He turned around companies by first ‘getting his hands dirty’
Posted: August 12, 2011
6:14 pm Eastern
As Republican voters evaluate their field of presidential hopefuls, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney usually comes to mind first when the topic is business management experience.
"I’ve not only run small businesses and medium-size businesses, saved businesses and started businesses, I’ve actually made the sandwiches and made the pizzas," Cain told "The Savage Nation" listening audience today.
Acknowledging that Romney ran financial investment firms, Savage said Cain, nevertheless, is the only candidate he’s aware of "who produced a product or service that is of any value whatsoever."
"In terms of a product, I’ll take a pizza over a fiduciary instrument any day," Savage quipped.
Cain told Savage he tossed pizzas at Godfather’s before running the company and flipped Whoppers at Burger King before taking charge of 450 of the chain’s restaurants in the Philadelphia area, transforming his region from Burger King’s least profitable to its best within three years.
At Godfather’s, he returned the company to profitability within 14 months.
"My philosophy, whenever I took over a new business, was to learn how that business works from the most fundamental, basic level," said Cain, who served as chairman of the board of directors to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in the 1990s.
Cain noted that he went through training at Burger King to learn how to prepare the companies’ products then ran a local franchise after he already had been a vice president at Pillsbury.
"I said if I’m making decisions out of my executive office, I’d know what I was talking about," Cain said.
"My philosophy is just real simple," he explained. "If you want to know how to solve a problem, or you want to better understand a business, get down and get your hands dirty and do it for a while."
Born in Memphis, Cain said his humble beginnings enable him to relate to people who are suffering from the poor economy.
"My mom was a domestic worker and my dad was a chauffeur, and he held jobs that he needed to do in order to get by," Cain said.
Cain was one of the first in his family to graduate from college, earning a degree in mathematics from Morehouse College.
He put his mathematical ability to work immediately out of college, landing a job at the Department of the Navy, where he served for six years as a fire-control systems ballistics analyst.
He earned a Master’s degree in computer science from Purdue University while working full time for the Navy.
He then went to the corporate world, beginning with Coca Cola then moving to Pillsbury, where he worked his way up the ladder to vice president. After Burger King, Pillsbury appointed him CEO and president of Godfather’s Pizza. He later bought the company from Pillsbury with a group of investors and continued as CEO until 1996 when he resigned to become CEO of the National Restaurant Association, which represents the nation’s second largest group of employees, next to the government.
The American dream and then some
"I never wanted to run for president," he said. "This wasn’t a lifelong dream."
But he said he believes he has a responsibility to fulfill.
"I have done this because this country has been good to me, and from my humble beginnings I have been able to achieve my American Dream and then some," he said.
Cain said he also is concerned about the future for his three grandchildren.
"And I’m thinking about all of the other faces out there, and what are we going to leave to them?"
Cain directed voters to his website to find out who he is, noting he got little attention at the televised Republican debate Thursday night in Ames, Iowa.
He was on camera "front and center" for only about seven and a half minutes, he said, "because they were more interested in creating cat fights between some of the candidates than allowing the American people to learn something about what you would do."