AIB Featured Business Leader Kat Cole

AIB Featured Business Leader  Kat Cole


Kat Cole, President of the American-born sweet indulgence franchise Cinnabon Inc, may not be a businessperson you’ve heard of before, however she has much to share. At only 36 years of age, she has climbed her way to the top, from an operations role to high profile corporate positions. Growing up in Florida, USA, she started her career during high school when working for Hooters Restaurants. Working in a number of operations based positions, at the age of 19 she was recommended by her manager as the Jacksonville franchise’s best employee, and “was sent to Sydney to train and motivate the new owners and employees at the opening of the first Hooters in Australia”.

After some time in the operations role, Cole was offered to move into a corporate role at Hooters’ head office. At the time, her operations role was earning her $45,000 per year, whilst the corporate role offered her only $22,000. Despite the significant pay decrease, Cole saw this as her foot in the door. This decision alone highlights her positive outlook as a worker, which has shaped her career as a leader. They say that sometimes you have to take one step backwards, in order to take two steps forwards, and Cole did exactly that.

In the corporate office, Cole managed to rise through the ranks exceptionally fast, allowing her to become an Executive Vice President by the age of 26. She quickly realised however, that in order to take the next step in her career, she required an MBA. Without a Bachelor’s degree, she successfully enrolled and completed the Executive MBA program at Georgia State. In 2011 she joined Cinnabon as the Chief Operations Officer, and in only a few short months was then promoted to the role of President. Many have commented on her success, highlighting that it was Cole’s ability to relate to people on a more personalised and empathetic level that has made her so successful. When asked by the Huffington Post to comment on this, she explained that working her way up from an entry level role has made her “level of empathy, gratitude and respect for every position in the company incredibly high”. She also added that it has shaped her leadership style into one which is “grateful, inclusive, collaborative and rooted in operations”.

What makes us admire Cole’s career is not what she has achieved at such a young age – it is her attitude towards business. She shows us that success in an executive role is completely possible with a compassionate and caring attitude. Business does not always have to be so ruthless, and taking the time to understand your people and operations can do the world of good for your organisation. Among her obvious successes, Cole has also been the recipient of a number of awards such as the 2008 Motivator of the Year Award from the Elliot Leadership Institute.

It is clear that many lessons can be taken away from the career and attitude of Kat Cole, but I am curious which point stood out to you most about her career? Was it the fact an MBA was necessary to progress, or perhaps her empathetic attitude towards leadership? Let me know what you think by commenting below.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to complete this article:  Cinnabon http://www.cinnabon.com/about-us/management.aspx , Entrepreneur http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227970 , Huffington Post, Wikipedia

Image credit: CBS 

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