Four Ways to Win

Yum! Brands’ David Novak

Yum! Brands’ David Novak

Yum! Brands’ David Novak has a secret for staying on his leadership toes: the “hot-shot-replaces-me” scenario. “I think, ‘If someone replaced me tomorrow, what would he or she do?’” explains the CEO of the world’s largest restaurant company, which encompasses the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands. “Since I like my job, why don’t I do it first?”

Results suggest his method is effective. During his tenure as CEO, the $11 billion company has flourished, reporting 13 percent-plus earnings per share growth for each of the last nine years. Novak has also spearheaded global growth; approximately 75 percent of the company’s profits now come from outside the U.S. versus 20 percent in 1997. The firm is one of a handful of U.S. companies that have taken China by storm, in its case by leveraging brand expertise—intellectual property that local competitors can’t reverse engineer as they might a physical product.

In a recent meeting with Chief Executive, Novak, who penned the recent book, Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen, offered four tips to delivering growth.

Be Humble. “Recognize that nothing big gets done by you alone,” he says. “So you need to know who’s on your team the same way a marketer knows its target audience. Know your people cold. What’s in their heads? What are they thinking? And then you’ve got to say, ‘Okay, to take them with me to achieve this strategy, what perceptions or beliefs do I have to build, change or reinforce to get them to come along?”

Grow Yourself. “Never stop learning,” urges Novak, who points to John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach, as an example. “When he was winning national championships he met with and studied extra tall people and coaches of extra tall people. He was still focusing on growing himself. I think when you do that you’ll end up growing your business because you’ll be sharpening your skills and be able to apply that personal growth to growing your business.”

Wipe out “Not Invented Here” Syndrome. “Often when you have success, you get so insular that you don’t go outside and look to see what other people are doing,” he says. “I tell people one of the ways you get promoted in our company is to be a know-how builder, to get knowledge from other people and make yourself [and the company] smarter.”

Make Your Culture a Hero. “When we started our company, I had a chance to do a gigantic do-over, because we had been part of PepsiCo,” he explains. “So we looked at some of the best companies in the world at that time—Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target and Southwest Airlines. Every one of them said the key to their success was their culture. You want to make it clear what you value in your company and then recognize the people role-modeling that behavior. Then make culture the hero of all the good things that happen in your company. As a CEO, you have to be the culture champion.


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