Leaders Making a Difference: Frank Carney

By Ron Whitaker

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Great leaders that are making a difference in their community are interesting to watch and amazing to learn from. The leadership qualities of Frank Carney, the Pizza Hut co-founder, and business legend, made a difference in the way I thought about business and personal growth. And it only cost me an afternoon and $20!

Back in the late eighties, the Wichita Chamber of Commerce had a Leadership Skills seminar series where successful local business people were invited to speak, give back to the community, and make a difference.

Frank Carney was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at one of those events.

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As you can imagine, when the day came around, and it was Frank’s turn to be the speaker, the place was packed to the standing room only. And there were a lot of people standing. Frank, being the charismatic and energetic business leader he is, drew the biggest crowd ever. Everybody was there.

At that time, I was a young businessman that had just sold one business and started another and was hungry for any “get ahead” information I could get my hands on. Needless to say, I was one of the first people to arrive for the seminar to make sure I had my choice of seats. There was a line so I was in the third-row center. Good seat!

Frank Carney

Cool, Calm, and Collected

As Frank came up to the podium, I noticed how calm and poised he was. If he was nervous, it didn’t show. With a big grin on his face, he began an hour-long speech – without any notes!

Frank knew what he wanted to get across to everyone facing him:

  • I’m just a regular guy who worked smart and made some LUCK.
    Frank and his brother Dan borrowed $600 in 1958 to open a pizza store at the university. Along the way, they built an international company.
  • L.U.C.K. means – Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.
    When you work hard and smart, you get lucky. To build a successful, growing company, you need all the luck you can get.
  • If I can do it, anyone can.
    I’m not special, smarter, or more worthy. We just happened to get more things right than wrong.
  • Either you are growing or dying – there is no in-between.
    This is a pivotal concept and the most profound to me at the time. To me, it meant that you should never stop reaching, learning, or trying because as soon as you quit showing up, you start dying!
  • It is better to be a franchisee than a franchiser.
    Frank had just sold a chain of Margaritas restaurants for 32 million dollars – a huge profit on his investment. In a few short years, he made more money as a franchisee than the same time and effort he had put in at Pizza Hut.
Frank Carney making a difference

The Unspoken Leadership Lessons

The first four concepts above impacted me immeasurably. Over the years, I have thought back to these leadership lessons countless times. But the leadership lessons Frank taught through his speech weren’t all I learned that day. I also learned through his unspoken, leading by example that:

  • People with a lot of money are, for the most part, like everybody else. They have successes, failures, insecurities, and problems too.
  • Success at any level is fun! Success is a journey with seemingly insurmountable obstacles thrown in the way just to keep you focused and make the journey interesting.
  • Wealth comes with great responsibility. Being a good steward goes hand in hand with the rewards success can bring. Giving back to the community and making a difference is a privilege.
  • Being humbled by success and treating everyone with respect attracts more success.
  • Sharing your knowledge with others is what great leaders do.

I remember this event like it was yesterday because it had so much impact on my life.

What similar events have you had that influenced you to be a better leader?

Which Leaders Are Making a Difference?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Ron Whitaker
Ron Whitaker
Ron is an accomplished entrepreneur involved in developing multiple businesses from the ground up. He is the co-founder of About Leaders, an author, a start-up consultant, and investor. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
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