By Phil Klutts
January 12, 2021

“Master of None” shows how exploration leads to success

Book by former Sonic CEO and local OKC businessman brings to life how innovation, curiosity lead to personal, business growth

Master of None: How a Jack-of-All-Trades Can Still Reach the Top

By Clifford Hudson

This book caught my attention in three separate ways. First, I consider myself to be a jack-of-all-trades, so the title immediately made a personal connection. Second, growing up in Edmond means visiting Sonic was a regular occurrence, and I’m a sucker for business memoirs. Finally, “Master of None” was on the Oklahoma Non-Fiction Best Seller’s list, hitting the No. 1 spot in November 2020. It also helped that author Clifford Hudson is a local guy from Oklahoma City.

“Master of None” did not disappoint when I began reading it. Hudson combines some of my favorite subjects into an engaging book. Writing with a personal tone, he includes business strategy, leadership advice, history, and business culture in a book that could be classified in the memoir, self-help, business, or leadership sections of your local bookstore. 

Chapter One opens with how Hudson becomes CEO of Sonic Corporation in a very unexpected turn of events. If a quote very fitting for 2020, he says, “You can’t really plan what you never saw coming.” Although not planned, Hudson became and stayed CEO of Sonic for 35 years and says that his tenure was the “result of a fondness for variety and a continuously extending curiosity.” Throughout the book, he continues to debunk the advice that you must specialize in and master a single skillset. Later in the book, he relates a study by a team at the Columbia Business School that supports this idea. The study tested whether cognitive fixation hinders finding new solutions to problems. You’ll have to read the book for the details, but I’ll share that multi-taskers came up with more ideas than those focused on one thing. 

Leading an organization brings challenges and rewards. Hudson brings to life many of the stories that enriched his life as the leader of a restaurant franchise system. He relates the stories and his perspective on events ranging from troubling conflict resolution and hostile takeover attempts to leveraging the ideas of franchisees. One particular story involves how Hudson’s listening and willingness to innovate led to huge growth. He expanded on the local ice cream innovation instead of forcing a franchisee to conform to corporate norms. The expansion of ice cream led to a growth of same-store profits by 40 percent. The change in ice cream also led to a mindset that allowed the Sonic teams to expand and innovate in other areas as well. 

Each of the nine chapters in “Master of None” concludes with a Rule of Thumb and three short sections applying the rule to Life, Work, and Leadership. Better than a chapter summary, these rules and application sections drive the points home and allow for easy digestion of the stories and concepts. It is hard to pick one, but my favorite rule is probably No. 6: Focus Is Necessary but Not Sufficient for Innovation. I often get distracted by new ideas and making connections from one industry or area to another. It is encouraging to read that Hudson advocates for this approach. 

Hudson makes some contrarian advice in “Master of None” but proves that sometimes popular advice is not the only way to succeed. You don’t have to be a “10,000-hour expert” to be successful in life and business. Hudson backs up this claim with anecdotes from his personal experience. He also uses data and research to help prove his points. 

Today’s business environment changes quickly. Technology advances faster than most of us can keep up. The advice in Hudson’s book will help anyone in business excel. Grab this book to enjoy the stories, then use it as a guide to explore your career and life.

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About Phil Klutts

Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.

In addition to being the co-owner of Edmond Business, Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.