Cain, Herman 1945–

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Herman Cain 1945

Business executive

At a Glance


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Herman Cain has enjoyed a stellar career in the business world. He became the youngest vice president in the history of The Pillsbury Company in 1977 after just three years with the company. He left this position in 1982 to learn the restaurant business at Pillsburys Burger King subsidiary. In 1986, his success with Burger King prompted Pills-bury to select Cain to assume the presidency of another of its struggling companies, Godfathers Pizza. Finally, he became the first black president of the National Restaurant Association, the food service industrys leading trade organization.

When Cain started working at a Minneapolis Burger King in 1982, he cleaned toilets and flipped hamburgers. After completing the management training program in only nine months, Cain was named vice president and general manager for the Philadelphia region of the Burger King Corporation. Attaining this position was particularly special for Cain, considering that he and several friends were refused service in a restaurant in 1952 when they attempted to buy a hamburger.

Although there have been many reasons for Cains business success, he credits maintaining a sharp focus as a key component. The 1997 website for the Business Leadership Summit held at San Joaquín Delta College, Leadership Summit, Inc. stated, Faith, focus, and follow-through are the ingredients of the successful recipe of Herman Cain. Eric K. Washington in American Visions wrote, Cain credits a single overriding principle-focus, focus, focusfor his success. Cain told Wallace Terry in Parade Magazine, My philosophy has always been to exceed the expectations of the job. Responding to a question by Policy Review about establishing a successful business in the competitive market Cain remarked, Because I am a black American, Ive had to perform better than my white counterparts. This is a personal standard that Ive set for myself: Ive got to perform a little better in order to get the same opportunity. I cant just be as good; Ive got to be better. It should not be this way, but it is. After receiving the International Food Manufacturers Associations Operator of the Year/Gold-Plate Award in 1991, Cain was quoted as saying in Restaurant Business, Success is a journey, not a destination.

Cains relentless focus and continued striving for excellence

At a Glance

Born HermanCain, December 13, 1945, in Memphis, TN; son of Luther and Lenora Cain; married Gloria Cain; children: Melaine and Vincent. Education: Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA, B.S., 1967; Purdue University, Lafayette, IN, M.A., computerscience, 1971.

The Pillsbury Company, Minneapolis, MN, vice president/corporate systems and services, 1977-82;BurgerKingCorpo ration, Philadelphia, PA, regional vice president, 1982-86; Godfathers Pizza Inc., Omaha, NE, president, 1986-88, president/CEO, 1988.

Awards: Honorary Doctorate, MorehouseCollege, 1988; Top 25 Black Executives, Black Enterprise, 1988; Honorary Doctorate, Tougaloo College, 1989; Honorary Doctorate, Universityof Nebraska, 1990; Entrepreneurof the Year, 1990; Operator of the Year/Gold Plate Award, International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, 1991 ; Honorary Doctorates, Johnson and Wales University and New York City Technicalcollege; recipientof humanitarian awards, businessman of the year awards, special recognition awards, and excellence in leadership awards.

Member: Chairman, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 1992; president, National Restaurant Association, 1994-95; board member, Creighton University, 1989-; board member, Super Valu, Inc., 1990-; board member, Utilicorp United Inc., 1992-; board member, Whirlpool Corpu, 1992; member, EconomicGrowthandTaxRefcxmCommissionestablishedby Speaker of the House NewtCingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

Addresses: Office-Godfathers Pizza Inc., 9140 W. Dodge Rd., Omaha, NE 68114.

turned Godfathers Pizza around when its survival was questionable. And he did it in less than eighteen months. In 1988, Cain purchased Godfathers Pizza from The Pillsbury Company and became president and chief executive officer. In 1995, Godfathers Pizza, Inc. was the fifth-largest pizza chain in the nation.

Despite his successes, Cain does not forget his humble beginnings. His parents, Luther Cain, Jr. and Lenora Davis Cain provided examples of hard work that he would remember the rest of his life. His father at one time worked three jobs: cutting hair in his off hours, working part-time at Coca-Cola as a chauffeur, and working an evening shift as a janitor in a bakery. His mother worked as a domestic. This work ethic would inspire Cain, not only to work hard, but to rise up singing, as DuBose Haywards lyrics stated in Summertime from Porgy and Bess. Singing would come later in his life. Cain told Wallace Terry in Parade Magazine, My father never looked for a government program, a government handout. I never heard my father complain about somebody owing him anything. All I ever saw was how hard my father worked to get what he wanted out of life. My mother was my spiritual light--Mom talked to me about God. She taught me that success is not a function of what you start with materially but what you start with spiritually. Those were my beginnings. They have been with me ever since. Cain carried these values through Morehouse College in Atlanta, into his work as a mathematician for the Navy, and later to Purdue University, where he earned a masters degree in computer science.

In 1994, after Cain was elected president of the National Restaurant Association, he proposed several reforms affecting the restaurant business, such as allowing sixteen-year-olds to work past seven oclock on Friday nights. He also envisioned restaurants of the future that would use architecture, lighting, service, and decor to expose patrons to different geographical regions or eras.

In 1994, Cain became active in politics. He campaigned around the country against President Clintons health plan, contending that small businesses would be hurt by it. Cain served as a member of the Economic Growth and Tax Reform Commission established by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. According to an Associated Press report in The New York Times, Cain promised that his industry would give welfare recipients jobs, training and a chance to gain economic success. Because of his far-reaching views, Cain has served on numerous boards, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Creighton University of Omaha, Nabisco, Inc., SuperValu, Inc., UtiliCorp United, Inc., and Whirlpool Corporation. He continues to serve on the Joe Edmonson Youth Outreach Program for troubled teens in Omaha. In 1996, Cain recorded his first compact disc, Sunday Morning, a collection of gospel hymns which will in part benefit the outreach program.

Cain has not only received five honorary doctorate degrees, but he has been recognized by the Horatio Alger Society, an organization in Pennsylvania that honors those who rise from rags to riches by hard work, honesty, and religious principles. Cain has received awards for his humanitarian efforts; businessman of the year awards; special recognition awards; and excellence in leadership awards.

Cain has achieved such remarkable success because he genuinely enjoys life and its many challenges. As he told Wallace Terry in Parade, Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. And give God the glory.



American Visions, April/May 1995, p 41.

New York Times, April 8, 1994, p. 18; January 8, 1995, p. 11; January 10, 1995, p. 15; July 28, 1996, p. 5.

Parade Magazine, October 13, 1996, pp. 4-5.

Policy Review, Spring 1995, pp. 35-38.

Restaurant Business, May 1, 1991, p. 160.


Information from the Business Leadership Summit, San Joaquin Delta College (Stockton, CA), October 5, 1996, URL:; htm;

Press release, August 21, 1996, Kansas City Fed Chairman Resigns, URL:

Eileen Daily