The former CEO of Dollar General is eager to tell the story of how his father and his grandfather turned a small-town general store liquidation company into a massive part of the country’s retail landscape.
On Tuesday, Cal Turner Jr., who served as Dollar General’s president and CEO from 1977 to 2003, will speak at SKyPAC to promote his new book, “My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company.”
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and tickets for the event can be ordered online at theskypac.com.
Turner Jr. said he was originally hesitant to write a book, though Rob Simbeck – the ghostwriter for Turner’s first book, “Led To Follow: Leadership Lessons from an Improbable Pastor and a Reluctant CEO,” and who also co-wrote the new book – convinced him to work on a book that examined the development of the business from a more personal perspective.
“I was motivated to pay back all the wonderful mentors I’ve had in my career in a way that might possibly mentor the reader,” he said.
According to Turner Jr., the book focuses a great deal on Dollar General in its pre-Fortune 500 days, seen through the lens of family members in Scottsville working with and learning from each other.
“The book is about many things,” he said. “It’s about a struggling family business that went from entrepreneurial chaos to Fortune 500 status and that I consider to be worth sharing, and I wanted to share it from the heart instead of the head.”
Turner Jr. noted that his grandfather James Luther Turner, the original founder of J.L. Turner and Son, which would become Dollar General, figured other people were smarter than him because he only had a third-grade education. Therefore he was determined to learn something from everyone he met.
“He was a man with a work ethic that was second to none and a determination to learn from others,” he said.
Cal Turner Sr., was full of love and encouragement, Turner Jr. said.
“Cal Turner Sr. believed in Cal Turner Jr., which positioned me to trying my darnedest to live up to his expectations,” he said.
“He was wonderful and he will always be the real Cal Turner.”
Though the book’s title references Cal Turner Sr., Turner Jr. wanted to make sure the women in his life were recognized as well.
“I learned business from men. I learned leadership from women,” he said. “My mom taught me to value how I was connecting with others. That is vital for leadership.”
Ultimately, Turner Jr. believes Dollar General’s success stems from its origins as a small-town business and its commitment, even without a Turner at the helm, to smaller communities across the country.
“Small towns offer more of a human connection with others and today Dollar General is largely a small-town retailer,” he said.
Seeing his father’s and grandfather’s work with the company informed Turner Jr. of the need to keep those same small-town values at the heart of the company, he said.
“I think the planning and the strategy of Dollar General has been based on the customer, not the competition,” he said. “Dollar General has pride to stay true to its uniqueness.”