When Jim Morgan felt a call from God four years ago, it wasn’t to the pulpit. It was, he says, to lead Krispy Kreme from the brink of financial ruin.
The North Carolina-based doughnut maker was millions of dollars in debt and had seen its stock tumble in six years to just more than $1 a share in 2009 from a high of near $50 in 2003.
Morgan, a retired banking and securities executive, was living the good life with no desire to take on such a massive project, he told a group at a business luncheon Thursday at Columbia International University in north Columbia.
But as he and his wife considered it and prayed about it, Morgan said they both felt the calling.
“I went in blind faith,” he said.
Since then, the company has become profitable again. Its stock is trading generally above $8 a share, and it is expanding globally. Krispy Kreme has opened three new shops in the Columbia area alone in the past three years and 70 internationally.
Morgan – a Greenville native – says he did it by putting God at the head of the company, bringing in the right people to make smart business decisions and treating employees the way he would want to be treated. It didn’t hurt that he had a well-known and beloved product, he said, in Krispy Kreme’s signature glazed doughnut that customers can watch being made along conveyer belts in its stores.
One of the first things Morgan did when he took the helm was give all employees four free days off of work during the summer to be used to promote faith, family or community. That and other small changes opened the door to a culture change at the company, including Bible studies in the break room and devotionals in the dining area. All were ideas of employees, he said, who felt free to bring their faith – Christian or otherwise – into the workplace.
“They no longer had to leave their faith on the doorstep,” he said.
The employees felt valued, he said, and wanted to be a part of the company’s success.
Morgan’s team also restructured Krispy Kreme’s growth plan.
As the company boomed a decade ago, it began expanding aggressively, building massive stores that turned out to be too big to be profitable. “We got ahead of ourselves,” he said.
The new plan is to build smaller community stores, such as the ones in Lexington, Northeast Richland and on Garners Ferry Road.
The company had to take off its running shoes, Morgan said, and learn to crawl again before it could walk. “We may never run again,” he said, smiling.
Meanwhile, they’ll keep the conveyer belts rolling and cranking out those little drops of heaven.