3 Reasons I Love Kat Cole (And Can't Wait to See Her at WorkHuman 2019)

October 18, 2018 Sarah Mulcahy

Kat ColeToday we are thrilled to announce our newest keynote speaker at WorkHuman 2019 is inspirational business executive Kat Cole, COO and president of FOCUS Brands North America.

If you’re not familiar with FOCUS Brands, it’s the parent company behind Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Moe’s, Schlotzky’s, McAlister’s Deli, and the recently acquired Jamba Juice. And if you’re not familiar with Kat, you’re in for a treat.

She will share her personal leadership lessons in hustle and heart, learned over the course of her career, from her beginnings as a restaurant hostess at 17 in Jacksonville, Fla., to her ascension to president of a multibillion-dollar business.

Here are three reasons why I admire Kat Cole – and I think you will, too.

1/ The Hotshot Rule

How do chains like Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s thrive even as malls struggle? When Kat was president of Cinnabon, every quarter she would apply what she calls the “hotshot rule.” It’s an introspective process of asking herself if a hotshot were to take over her role tomorrow, what is one thing they would do differently? What would they find unacceptable? She then asks, “Why can’t that be me?” Applying this rule, Kat helped the company grow sales globally at the tail end of the recession, increase profits for franchisees, and build a multi-channel ecosystem, all while strengthening the brand. She shares how she even applies the hotshot rule in her personal life, to her role as a wife and mother.

2/ #hustlemuscle

“Great leaders have the courage to say ‘yes’ before they’re ready but have the #hustlemuscle to finish and deliver,” says Kat. Confidence is great, but #hustlemuscle is about getting the job done, even when you have to figure it out along the way. Kat’s #hustlemuscle moment was when she was working at Hooters at 19 years old to put herself through college. Having worked every job in the restaurant – waitressing, bartending, training new employees – she was invited to join a team that would open the first Hooters in Australia, even though she had never been on a plane and didn’t even own a passport. She took the risk, figured it out, and the rest is history.

3/ Working Mom Life

Kat and I both became new moms last year, and I love her perspective on managing time at work with parenting. She told CNBC her work style has changed. She wants “fewer meetings … get it down to as short as it can be, stand-up huddles, whatever we can do to help people just be focusing on the business. And when you’re not in the business, go be with your family.” The same goes for her team, too. “I hope what the teams would say is I've shown a greater degree of progressiveness and flexibility in being a more family-friendly culture. It was good before, but I hope it's showing up to a greater degree.”

As leader of a multibillion-dollar, multibrand, and multichannel company, Kat knows the challenges businesses face with demographic and technology shifts, competitive threats, and continuously evolving consumer preferences. At WorkHuman 2019 (March 18-21) she’ll share how hustle, heart, grit, resilience, and empathy are key ingredients to decision-making, risk-taking, and culture-building.

Register today to reserve your spot and learn more from Kat on building stronger teams and finding leaders that can iterate and adapt more quickly – even in traditional slow or mature industries.

About the Author

Sarah Mulcahy

Sarah is senior content marketing manager at Workhuman. When not writing and reading about all things culture, leadership, recognition, and appreciation, she enjoys iced coffee, running, and spending time with her daughters, Mabel and Eva.

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