On Tuesday Palm Beach Atlantic University held their 32nd annual celebration of American Free Enterprise (AFE) Day.
Many honored guests were in attendance, and several PBA students were awarded scholarships in recognition of their hard work and ambition in the fields of business and finance.
James Donnelly, David S. Donten, Judith Mitchell and David Wright were honored and awarded Companion Medals for their high achievements and influence in the West Palm Beach community.
The Guest of Honor and recipient of the 2017 American Free Enterprise Medal is David C. Novak, co-founder and recently retired CEO of YUM! Brands, Inc. YUM! Is one of the world’s largest restaurant companies. The associated brands include Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, with over 43,500 restaurants in over 135 countries.
Novak was recognized as the “2012 CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive magazine, one of Barron’s “30 Best CEOs,” one of the “Top People in Business” by FORTUNE and was included in Harvard Business Review’s list of “100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World.” During Novak’s time as CEO, the company’s global involvement doubled.
“Recognition is a powerful motivating tool that all of us can use no matter what level we’re at,” Novak told The Beacon. “When you’re going into your first job, look for the people that other people look towards. Go to them and ask them for advice, and thank them. And then you’ll begin to form an allegiance.”
Novak gave a lively speech to the guests and students present at the ceremony, reminding the students that recognition and encouragement can change the course of one’s business. He included examples of the quirky awards he presents his hard working employees, including a rubber chicken and a giant Taco Bell sauce packet.
David Carleton, a Musical Theater major at PBA, learned a lot about moving forward in his career, and appreciated Novak’s focus on gratitude and recognition.
“I thought [his choice of awards] were really cool, because it’s not just some expensive plaque. Those are just mass produced. But it’s something personal, something fun,” Carleton said.
“I’m going to be an actor. A lot of times people are saying, ‘Oh you’re going to be a musical theater major! How fun!’ But there’s so much work that goes into the productions behind the scenes, and outside of rehearsals. So just recognizing and being more vocal about when I see the effort someone else is putting into their work, especially someone in this field, is really important,” Carleton said.
Minahi Almukhles, a Business major also enjoyed the opportunity to hear the stories of so many successful individuals , some of which he’s gotten to speak with personally.
“I’m meeting amazing people. I have an interview today that is going to change my life,” Almukhles said. “David Novak is very inspiring, too. Never give up. Never back down on your life, basically.”
Almukhles and his business partner Michael Scalia recently started their own business, hoping to attract students from overseas to America.
“We’re going to be recruiting international students and workers to the country, so I can’t wait to see the change in my life and in other people’s lives,” Almukhles said.
Novak himself prepared heavily for the ceremony, hoping to inspire and encourage students as much as possible.
“I worked harder to get ready for this speech than most. I speak all the time. But what I really wanted to give people a sense of here is that they don’t really know what their possibilities are,” Novak said. “You never really know what you’re capable of. I tried to use my backstory and my experiences as a way to demonstrate that.”