Cliff Hudson Transcript

Clint Betts

Cliff, thanks so much for coming on. Really an honor to have you on the show to talk about your career, this book you've written, which we're going to get to, but you made it to become the chairman and CEO of Sonic.

Clifford Hudson

Yep.

Clint Betts

I'd love to hear the background and story of what led you to that.

Clifford Hudson

It wasn't an overnight success, it took about 20 years to get there as a lot of successes are. It was a progressive process. My path, when I was a young adult, I really didn't anticipate going into business necessarily, but I had a view that I was preparing myself to take any number of paths. My undergraduate studies were in history, which I enjoyed then and I still do, that's the primary thing. I read, which I think has brought application, but particularly just helps you with perspective about life, whether it's in the moment or thinking about your own over a broader period of time. Regardless, I enjoyed history and wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. For a short period of time. I thought teaching it might be interesting, but I didn't really go that path. I think teaching's more interesting when you're a student than it might be otherwise for most of us.

I decided to go to law school really because I thought it would give me a broader array of options whether business, law practice, government, politics, whatever. It would open a number of avenues. I also decided I wanted to go to school in Washington DC because that would give me a deeper view of the law and history combined. And so I did apply to what was then the three schools I considered in DC, American, George Washington, Georgetown got into all three and considered Georgetown the stronger of the three, which I still believe in firmly. So I attended Georgetown Law. And practice law, private law practice for about four years. I was pursuing Sonic as a client, a potential client. A former neighbor of mine was an officer. I had returned to this area of the country, that is Oklahoma City. My wife was born here and I pretty much grew up here but my whole family was originally from Dallas. But I'd been here since, let's just say junior high, high school. The problem was, quote "Here" was in the middle of an oil bust in the early mid-eighties.

And so from the time I returned here until that point in time, the economy had changed fundamentally, and not for the better. So I was pursuing Sonic as a client. They were clever. I had several visits with my friend, a VP. He brought me in, I was 29 years old, he brought me in to meet the new president who was an old 36. I say President, he was CEO. I also thought, "Well, they've got a new CEO." And my friend, the VP told me that. He said, "Look, there's probably going to be more stuff happening here. We got a new guy, a younger guy."

So while I was pursuing them, they turned tables and said, "What we really want is we want you to come inside." I thought, "The economy is challenging as it is here, new young president, things are going to happen differently." And so I left private law practice, joined the company's general counsel. I spent eight years as general counsel. That's my transition. I spent eight years as general counsel, but really learned the business through that time. In that eight years, took the company to one leverage buyout, and then two years later a recapitalizations, changing ownership in which management came to own more of the company.

And then finally an IPO in '91. And then when the company went public, I moved from general counsel to CFO for a short period of time. Told my boss "I'm approaching 40." Oh my god, I was approaching 40. And I told him, "I think I'm going to go out and see what else the world has to offer." And he said, "Why don't you stay here and run the company? I'll make you COO." And I said, "Well, that's one of the things I thought I'd check out. See what the world has to offer. That's an interesting opportunity."

So I stayed, took the job as chief operating officer, began rebuilding some of the senior management team and so on. A year and a half after he had made me COO or after I had come into the COO position, he left rather abruptly. On the same day that he left the board, I became CEO of the company. At that time, I'd been there 11 years and had learned the business pretty well, I think. At least how we made money and didn't make money. So they made me CEO in '95 and in 2000 I became chairman of the board. It was a progression over time and one that I adapted to at points in time, but a fascinating experience. I was CEO for 23 years until it was acquired in December of 2018 by an affiliate of Roark Capital. And by the way, that transition, in '86 we bought the company for $10 million. When I took it over as CEO in '95, the value was $200 million and we sold it for $2.3 billion. That was the progression over time. I like those numbers.

Clint Betts

Yeah, those numbers are incredible. And what's fascinating about your journey is you played so many different roles within the company before becoming CEO and then chairman of. So you really understood the business. I have a few questions around Sonic itself. How did you think about competition? Because you got the big players in the fast food space, which is the McDonald's, the Burger Kings, the Wendy's, that type of thing. And Sonic has really managed to differentiate itself, particularly during your tenure. How did you think about that?

Clifford Hudson

Well, I thought about it less from the standpoint of the competition. I thought about it almost at all times on how we could strengthen ourselves. And really came to think about it, how could we strengthen our brand? Because when we bought the company in the eighties, we never talked about the brand. We talked about growing the business. And in the early nineties, that's when we went public, a guy named Bob Rosenberg came on our board and Bob was then the CEO of Dunkin Donuts.

And Bob thought about the brand all the time. One of his first board meetings, let's say '92, '93, Bob asked at the board meeting, "How do you think about your brand?" And my reaction was, "What's a brand?" Bob really helped us start thinking about any aspect of the business you're thinking about, the physicality of the drive-in, the way your television creative looks, the products you're promoting, the way your employees dress. All these things play into building an image in a consumer's brain that in essence is your brand with the consumer.

And so boy, that caused us to start thinking and planning differently. And very interestingly. It really was transformative for the business. I thought not about "Uh-oh, McDonald's," uh-oh anybody, we always thought about how we can grow Sonic? How can we strengthen the brand, grow the business, make our operators which were 95% franchise chains. How can we make our operators more successful? And in the process I want them to grow with us and make the brand bigger, stronger, et cetera. That really was the mentality. And I don't mean by that you could ignore your competitors because you couldn't. There were a lot of ways we had to respond to competitors, but our strategy for going to business was to focus within and become more intense, stronger about our brand.

Clint Betts

What are some of the things you did after that conversation to strengthen the brand or some of the things you implemented?

Clifford Hudson

Well, I'm glad you asked that. So one of the first things that happened after I became CEO, before I became CEO, I was COO, one of the things that we backed into, I didn't plan this, the franchisee saw in mid-nineties that their license, many of their licenses were coming to an end. And a lot of our franchisees were, let's just say in their fifties, big slug of them that had come in their thirties in the 1970s. Now they're in their fifties, they see license really coming to an end. They think, "We got 15, 20 year mortgages. We can't have our license agreements ending." They wanted to negotiate a new license agreement and we had already built the business and built their profitability nicely.

So in '93, '94, I had become COO, I was not yet CEO, '93 '94 renegotiated a new license agreement. And to be transparent with you, we took, like Wendy's license agreement and just said, "What do they do?" Because I admired Wendy's. And we said, "What do they do that is different from us?" And so we went through and trade dress requirements, marketing requirements, just went through and used it as some model. What that said to me as I was COO was look at what the franchisees and the franchisor had negotiated actually before, the year before I even joined the company. And look at the gaps between what Wendy's was trying to do and what our power permitted us or didn't permit us. And so it was a real learning experience.

Anyway, when I became CEO, we were just initiating a process to rebuild the brand. And a lot of it was about the menu, a lot was about physicality, a lot of it was about the employee uniforms. We didn't know where it would go. But we just started this process, '95 or so, we called it Sonic 2000. Everybody was using that. But here's what happened as part of that process when we were working on the menu. And I talk about this in my book. I wouldn't call it serendipitous, but it was you don't have to come up with all the ideas. Somebody else got a good idea and it works for you? Grab it. This whole thing about not being invented here is deadly.

And so a franchisee came to me in '94 while I was still COO and he said, "You got to help me." This is a franchise of about a 30 store operator. "You got to help me." "So why? What's the problem?" He said, "You guys are going to hurt me." "Tell me, what do you mean?" He said, "Well, I'm out here in the Carolinas and I'm doing better than the average store." Two senior officers had come to him and said to him, "You're promoting ice cream and that's not our deal. That's Dairy Queen. You shouldn't be trying to mimic Dairy Queen." And I said, "Well, what is your deal?" And he described it to me.

And so here's my big question, trying to get a handle on what are we talking about here? I said, "Well, what does your top store do in terms of ice cream promotion?" He said, "You mean sales?" I said, "Yeah, what are your sales at your top drive-in ice cream wise?" He said, "30%." I almost fell off my chair. I couldn't believe what he said. And I said, "Don't change anything. Don't listen to those officers. I'm going to send a marketing person out there and you show them what you're doing." That was '94, the summer of '94. And we spent, I don't know what, six months, really refining what he was doing, but folded into our menu planning processes.

And at that time when you pulled into Sonic drive-in, the menu you would see on the driver's side and the passenger side, those menus were identical. So in '95 we've been testing some stuff where, okay, food menu on the left, but then ice cream and drinks and so on, different, bigger on the right, more pictures, color. And it was all working really well. These tests were. We tested them in the winter in New Orleans, in Houston and sold all kinds of ice cream. And we thought, if we can sell ice cream in the winter in Houston, we can sell ice cream anywhere in the summertime. In the spring of '96, we rolled out what we called and they still call Frozen and Fountain Favorites. Sonic's Frozen and Fountain favorites.

And we put them in use across the system in April. I'd been CEO literally a year at that time, sales were okay. Sales were okay, no big deal. And in May we came out with media behind it, behind the Frozen and Fountain Favorites. And in the month of May, I could tell you in May 1996, in the month of May, [inaudible 00:15:08] were 12%, sales at the average store were up 12%. And of course, you knew "We got something going on here." But I didn't really realize was it really changed the way people could use our brand, use our business, because they'd been using it primarily at lunch and dinner.

And what the drinks and ice cream program gave them was a reason to come in more in the afternoon and in the evening. So now suddenly we were leveraging our labor better and suddenly we're leveraging this fixed asset, the building, better and our equipment and everything else. But the bigger thing that happened was the first full 12 months, our fiscal year, in which that... I guess it was really the calendar year '96. So calendar '97, for the average operator across the Sonic system, profits, not sales, profits at the average store went up by 40%. The average operator. And it was suddenly money falling on them.

And so some of the groaning and some of that occurred because of this license renewal, all that groaning stopped. And what did happen, we were partly going through this brand renewal process, menus, physicality, products, consistency and quality of products coming in the back door, uniforms and so on. And what started happening then, this was calendar '97. These guys were making so much more money that when we said "This is what we want the retrofit to look like, they just seized on it because their average store profitability gave them tons of cash."

The timing was perfect. And so here, this now 40 year old brand and much of the system was 20 years old, never really had a lot of deferred maintenance. Suddenly in '98, '99, 2000, the entire system got retrofitted with this new look. So what do you have? You have better and more consistent products coming in the back door because we required that in the license agreement, in terms of purchasing. I also brought in new talent to oversee that area. The purchasing really took a big step up in terms of quality but also consistency. And then the promotional activity, drinks and ice cream.

People using us for four day parts. Lunch, afternoon, dinner and evening. Lunch, afternoon, dinner and evening. So profits up at the store level, now in a three year period the whole system is retrofitted. That system, it had taken Sonic 44 years from 1953 to '97, it had taken us 44 years to hit $1 billion in sales. In the next four years, we doubled. From 97 to '01, we went from $1 billion to $2 billion in system-wide sales.

Now you want to ask me, am I partial to ice cream? Oh I love ice cream. You might say I have a sweet spot for ice cream. But that transformed the business. Again, jumping forward, '01 we had $2 billion. When we sold the company in 2018, the system-wide sales were $4.5 billion. We continued to grow, not at the same pace, a little difficult to pull that off. That series of initiatives, the whole Sonic 2000, the physicality, the new menu, what was on the menu, how we promoted the menu, the way the drive-ins look, but suddenly now there's bursting advertising. Because if you're doing in '97, let's just say maybe 3% of sales, in advertising we're probably doing 2.5. Let's say in '97 we did 25 million in advertising. Oh, by '01, we weren't quite at 4%, let's say 3.5. You go from $25 million in a certain number of states to something on the order of $70 million in advertising four years later.

Everybody's seeing your brand a lot more, seeing it on advertising, seeing it here and there. That's the first big stage. Now we kept growing from there in terms of other methodology. I don't want to run here too long. Two of the things we hadn't done from a marketing standpoint by then that the next few years took off. One was our use of national cable, which we were only beginning. And two was the Two Guys campaign. Those came later. But we hit $2 billion with a world of momentum in '01. And the business really had been transformed. And so it was at that time that the board said, "We'll make you chairman of the board."

Clint Betts

I want to ask you about the campaign, but as you talk about really pivoting into advertising, the ice cream and the drinks, when I think of Sonic, I think of your ice. How did you figure out the ice?

Clifford Hudson

Well, I'd like to tell you that that was my second big idea, but that wouldn't be true. The ice really was something that our founder had put in place years before with the vendor relationship. And it was widely loved, that pellet ice in the styrofoam cups and people could nurse that drink. If you're driving around, going on a trip, whatever, you get to nurse that drink for hours. And so I'd like to claim credit for that, but I can't. That was our founder, Troy Smith. That was one of his numerous brilliant innovations.

Clint Betts

How did you make sure that all of your franchisees kept the consistency and the quality of the brand?

Clifford Hudson

Yeah, good question.

Clint Betts

That seems like that would be really difficult.

Clifford Hudson

Like a lot of things in life, you might say a carrot and a stick, but the carrot always had to be young, a meaningful carrot. And so before that license conversion process in '94, '95, there was a lot of inconsistency in the system. Literally in the same town you could pull into two Sonics and their menus would be different. And they might even buy from different vendors and they might have different size hamburgers, hamburger patties on their hamburgers, literally. I think the thing that made that was, one, we went through that license agreement process that required it.

Going from a general requirement about specifications to a requirement "You will buy off of national contracts approved by the franchise," or "You will participate with an agency of record chosen by the franchise" or "You will" so and so forth. It was really just state of the art franchising stuff, but it had not been in place for the company. Now you could say, was that difficult politically? Initially, yes, but I told you a moment ago about the system going from a billion in '97 to $2 billion in '01. Because they had not all been buying off of a single contract, when we started requiring that in '95, '96 and then blew out the profitability, we were buying in some cases better product on a national basis. But because it was a national contractor or a system-wide contract, they were able to get better products at a lower price.

And so what was the carrot? The carrot was that from that same '97 to '01 timeframe, profit margins improved at the average store by 500 basis points, meaning five percentage points. In other words, well, just that. There was 5% going to profit that there had not been in '96, '97. Now do the math, five percentage, incremental percentage points of improvement in profit on 2 billion in sales. You're talking about a hundred million dollars in profits in these independent operators' hands that had not existed just a few years before. Doesn't take a very big stick when you got that.

Clint Betts

When it's that obvious and you're seeing those types of results, I imagine it doesn't take too much of a stick. Let me ask you this, because you brought up something that I find pretty interesting, that's the advantages and disadvantages of the franchise model. You said before that about 95% of all the Sonics were owned by franchisees. What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages to that model?

Clifford Hudson

Well, the beauty of franchising is you can build a brand on a national basis in terms of the character, single characteristics that are identified from a customer standpoint, at least on a remote basis. But you take the piece that is most critical in terms of customer interaction, and that is the restaurant itself in the case of restaurant franchising. But the customer experience, you take that and you have the potential anyway to put it in the hands, with franchising in the hands of a local operator. Maybe they don't live in the community. Oftentimes an individual franchisee does live in the community which they're operating. It's really fantastic from that standpoint because what you get is a small business operator with the economic advantages of big business i.e., you get to buy off a national contract, you get to advertise on a national contract, but you operate and you hire your employees locally and you know your customers.

To me, in its most pure form, that's the ideal of franchising. Now you do have a potential consistency issue. That really goes back to, from my standpoint, what's the philosophy and culture of the franchisor in dealing with franchisees? As well as, what's the power under the license agreement? As well as then, what's your practice then for requiring that level of consistency? And you do have to have that approach. It doesn't have to be heavy-handed or mean. The question is how do you build the brand? And if you have a high level of inconsistency, you're going to undermine your brand. That doesn't mean you don't have some testing and so on, but you need to work with individual operators to know what the testing is and make sure it's handled right and marketed right and so on.

Franchising is its own business. I think people that have a business and say, "Oh, we're going to franchise because it's easy money." That's the wrong approach. It is a different approach to growing a business and you're using other people's capital i.e., local franchisee. But when you do that, you have to manage the relationship with the individual franchisee. In contract, in philosophy and in practice, you have to be very clear about what's expected from a consumer experience standpoint. And it's not doing whatever the hell you want because you're an independent franchisee. I hope that answered your question, that's my perspective.

Clint Betts

Yeah, I think franchising is such an interesting innovation. Who came up with franchising, do you know?

Clifford Hudson

Well, I don't know the answer to that. It began growing more heavily as part of the US economy, post World War II. If you think back about Howard Johnson's and the Holiday Inns and so on. The hotels were one of the early spots, although there was some food service with it. Some of the early Marriott stuff was food court stuff.

That was the nature of the expansion, post World War II. My suspicion is that our interstate highway system really caused it to go to another level altogether because people traveling cross country more enjoyed seeing brands that they were accustomed to and favorable toward. And then just with the evolution of it, it's become a huge part of our economy. But the thing I love about it is—

Clint Betts

It's enormous.

Clifford Hudson

The thing I love about it is that it is a way for a person who wants to operate a small business to lower the risk considerably because they do get to, one, step into a business model that's been shown to work elsewhere. Two, get to buy off purchasing contracts, so lower their cost. And then three, depending upon the circumstance, leverage off of, broader, within a market, within a state, across country, whatever, marketing programs. Because the average operator can be excellent at operations, but they're not necessarily a marketing person.

Clint Betts

Was it Ray Kroc who—

Clifford Hudson

Yeah.

Clint Betts

Was it Ray Kroc who really showed that it was great from a fast food perspective?

Clifford Hudson

Perhaps so. He might have. As I think back about that, who was before McDonald's? Well, A&W was before McDonald's. I had to think about who else, but there were a few. What he did of course was just take it to a level of success that outstripped anybody else.

Clint Betts

Speaking of your brand, you mentioned this, the two guys in the car, which is probably one of the most successful advertising campaigns that I can remember over the past decade or more or so. What did you think about your national commercials? How did you come up with that idea?

Clifford Hudson

What was going on early, just after the turn of the century, if you go back and look at what people were buying into, cable was growing. And at that time, initially, cable was all about the local franchise who was granted it. And then you could watch specialty programs. Things started getting a little splintered in terms of viewership and so you say what was working at the time that was getting more sensational viewership. And if you recall sometime back around 2000, I forget exactly when, one of the programs that just flat took off was Do You Want to Be a Millionaire? It was all of a sudden. The thing was popular and then because it was popular, it wasn't once a week, it was on every night.

And so you say, "Well, what's going on?" Well, it's authentic. It's right there. It's live and it's sensational. And whatever was going to happen, it was going to happen right then. One of the things that occurred to us and our agency, Barkley, was the agency that put the thing together. One of the things that occurred to us was, what is attracting people more than anything else is, something live, something more spontaneous. And our hunch was something that had a sense of, and I hate to use the term because it sounds worse than intended, but of voyeurism, where you can see inside.

Our initial thought, and the way that we started this thing was the two guys would travel around to competitor stores with a camera, a hidden camera, and ask questions. And they just got some great stuff, hidden stuff. Going through a drive through window and asking for a certain product. And the employee would say, "You'll have to go to Sonic to get that." "Thank you." That's what we did initially, but one, it was physically challenging for them to do that. And two, for every, however much time put in, you only got so many commercials, et cetera. And I say that to say, once we started filming a lot, it was unbelievable. They'd filmed for three days and they'd come up with months of commercials just right there. It was enormously efficient, just getting to change clothes, change products, and to keep going on the filming.

At any rate, how we came up with it was trying that, and it seemed to help, seemed to break through. It did coincide with us beginning to move advertising to more cable. That was very difficult with our operators. They were very controlling about their local co-op expenditures, because we did marketing by co-op, which was the television market. That's another story unto itself. But they did come to a point, because of an experience we had where we coincidentally... And that's a great story. We coincidentally got some cable advertising nationally, and all these guys saw our brand on a NASCAR race one weekend. And they came in, they said, "How can we get more of that?" And we said, "We're spending three points total, 3%, let's take a half point and put it into a fund." We just called it that, a fund "That will buy system-wide rights to cable." And they were, "Yeah." We started doing college football and so on.

And of course, it was like a drug because it had a big impact on sales and people loved it. They've been seeing their local commercials for years, but now they're seeing it on a college football Southeast Conference. That was a nice play because we took it from a half percent to 1% and they started stepping up their local expenditures to the point that in '04, I think we took it to 2% on cable and 2% local. This helped a lot because it started getting a lot more advertising out there. So here we were bringing on the two guys and refining that whole thing at the same time that our marketing expenditures were growing. We had $3 billion in sales in '05 and I think we were probably doing 4% in marketing. That means by '05 we had grown from in '97, to let's say, $25 million of marketing, '05, 4% of $3 billion, $120 million. $120 million of marketing. We'd gone up almost five times in that eight years in terms of the amount of marketing.

All of this, yes, how did we get the momentum? Were the retrofit in the late nineties, and then the new products, and then the new ad campaign, and now getting the word out just a whole lot more, 02', 3, 4 with a shift to cable. These things, they all feed on themselves. I can keep talking because there were a couple of things that happened there.

Clint Betts

Oh yeah, yeah it's super valuable.

Clifford Hudson

Well, here's one of the things. In that same timeframe, now we're going out more cable and our reach is much better with advertising. The franchisees are making so much money they're opening more stores. And the Two Guys, they're coming on, they're really popular. Let's just say '01, just say '01, I went to a program for CEOs in Chicago sponsored by Nation's Restaurant News and Visa. And it was a small conference. And Nation's Restaurant News wanted to do an interview and then publish this in their magazine. It was a pretty cost-efficient way for them to get everybody in one room, ask a bunch of questions, and they end up doing 12 pieces from it in their magazine.

Halfway through the day, we had to listen to a Visa commercial, and that was a live person standing there. I'm going to say this to you, you're going to say, duh. But mind you, this was 20 years ago, okay?

Clint Betts

Yeah.

Clifford Hudson

And she says, "Restaurants that accept credit cards are more than twice as likely to get mom to stop on the way home from work to grab food for dinner as a restaurant that doesn't accept credit cards." Well, 20 years later it's like, it was a different time.

Clint Betts

Sure.

Clifford Hudson

And so I left there thinking, "Well, we accept credit cards." This too, today, it sounds horrible, but I thought, "But wait a minute. Yeah, we accept credit cards and you have to hand your credit card over to a cashier to take it inside, run it and bring it back." Here we are doing 5% of our sales in credit cards, 95% in cash. So I thought, "No wonder people don't want to use a credit card.

They got to turn loose of it." But in fact, what we had was a younger population coming on that used credit cards all the time, but they just weren't the primary buyers at that point. Meaning 20 years ago. Both my sons are in their thirties. 20 years ago they were early teens, they weren't using their credit cards, but now that's all they do. They don't carry cash. What seemed to be the solution? What the solution was, the way you get gas, you pull up and you pay at the pump, you don't have to go inside. Enormously convenient. You're there and you're gone. And so I thought, "Heck, we got the counterpart in every parking stall." It was a little bit more arduous than this. But the point is, I got our guide in our tech group to build that attachment that he could literally stick onto the menu housing. So when you pull into the stall, if you want to pay by credit card, you could pay at the stall, you could do it. You didn't have to turn loose to your card and you could pay for it and boom.

And so we did that and two things happened. One, our average check at that time was five bucks. When people used a credit card, the average check was seven bucks. A what, 40% increase in average ticket size when we made that credit card reader available at the stall. What else happened? The franchisees, the payback was so fast on this thing that we thought we were going to have to force it on people, laypeople "Can we put it in at every other stall? Can we do this inside the store?" And the answer was, it was rolled out across the whole system in 18 months. And the payback was enormous.

I told you a few minutes ago, at the time I went to Chicago to listen to that thing I told you at '01, that was when I went, '01, our system-wide sales did $2 billion, $2 billion, $2 billion. And 5% of that was credit cards. 5%. That means a hundred million was credit cards. Is that right? Yeah, that's right. A hundred million was credit cards. $1.9 billion was cash. 18 years later, 17 years later, we sold the company. System-wide sales were $2.5 billion. Cash at that point was $2 billion, and credit cards were $2.5 billion in sales. Virtually, 100% of the incremental sales over the next 17 years were credit cards.

Clint Betts

That's incredible.

Clifford Hudson

That was a total gamechanger. Service stations were already using it, but the convenience for the customer, the safety, and then the ease for the operator not having to make cash change, et cetera, less pilferage, less stealing of cash, no reason to come up with a short change box. That was a big impact, very positive impact. Quiet, easy for the operator, great return on investment.

Clint Betts

Before we go, I got to ask you about your book called Master of None. It's how a jack of all trades can still reach the top. I'm fascinated by this idea of you don't really have to be a master of any one particular thing, but really good at a lot of things. What led you to write the book and tell us more about that?

Clifford Hudson

I felt like, as hopefully your listener would feel today. I felt like I had a lot of great stories to tell about the growth of the business. Some of these about the ice cream and about the credit card reader and these things, and the Two Guys. Some of these things I talk about in the book. If your listener likes that, then they should enjoy the book as well. So one, I felt like there are a number of good stories to tell.

Two, I would say that what I really did offer to our system was less about what kind of ice cream and what kind of burger and so on. But I think what I did offer to our system for 23 years as CEO was good leadership and helped them move in a direction that transformed a lot of people's lives. And I know that. I'm telling you, I know it 20 years later, because they tell me so and because I see their lives are different. I know I provided effective leadership. And so Master None does speak to the idea that I didn't necessarily master any single topic, but I did lead the system on a path that really transformed the brand, transformed a lot of people's lives.

By the way, the book makes the point, the jack of all trades, master of none comes out of the mouth of a guy named Robert Greene who made the comment about a writer for whom he had no respect. He says, "The guy is a jack of all trades, a master of none." Well, that guy, you've never heard of Robert Greene. I'd never heard of Robert Green. The guy he was commenting about was William Shakespeare.

Clint Betts

Oh.

Clifford Hudson

So.

Clint Betts

Just the greatest writer of all time.

Clifford Hudson

That's where this comes from in our vernacular. Master of none, jack of all trades. The book does relay a lot of those stories, and I think ultimately it is about leadership. But I didn't come to my leadership with the view of "I know all" because I didn't. It is about leadership and how to engage in effective leadership, I believe.

Clint Betts

And for those who want to read it, go to cliffordhudson.com. It's also... I imagine it's everywhere books are sold, right?

Clifford Hudson

You bet.

Clint Betts

It's called Master of None: How a Jack-of-All-Trades Can Still Reach the Top.

Clifford Hudson

And it's also out in audio form. If you're driving and you want to listen to it rather than read it, you can download it in that form. And if you didn't like hearing my voice today, you're really going to have a hard time with that book. But otherwise, it is me reading my own book, which was a fun experience in itself.

Clint Betts

Well, Cliff, thanks so much for joining us today on the show, sharing your story. Man, I could talk to you forever, particularly about the franchise model and really the way you led Sonic into just a juggernaut. Thank you so much for coming on and maybe we'll talk again soon.

Clifford Hudson

Good, I'll look forward to it. Thank you very much.

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