Yum CEO's Advice for Entrepreneurs

During Small Business Week in May, FOXBusiness.com is running a special Growing Your Business series. Here is expert advice and insight for entrepreneurs from Greg Creed, chief executive officer of Yum! Brands. 

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“My favorite principle is ‘believe in all people and be your true self,’” said Greg Creed, chief executive officer of Yum! Brands. “I firmly believe we will all perform at our best when we are authentic, and the organization will be most successful when each and every person can be his or her true self.” 

Creed’s leadership ideals help set the tone at Yum, where he brings more than 30 years of experience in packaged goods and restaurant brand marketing and operations to the table. He has worked for Yum! Brands for two decades, and he now leads the company’s strategies, structures, “people development” and culture worldwide. Yum operates nearly 43,000 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants in 130 countries and is opening more than six new restaurants outside of the United States every day. 

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What are your top tips for small business owners and entrepreneurs?

Creed: Leverage culture to fuel results. What got you here won’t always get you there. And less is more. 

FOXBUSINESS.COM: How can less be more?

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Creed: Some business owners ... believe that in order to grow, they have to add more things onto whatever the idea is. When you have less, the real identity of your product or service is clearer to the customer. ... I visited Apple in the Steve Jobs era while I was president of Taco Bell and showed some people the latest restaurant design at the time. Their comment was that we had too much going on and had lost the brand’s essence. As a result, we took a step back and simplified Taco Bell’s restaurant design and other elements so our customers would have a clearer view of our brand. 

FOXBUSINESS.COM: And what about understanding that what got you here won’t always get you there?

Creed: People sometimes fall into the trap of repeating past decisions. Yet we’re all worked in situations that require us to think differently and make decisions we’ve never had to make before. If you believe what you’ve always done in the past will deliver results, your business is more likely to underperform or become irrelevant to your customers. Sometimes you have to make courageous decisions and go where you’ve never been to set your business up for the future. At YUM, this concept is more relevant than ever as we undertake the separation of our China business in order to create two powerful, independent, focused growth companies by the end of this year – Yum! China and Yum! Brands. We came to this decision by embracing radically new thinking about our business and concluded that a separation transaction provides the right corporate structure to unlock significant value for our shareholders. 

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What is one piece of advice entrepreneurs and small business owners should keep in mind every day?

Creed: Leaders must define reality and offer hope. You have to define what is truly happening around you, not the reality you or your employees want it to be. Be honest and transparent with your employees about the state of your business, which in some instances, requires a lot of courage. However, you also have to offer the hope that through your culture, strategy and structure, you can deliver the growth potential of whatever business you’re running. 

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What is one of the biggest mistakes you see small business owners making, and how could they address this error?

Creed: From a leadership standpoint, a lot of leaders are good at telling people what they want and how they want it, but they don’t tell people why. My experience has shown leaders who share more of the why build an amazing emotional connection with employees, who in turn deliver amazing results. I’m convinced that if you’re clear on what the objective is, spend all your time on why and avoid telling people how, you’ll get a better outcome. 

FOXBUSINESS.COM: If you could recommend one book to a small business owner or entrepreneur, what would it be and why?

Creeed: “It’s Your Ship” by Michael Abrashoff is a story about how he took command of his first warship, the USS Benfold. Within months, Abrashoff transformed the underperforming ship with a dysfunctional crew into one of the best in the U.S. Navy. There are very simple yet powerful management principles in the book that can apply to any leader or business. Without the option to change his crew, Abrashoff knew first he had to improve his own leadership skills before he could improve his ship. He spent time getting to know each of his 300 crew members, built an emotional connection with them and ultimately created an empowered team of problem-solvers.

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