Novak Talks Talent, Culture and Growth at “What’s Brewing”

Taking people with youThere are thousands of make-it-happen, problem-solving CEOs guiding businesses and influencing economies across the world with a variety of leadership styles. Our region is home to Chief Executive magazine’s “CEO of the Year,” David Novak, president and CEO of Yum! Brands Inc. Novak recently joined Business First publisher Tom Monahan and a group of local business leaders to discuss the importance of recognizing people, his dedication to creating a great corporate culture and being on the ground floor of global growth.

Attracting talent to Louisville is not an issue for Yum! Brands. According to Novak, “You can get great people if you have the right business, culture and leadership.” Novak says that people want to work for companies that have growth, recognized brands and a heart. He proudly noted that no other company has people like those who make up the team at Yum! “Our people are smart and nice, and that’s the key to our success,” Novak said. He personally coaches approximately 100 people in the company.

Yum! is known for its emphasis on public recognition and rewarding people. Novak’s office is covered with photos of people who have been recognized within the company. The special culture he built at KFC was one of the reasons Novak decided to keep the corporate headquarters for Yum! Brands (then Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc.) in Louisville when KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell spun off from PepsiCo in 1997. He wanted people to see the example that KFC was setting for the rest of the world. “It works everywhere,” he said, “and people told me it wouldn’t.”

Yum! executives made another key decision in 1997 to focus on international growth, and it has paid off. Emerging markets currently make up 60 percent of the company’s profits. With business booming in countries like China, India and Russia and 600 stores in Africa, Novak stressed the importance of local talent and the huge opportunities that exist in international markets. “We are so global, we think we can teach others,” Novak said. “We want to be the defining company for how you do that.”

Novak recently released a new book entitled, Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen, to teach others his approach to leading a great organization. All of the proceeds from the book go to the United Nations World Food Programme as part of Yum!’s commitment to fight world hunger. The company has raised $120 million in the last 10 years for its hunger relief effort, including $10 million locally for the Dare to Care Food Bank.

Be sure to get the full story on Novak’s one-on-one with Tom Monahan in the Septemeber 14 issue of Busines First.

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