home in New Carlisle, they’re committed to continuing their service work throughout Clark County long after their days at Lee’s have passed.
“At some point, when we exit this, we’ll definitely stay active in the community,” he says.
Griffith doesn’t have an exact timeline, but he’s started putting plans in place to take a step back from the work he’s dedicated so much of his life to.
He’s looking forward to spending time with his family – Kim, their sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren.
In the meantime, however, Griffith will continue doing his best at the job that has kept him happy and connected all these years.
“In my testimony words, I say, ‘God already knows what your plan is, and it’s just up to you to figure it out.’”