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Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, on Her Rise to the Top and Working for An Innovative Company

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LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth spoke with Cinnabon President Kat Cole about the company's success, her rise to the top, and more.

Excerpts from the interview:
"For me, I dropped out of college because I had an immediate opportunity to follow my passion, which had become opening businesses worldwide working with Hooters Restaurants. So I had a reason for leaving. I had something that compelled me to go forward. I always intended to go back. I just never have, because I stayed busy and continued to move up.

"So when people ask me for counsel I ask them very similar questions about their path. If you didn't finish college what would you do? Do you have something that you're just have that fire in the belly to go after? 'Cause you're gonna need it if you don't have the doors opening for you without a degree."

"Some people have more money, more access, more relationships, more education, more gut, more drive, more energy, more passion, more—you know, more commitment to work. So whatever you lack—for me I lacked pedigree, formal education. My resume was not great. You know, single mother, alcoholic father. Dropped out of college and worked for Hooters my whole life. There's nothing about that on paper that makes me a very attractive business candidate.

"But I knew from my real world experience that if you gave me a team or gave me a company I am a sure bet to serve them and build a business. So I was so aware of what elements of my variables were low and so I used the other ones and turned them up. My ability to communicate. My ability to lead and learn."

"On the hiring side you do the best you can to hire for attitude and culture fit, because you can always train skill. It's very hard to train attitude and culture fit. So that's the hiring approach. On the firing side, really our obligation is to give someone every chance they can possibly have.

If we brought them on board and saw something in them, we saw the merit, the ability and the potential to do the job, then we should give them the resources, the coaching and the honest feedback of when they're not doing well and really celebrating them as a rock star when they are."

On opening in Sochi:
"So we have a secret to our success that most retailers do not have access to and that is the fact that we are a part of of Focus Brands and Focus Brands International. It's not just Cinnabon. It's the infrastructure, the leadership and the expertise that comes really from our conglomerate of brands.

We had so many questions about how we showed up in Sochi. And the real answer was that we had been in Russia, over 100 locations that opened in under three years, for just a couple of years, but we really had the developed infrastructure to open."

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