David Novak - Reinventing Recognition

In this episode, David C. Novak former CEO of Yum! Brands (a/k/a Pizza Hut/KFC/Taco Bell) talks with Steve, Mary and the crew about his amazing journey from ad agencies and being a front desk clerk to becoming CEO of the largest franchise company in the world.

Listen in as he shares how $5MM annually is not only justifiable compensation but, also, that the fast food industry provides ordinary people with a REAL opportunity to create a solid career and earn good money (even if they start out at $10 an hour).

Born in Beeville, Texas, David C. Novak lived a nomadic childhood. His father worked for mapmakers, marking latitudes and longitudes. That meant every three months, the family would move to the next town. They lived in a 40 foot trailer that they moved from town to town and had lived in 32 trailer parks in 23 states by the time he hit seventh grade. He now lives with his wife, Wendy, in Louisville, Kentucky.

David graduated from the University of Missouri in 1974 and was the first person in his family to get a college education. His degree was in journalism with a major in advertising. When he married Wendy after graduation, he had only $19 in the bank and took a job in an advertising agency during the day while working at Holiday Inn at night as a desk clerk.  As his career progressed, David worked at Ketchum, working on the Heinz account, and then on to Tracy Locke where he worked on PepsiCo, Frito-Lay and Doritos accounts, where he soon worked his way up, from Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo’s Pizza Hut to Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales of Pepsi-Cola, then COO of Pepsi-Cola, CEO of KFC US and later became CEO of both KFC and Pizza Hut US. He became Vice Chairman and President of Yum! Brands in 1997 when PepsiCo spun off KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell and was promoted to CEO in 1999, then Chairman in 2000. In 2015, he became Executive Chairman.

A recipient of the 2015 Horatio Alger Award, David was also named 2012 CEO of the year by Chief Executive magazine, one of the Top People in Business by FORTUNE and one of the 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World by Harvard Business Review. He is also devoted to personally training leadership skills to the Yum! brand company’s management and franchises with his Taking People With You program, which emphasizes teamwork and a belief in people that rewards and recognizes customer-focused behavior. His book, TAKING PEOPLE WITH YOU: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller. He donates ALL of his proceeds from the book and the proceeds of his autobiography, THE EDUCATION OF AN ACCIDENTAL CEO: Lessons Learned from the Trailer Park to the Corner Office, in addition to speaking engagement fees to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), raising close to $2 million for hunger relief. He is on the Board of WFP USA and is a recipient of the 2012 UN World Food Program Leadership Award and the 2008 Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship.

In addition to his contributions to fight against world hunger, David and Wendy established the Lift a Life Foundation in 1999, which has helped thousands in need, and founded the Wendy L. Novak Juvenile Diabetes Center in Louisville. In 2012, together with USA TODAY Charitable Foundation, Lift a Life Foundation launched Lead2Feed World Hunger Leadership Challenge, which encourages middle and high school students to hone their leadership skills using principles from TAKING PEOPLE WITH YOU.  An amazing program that has had nearly half a million students participate for a chance to win $250,000 in prize money grants for U.S. public charities that are engaged in hunger relief programs.


In This Episode

1 – Yum! Brands Is Still The Largest Franchise; Why David Flies Southwest Airlines; Why The Fast Food Industry Is The Most Maligned In Our Country
2 – Minimum Wage Positions And Growth In The Fast Food Industry; Love Helping Others Achieve Their Potential; Global Recognition Deficit
3 – Recognition Is What People Want & Love; The Unsatisfied Need For Recognition; You Can Make Or Break People’s Day By The Way You Treat Them

Resources Mentioned

Previously On Reinvention Radio

Reinventing New Media – In this episode Alex Blumberg chats with Steve and Mary about his life, career and how every great story starts with listening.