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Kat Cole

Kat Cole – When You Share More You Allow Others To Lead

Dave Kerpen, chairman of Likeable Media hosted Kat Cole in the Likeable Business Club on Clubhouse. Powerful discussion about family, dealing with stress, self-care and more.

Kat Cole is the former President of Focus Brands, which includes such brands as Auntie Annes, Cinnabon, and more. She’s currently a board member of Human Co, Slice, and Milk Bar.


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MBA Without A College Degree

Kat dropped out of college and went to work for Hooters. She grew the business and only 13 years into being an executive at Hooters she did what few do – go into business school without a college degree.

She got the degree to prove to herself that she could do it and she’s glad she went to business school She learned business process, business terms, and more.

Covid & Restaurant  Challenges

Restaurants have always had problems such as limited cash flow and challenges in hiring.

Indeed automation is coming but it won’t replace a human workforce as fast as people think it might.

Customers want high-touch service and humans will be needed in the back end.

Apps for customer orders and other customer-facing applications will grow in use.

Clubhouse is Low Friction

Clubhouse is a powerful tool. It’s easy to use and offers a high degree of connectivity.

Kat also spoke about the challenges we all have as humans and as professionals.

We have macro challenges such as race, covid, political divides and then personal challenges.

How Has Kat Changed as a Person and As a Mother – Question from Randi Zuckerberg

Kat used to travel a lot and her children were used to it.

However, because of Covid she’s now home much more and enjoying time with her “babies”.

Mentorship the Kat Cole Way

Mentorship is important but not in the way you might think.

Kat has paid for mentors and had monthly calls and it was helpful, but not life-changing.

What she finds more helpful is “MINI-mentorships”.

Talking to people about specific needs and questions in short conversations – hence – “mini”.

Over time she’s gotten much more feedback and insights from these short conversations.

She often followed up with a thank you and found out that over time these mini sessions become more full-fledged and long term.

Age or Gender Discrimination

While Kat has faced gender discrimination she’s experienced more discrimination based on her age. Being a very young executive and having older executives uncomfortable with it.

As a 26-year-old executive vice president, she was many years younger than older executives.

She explained that she’s had to have “classy and sassy” conversations with executives to nicely put them in their place.

Hooters was filled with many women leaders at Hooters, in particular as they promoted from within, so there was less gender discrimination at Hooters than one might think.

In regard to gender discrimination, Kat had been accused of being a cheerleader. Maybe too bubbly? Too loud and “bouncy”?

Kat confronted the executive who fostered the accusation and then Kat embraced it and owned it.

Kat would never put up with people hurting the culture or the company.

Raising Privileged Children

Kat and her husband want to ensure they raise children that aren’t spoiled brats.

She wants to be sure they don’t get too comfortable with comfort. Her children should:

    1. Always be of service to others
    2. Not desire immediate gratification

Growing up, with a single mom, Kat was never taught about money or discipline and she was not close with her family.

Most Expensive Mistake?

When Kat was President of Cinnabon there was an issue that caused her to lose the trust of her franchises.

This caused a major battle with the franchisees, their lawyers, and Cinnabon the corporate office.

The franchises were told one thing but in the end, that’s not what was delivered.

Kat walked away, lost millions, and restored the trust of the franchises.

Sometime later, another opportunity came up – bigger and better – than the previous opportunity.

Because she built the trust of the franchises they gave her another chance.

Self Care and Balance

    1. Fitness and wellness are important.
    2. Spending time with loved ones is essential. Kat has a regular coffee with her husband and monthly check in’s.
    3. OFFENSE is important but also DEFENSE –  What to do and how do we care for ourselves when there is weight on us?
    4. Kat shared how she had a miscarriage in a hotel room while traveling. Leading when we have a heavy heart is a blog post you MUST read about how she dealt with this and with her team and professional life. 

      “When we experience pain or loss in close proximity to needing to be there for others, like work or parenting, I’ve learned to ask myself a few questions:Am I physically ok? (In this case, I called my Dr., and the answer was yes.
      Are you emotionally ok? (In this case, the answer was, no…but I can process this)
      Are you mentally ok? (In this case, the answer was, kinda)”

    5. She also explained that she told her team just enough information so they would not form their own conclusions during her time of needing some space to think and communicate with her husband.
    6. When we’re going through pain, it’s important to communicate with others so they know just enough to step up and lead and support you.

Will People Want To Go Back To Offices?

When the world opens up what happens to the work-life paradigm>

Kat acknowledges that there’s a whole sector of the world that didn’t change. Many people are in jobs that didn’t enable them to work from him and be on a video call all day. 

However, Kat explains that there will always be a group of people who are really talented who can write their own ticket and companies who are smart will cater to them.

Certain roles will benefit from some type of interaction and thus can’t be 100% working from home.

Kat fears that some companies will start promoting people disproportionately – those who are coming into the office. She warns companies to be careful about this.

Questions to jumpstart innovation


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