Member Profile

1996 Horatio Alger Award Recipient

Herman Cain*

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

Godfather's Pizza, Inc.

“Don't second guess yourself, or you will start doubting your ability to succeed.”

Herman Cain was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1945, and he spent most of his youth in Atlanta. His father worked three jobs as a porter, custodian, and barber to keep the family out of housing projects. Herman and his brother slept on a rollaway bed in the kitchen until he was in the eighth grade. At that time, his father bought the family a two-bedroom house. "It was the first time my brother and I had a room to sleep in," said Cain. "We even had separate beds."

The rules of the house were simple and direct: Don't get into trouble. Don't talk back to your mother. Go to church. Study hard and finish school. An able student, Cain was salutatorian of his high school class. Encouraged by his teachers, he applied to and was accepted at Atlanta's Morehouse College. He worked after school and during the summer to pay his tuition. After earning a degree in math, Cain went to work for the U.S. Department of the Navy as a mathematician. Soon, he realized that government work would not give him the challenges he wanted. He went back to school, got a master's degree in computer science from Purdue University, and was hired by Coca-Cola Co. as a business analyst.

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In 1977, he joined Pillsbury Co. and climbed the corporate ladder quickly. Within five years, he was promoted to vice president of corporate systems and services. Cain said his philosophy to succeed was to "always exceed the expectation of the job. Once I knew what was expected of me, I went beyond that." At the age of 36, Cain was made a regional vice president of Burger King, a Pillsbury subsidiary. Nine months later, he was managing 400 Burger King units in the Philadelphia region, which ranked first in the nation within three years.

In 1986, Cain was appointed president of then-ailing Godfather's Pizza, Inc. Within 14 months, the chain regained profitability, and in 1988, Cain led his executive team in a buyout of the company from Pillsbury. Cain became chairman of the National Restaurant Association and developed the organization into a pro-business voice through national debates and speeches. Following this experience, he was appointed to the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform. He was a senior adviser to the 1996 Dole-Kemp presidential campaign.

While continuing as president and chairman of Godfather's Pizza, Cain became a national keynote speaker. He created a leadership firm and wrote three books on topics ranging from leadership to self-empowerment. In 2002, he became an executive lecturer for the Gallup Organization. Cain was a board member of various companies and served as an associate minister of Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta.

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