20 Questions: Joe Guith
BY CHRISTOPHER ANKNEY
PHOTO BY RYAN GIBSON
Joe Guith, BBA ’94/MBA ’01, has his hands full with delicious opportunities. His recent appointment as president of Cinnabon, after serving five months as the company’s COO, comes at a time when Cinnabon has been everywhere.
There have been promotions embracing a less-than-copacetic depiction with the new “Breaking Bad” spinoff on AMC, “Better Call Saul”; new menu items in collaboration with the fast-food giant Taco Bell; and articles in business publications everywhere examining the bakery’s trial expansion into new boutique shops known as Bon Bake Shops. And Guith says it’s all been done with a sharp focus on customer needs.
“We know people today want choice in their indulgence,” Guith says. “So, the driving force behind our menu expansion and exposure within these different venues has been today’s consumer.”
And he credits Ross with helping him develop the skills to manage all of the moving pieces effectively. “The culture of Ross was the most important thing for me,” he says. “Being humble and working as a team will serve you well.”
Fair enough. But will that help him roll through our 20 questions?
What’s a book that you’ve read recently? How was it?
The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins. It was an essential read for taking on a new role.
First album/CD you bought?
Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction.
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa. I did it right after graduating from Ross. It was me, two Kiwi and 10 Russians. Nothing like a two-ton shark hitting your cage while being led in a chum line. I loved it so much I brought my future wife back to do it a few years later.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Cinnabon, of course.
Who is your personal hero?
My parents. They set my moral compass to a true North and taught me the invaluable lessons of hard work, honesty, and belief in all people. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Describe your first job.
Paper route. Early mornings and physical labor. It really started to ingrain an early sense of work ethic.
Best business advice?
Never settle for less than you deserve. It may be hard at times to wait for the right opportunity, but if you know where you want to go and work hard to get there, success will inevitably come your way.
Coke Zero. Can’t seem to come off of it after 10 years with the company.
Most-cherished Ross experience?
Follies. It was a ton of fun and really allowed you to see a different side of your classmates.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Be as focused on bringing people with you on your journey as you are on getting to the right place. Developing your EQ is more important than your IQ.
Business or charity you wish more people knew about?
re:loom. It is a sustainable business initiative that upcycles clothing and home furnishings, and employs at-risk women, giving them a sustainable wage and health benefits. (Joe serves on the Board of Directors for the Initiative for Affordable Housing, of which re:loom is an offshoot)
The thing you learned in business school that you’ll never forget?
It was in a crisis management course. Always embrace the truth and move toward fixing the problem vs. defending or making excuses.
Most important room in your home?
Family room. It is where I spend the most time with my wife, Stacey, Jack, and Abby.
First website you access in the morning?
Google News, to see what is going on in the world.
Favorite comfort food?
Favorite line from a movie?
“You’re money and you don’t even know it!” —Vince Vaughn, Swingers
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Doctor. Until I found out that blood wasn’t really my thing.
Favorite sport to watch?
Michigan Football! Very excited to see Jim Harbaugh in action.
What or where is your ideal retirement spot?
NYC. There is so much cultural depth … there is no place like it in the world.
We asked Joe a few additional questions for our online audience:
Must-have app on your phone?
Uber. I couldn’t get anywhere without it!
Who is today’s most influential business leader?
Bill Gates. Not only for his success, but because of what he is doing.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter?
Kat Cole (my predecessor). She is an expert in social media and has proven it by building the Cinnabon brand as well as her own.
Favorite thing on Cinnabon menu?
Bites! Only 100 calories, but so worth it.
- Ice cream or frozen yogurt?
Ice cream … only the real thing will do!