The Education Of An Accidental CEO: Lessons Learned From the Trailer Park To The Corner Office, by David Novak, read by Howard Ross
I have to admit that this was an appealing audiobook even if the author is more than a bit heavy on the sales and marketing side and is in full command of many cliches. Despite not knowing the author’s name beforehand, the author’s winsome persona and his skill in telling compelling stories about business life certainly won me over. Also, I am fond of the restaurants he was in charge of , so that matters a lot. While there is a great deal I liked about this book, though, I do feel it necessary to point out that the author’s claims to begin his life in the trailer park deserve an asterisk and some explanation as he does explain what he means in the book, pointing out that it was not due to poverty but due to his father’s work for the government. This aside, though, the book is definitely full of useful insight and the author is very candid about his own life and decisions and some of his characteristic short-sightedness when it comes to matters of career ambition.
The audiobook itself is six discs, symbolic of the fact that this is a short book that it would likely be possible to read in a couple of hours (but which required about 7 hours or so to listen to over the course of my commute). Most of the story consists of a generally chronological story (with a fair amount of foreshadowing) about how the author spent his early childhood and preteen years being the new kid in school having to make friends easily, and then moving on to an academic career and the search for work that included selling encyclopedias and moving from the advertising agency world to years at Pepsi working his way up as an advertising executive making his reputation on giving recognition, moving over to operations as a way of rising higher given the cap on advancing from the marketing side alone. The author talks about his experiences as the man responsible for Crystal Pepsi and reveals plenty of his own foibles, while spending a lot of time praising the mentors he had that pushed him to advance and grow and improve. I like the fact that at the end he talks about his efforts at education and training as well as providing an answer to frequently asked questions about his life and his company and his troubled relationship with PETA.
The author is someone who is big on motivation, so your enjoyment of this book will depend in large part on your tolerance or enjoyment of people with a great deal of enthusiasm and a somewhat “loud” personality. Likewise, the author gives off every bit of sincerity when it comes to an appreciation of the products of Yum Brands, talking about his own enjoyment of Pepsi products as well as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC in particular. He shares his knowledge and appreciation of company history and his concern for recognition, as well as his deep interest in reading what others have had to say about leadership and learning from those who have gone before as well as his franchisees. In fact, the author’s appreciation for those who own and run restaurant franchisees likely helped him to be a very popular CEO with those important parts of his business, and perhaps contributed to his longevity as a CEO. Seriously, though, this book is worth the time/cost for the jokes about rubber chickens and the story of how the author almost got fired by Pepsi, though, among its many other virtues.
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