“I love it at Zaxby's. I have a really good relationship with my coworkers. We take care of each other. It's like a working family.”
Family is something Knight didn’t always have. In and out of foster care from the time he was six months old, Zaxby’s number one mix master says that he didn’t let that stop him from making something of himself.
“I spent my whole life fighting to get back with the people I knew as my parents. It took me until I was 16. My birth mother wouldn’t let me play sports, wouldn’t let me join the band. I had to sneak around [to do those things]. I got lots of whoopins, but I used to write poetry and that’s how I got into rap.”
Knight’s attitude and ambition eventually got him a gig in front of 300 Zaxby’s licensees.
“Before I wrote Bring Your A Game, I wrote a song called Zaxby’s Forever,” says Knight. “It started off kind of joking. I was at work one day and there were some guys that rap and I was like ‘we should write a rap about Zaxby's.’ They never wrote their verses, so I ended up doing it.”
The next thing he knew, Knight was face to face at the Zaxby’s conference with bestselling author and speaker, Eric Chester. Chester was impressed.
“I was caught completely off guard by Mardy,” says Chester. “He came up to me after my keynote and told me he wanted to write a rap song about what I had said. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he was really enthusiastic and the more we spoke, the more I thought ‘Wow, this kid really gets it.’”
According to the most recent data on the subject of work ethic, Chester had reason to be surprised. A 2010 Pew Research Study found that Millennials were the only group that did not cite a strong work ethic as a distinguishing trait of their generation. A strong majority of Millenials also agreed that previous generations had better work ethic.
John Howell, Knight’s General Manager, says that Knight is definitely the exception to the rule. “Mardy is an excellent employee. He’s the type of person you want every employee to be like. When dealing with other employees we really use him as an example for everybody.”
Chester says that what seems to come naturally to Knight needs to be taught to others. That’s why he developed The A Game program. “As a nation, we’ve let our work ethic slip through the cracks. Developing work ethic values might seem like we’re trying to bottle lightning. But with young people like Mardy Mar carrying the torch I think we’ve got a fighting chance.”
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The A Game is a national workplace initiative that aims to instill work ethic in teens and young adults by working with schools, employers, workforce centers, and parents. Books, DVDs, lesson plans, and certifications are available at www.theAgame.com.