You’ve probably seen his name around town. “E. Carroll Joyner” headlines the visitor center at N.C. State University, a 92-acre park in Louisburg dedicated to his daughter and a 117-acre park in Wake Forest.
The longtime Raleigh resident is a 1956 graduate of N.C. State with an undergraduate degree in animal husbandry, but he made his fortune as an early investor in the Golden Corral restaurant chain. Since then, he’s received a slew of other accolades, including an honorary doctorate from N.C. State and the school’s Watauga Medal honoring those who made significant contributions to the university’s advancement.
Joyner, 78, bought the old Wake Forest Golf & Country Club this month, though he’s not a golf man himself and has no plans to reopen it as a golf course.
Staff writer Chelsea Kellner spoke to Joyner last week about the golf course and how to succeed in business. Responses have been edited for length.
Q: Do you have plans for the golf course?
They say they want open space there. I said if you do, we’ll let the weeds grow. I’m not in the golf course business. I’m the kind of guy that can give them open space if they want it, though. If I can’t make things better, I won’t make them worse.
Q: Why did you decide to buy the golf course?
That would be personal.
Q: Fair enough. Are you much of an outdoorsman yourself?
I was brought up on a little farm down east, a 29-acre produce farm. We farmed with a mule and a half. You’re probably asking yourself how that’s possible – my uncle owned the other half the mule. I asked my daddy one time why in the world can’t we own all two mules. He said, “Carroll, the other half the mule eats corn I can feed to the hogs so we can eat in the winter.”
I ain’t kin to nobody up here. The only reason I ended up here was that State let me wash dishes for a third of my meals.
Q: What’s your philosophy of life?
I live Christmas every day. If somebody says, well, I know you have a few bad days sometimes, I say I sure do. Then my goal is to have two Christmases the next day. If you ever see me not smiling, I don’t know how you’re going to see me, because I make sure I smile. And of course you’re going to have some bad, and I’m looking for some bad, you know why? I don’t want to be perfect. It’s too hard to be perfect. It makes life too hard, because the next day, they’d want you to be perfect, too.
I also have three rules I live by: I don’t cheat, I don’t lie, and I have integrity.
Q: Is that the best way to succeed in business?
I live by a business rule I call one through 10. I don’t work on problems three or four until I have problems one and two solved. I don’t want to waste my time. I have another philosophy about time, you know what it is?
Q: What is it?
I’m a fairly smart businessman, not the best out there, but I can make some more money next year. But 24 hours is 24 hours. I can’t buy that. I live with the philosophy that time is more important than money.