Adam Torres and Cleo Franklin Jr. discuss Cleo’s new book.
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The 95th Annual Texas FFA Convention in Dallas, Texas was the site for Cleo’s latest book release, Mission Matters: Mission-Based Leaders Share Inspiring Stories on Leadership and Success (Texas Leaders Edition Vol. 1). In this episode, Adam Torres and Cleo Franklin Jr., Founder of Franklin Strategic Solutions & Franklin Leadership Foundation, explore Cleo’s catalog of books, future plans, and why he is an advocate of the Texas FFA.
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About Cleo Franklin Jr.
Founder and CEO, Cleophus (Cleo) P. Franklin Jr.: Franklin is a Houston-based entrepreneur, University of Houston-Downtown Adjunct Professor, and retired award-winning agriculture global business executive. He brings more than 30 years of expertise in designing, developing, and delivering game-changing and award-winning business growth strategies for start-ups, non-profits, and multi-million dollar businesses across many sectors and global markets.
He is the author of two leadership and professional development books Coffee with Cleo and Lessons from our Mothers and Fathers. He is also the founder of Franklin Strategic Solutions and received his MBA from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Kenan Flager Business School. Franklin is a passionate supporter of preparing the next generation to become future inspirational leaders
Full Unedited Transcript
Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres and I’m so proud and excited to say I’m at the 95th Annual Texas F F A convention in Dallas, Texas. And today my guest is Cleo Franklin. He is an author. He is a. Speaker, he is an entrepreneur, and so much more. First off, I just wanna say, hey, Cleo, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Adam. It’s, it’s a pleasure to be here at a lot of energy with this Texas f f a convention. I, I don’t know what about a lot of other places to be. It’s a place right here in the, and to talk about the things that are happening with our youth. Oh man. Well we’re glad to finally have you on the show.
I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. For everybody that hasn’t caught it yet, hey, pick up a copy. We just released it. Volume one of our Texas Leaders Edition for Mission Matters. So Cleo is one of those featured authors. And I guess before we get into the books, ’cause we have, we have some more books to talk about too.
Cleo’s an author multiple times. So hold a couple more of these and we’ll get into these of course. And he’s got another book, I believe you told me. Yes. Coming out pretty soon as well. So we’ll get into this. Yes. But before we do Texas f f a, right? Like where did you first discover, or like, like how did this come across your path?
You know, back in 2011 when I started at Mahindra, and that’s Mahindra America’s was his agricultural company here. We Aaron, Alejandro the foundation director contacted me and of course to expand our. Our sponsorship. Yeah. And immediately I was engaged because I think agriculture affects all of us in so many different ways.
Mm-hmm. And we built a relationship. So I joined the Texas F F A Foundation Board in 2012. Mm-hmm. And proud member to this very day. Oh man. So that’s where it began. Wow. What a story. Yeah, Aaron for everybody that’s watching this show for a long time, you’ll know I talk about ’em all the time, but growing Our Future podcast, go check it out, if you haven’t checked it out yet, that Aaron Alejandro brings these amazing guests on there, and that’s a Texas F f A foundation show.
So just had to give a little plug there. Yeah, absolutely. So let’s talk a little bit more about you. So how, how did you get started on your, on your path and really as an entrepreneur? Well I believe probably the biggest thing that happened for me is growing up in Chicago. My parents by the way, both grew up in agriculture.
Mm-hmm. My mother was grew up on a farm in, in southeast Missouri, and that’s Wardell Hay, hay Missouri area. And my father grew up on a farm. In Casco, Arkansas, just north of Stuttgart, but they had this entrepr entrepreneurial spirit and they brought it to our family. So when they decided they didn’t want to farm, they came to Chicago and, and pursue careers, but they instilled within each one of our family members the resourcefulness, the ability to go out and, and to create opportunities.
And so I think this entrepreneurial vein more or less the d n a is just part of who I am and. And what my family’s all about. And I, it, it extends to this very day, to the things that I’m involved in. Hmm. So I, I believe that some of these future leaders, the F f A members that watch this, that are just getting involved, some of them might have that entrepreneurial itch, they may wanna start something.
What, what kind of things would you tell that young entrepreneur, entrepreneur’s just getting started? That’s a great question. One of the things that I would tell a young individual today is first of all, What is it that you love to do? Mm-hmm. What is it that you’re interested in? And based on the things that you like, companies, the businesses that you enjoy, look for a need in the marketplace amongst your friends, amongst your network that isn’t being provided, and seek that out and try to figure out how can I fulfill this need or.
An existing product or service, how can I add value and tinker with that and go out and test yourself? Because I think it’s, I don’t think we can wait for opportunities. You have to create opportunities. And entrepreneurs are creative. Yeah, they’re creative. Very creative at, at, at solving problems and creating I won’t say new products and services, but looking at things that are not being provided or that are being provided.
Adding value to it. Yeah. And, and you don’t know this Cleo, but that’s how Mission Matters was started. And, and this is the thing, I, I just came out with another book and, and in that book I talk about being an accidental entrepreneur. Yeah. Sometimes like that idea finds you and it’s like whether or not you’re gonna say yes or no to that idea.
So the very first book that we did like this, so the very first Mission Matters book wasn’t my idea. It was, it was friends in my network and circle, I was a. I was a financial advisor managing money at the time. And I, I wrote my own book, so it was myself, but I, I didn’t even know what an anthology was other than I’d read Chicken Soup for the Soul Growing Up.
Good book. And, and absolutely. And others were asking me, they say, Hey Adam, can you help me publish a book? Can we come together? Can we do something? And I’m like, no. I’m like, I don’t have time to, I’ll manage your money, but I can’t, I can’t help you write a book. I don’t know anything about it. Right. And they’re like, well, you’re pretty.
I’m like, no. But then it kept happening, like God was just doing what he does and he’s like, I’m like, okay, I heard you. The third came, I’m in. Okay, so let me figure this out. And that’s really how it all started was serving a need that was in that community of my, my sphere of influence and just really saying yes.
Yeah. Yeah. I, I think what you just said, being an accidental entrepreneur, I think opportunities are out there in an abundance. Yeah. The question is, is are we willing to, Take that opportunity to make something out of it. Mm-hmm. And, you know, whether or not you know, maybe have a little trepidation or some fear.
I, a lot of my part, I wasn’t cut for it. I didn’t say, I was like, I was like, everybody thought I was crazy. You know, I’m like maybe a little for doing it, but, you know, you know, I sometimes being a little bit Off kilter a little bit crazy really is the catalyst of success because it really drives you to do things differently to think.
Differently and to go out and pursue, but you can’t have unless you do. Yeah. And you know what? You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. So go out there and, and try Let’s talk books. Yeah. When did this idea of, well, we’ll get into ours a little later, but just in general, you’re an author multiple times mm-hmm.
And working in another book. When did this idea of books come to you? You know, I growing up Yeah, I’ll just say this. The library was one of my favorite places. My mother would take all nine of her children to the library on the, on the weekends and, and the Alman branch library in the west side of city Chicago.
Mm-hmm. It was a magical place for me. It was a place where you can get, discover new opportunities through stories and, and lose yourself and immerse yourself in books. So, I, I love reading, I love books. Yeah. Across all different categories and genres. So that really was the bug for me. Writing became next.
Oh, and did you know, you, so even early on, did you know you would be an author? I, I knew I would be a, an author. Oh. Did you know authors growing up? Or was it like, you know, I, I didn’t know authors, but I knew books. Yeah. And, and so books were so energizing for me and, you know, and throughout my business career, I always wanted to do one thing.
I said, I wanna write a leadership book that, Really intertwine personal and professional values because I don’t think you can separate personal and professional. Yeah. I think what we do at home is probably what we’re gonna do at work. Yeah. But also take a look at the things that matter from an experience and the things that influence you, but more importantly, put it in a way where anyone can read it, absorb it, digest it, and take it forward.
Mm-hmm. So my leadership books are, Pretty straightforward. You know, whether you’re aspiring leader or if you’re longing a tooth and forgot a few things you can remember, but I think they really have these universal truths that I tried true and tested and, and you know what? I’m proud of it. Yeah. So let’s go through a little bit of your work here today.
So I wanna talk about multiple, which one, which one do you wanna start with? Let, let’s start with the first one. Alright. Coffee with Cleo and, and, and coffee with Cleo. Came out during the pandemic. Oh, wow. But it was a seven year odyssey for me journey. And, and this book in particular, I took over time, just these lessons learned.
I’m a big continuous learner and I love learning as much as I possibly can. And so over seven years, I took the experiences from my 30 plus years in agriculture, traveling the world and working across different industries and segments within the ag business. Yeah. And I apply them to stories. Mm-hmm.
And so this book has 10 leadership stories. And the thing about it is this I’m pretty vulnerable. I talk about failures because I think failure is a stair is your stair step to success. Mm-hmm. I talk about things that didn’t work, but what I learned and how I applied for it. But more importantly, I try to give the reader.
You know, not the what, but the so what of it? Mm-hmm. So if you’re looking to join a board, and here’s my experience in joining a board, here are three steps that you can use today. Yeah. To go out and apply to learn how to join a board. So it’s pretty much constructed in that way. Hmm. What are some of the things that you hope the reader will walk away with after they go through this?
’cause I know sometimes it’s, it’s tricky to get somebody to read a whole book nowadays. I mean, I’m a reader, like you’re a reader and we do it. But like, what do you hope are some of the key takeaways or things they walk away with? Yeah. The, the takeaways is, is the one thing that in, in my books, I try to give people, not I give them the formula, but I don’t give them the answer because I want you to think.
Yeah. And one of the takeaways is that this will make you think about who I am, what matters to me, why it matters. Yeah. And what do I need to do? And pursuing my mission both professionally and personally. And so that’s one of the biggest takeaways that you will receive from this book. But the other takeaway that you are going to receive in reading this book is, as it says, coffee with Cleo.
Yeah. Is what it is, is when you sit down and have a cup of coffee with a friend. Mm-hmm. Just like you and I are just chopping it up, having a conversation. This book is written in that style where, It is like you and I are having a conversation. Yeah. And as they would say, quote unquote real talk. Mm-hmm. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s something that anyone can, can understand and relate to because it’s personal, it’s vulnerable.
And I try to give you, again, the formula, but not the answer. But what it will do is allow you to go back and think about, Hmm, how do I take this formula forward and create the answer that I’m looking for? Because there’s not a one size fit all. You know, in life, everyone has their own path. Yeah. Yeah. Well let, let’s tee up the next one.
Which one do you wanna cover first or next? The next one is lessons from our mothers and fathers. And the impetus behind this book is, is the fact that I have 20 stories and five are contributed by me and 15 by other successful leaders across the world. But what I wanted to do was write a leadership book that really took the inspirations from parents.
Mm. Surrogate parents. Yeah. Single parents, just parents in general, and really have the people that were contributing to this book to talk about those influential points that made a difference in their lives. Wow. And tell it in their own language, because sometimes it’s the message, but when you have good messengers messaging in a different way.
I think that diversity and variety really is, is gold. And so this book is about that. It’s stories told in their own voices and people here are, are very interesting, very successful, but they made mistakes, but. They’re all paying homage and honoring their parents. Wow. That, that’s an amazing concept. And I can, so just to make sure I understand, so people are taking, basically, when you approach an author, and this is for anybody watching this, just to think about an anthology.
So when you approach an author and you bring somebody together and and do a collaboration like this, what happens is people wanna come with their best. That’s right. So not only do people wanna come with their best, but in this concept, they’re coming with the best of not just their own. Analysis. It’s the best of what was handed down to them.
Am I off on this? You no, you, you’re absolutely right. And and it’s, the thing about is that I do feel that there’s a story in each and every one of us. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. And when we’re allowed a platform to not just tell our stories in our own voice, then that authenticity, the realness, the genuineness, I think matters most of all.
Yeah. But when a person brings their best. And they tell their story and share it. I think that is the magic of storytelling. Mm. And so you know, the best way to communicate and to get things across, I believe is through storytelling. And, you know, you’re absolutely right. Yeah. And this book consists of 20 stories that people again, we have five from me, 15 from 15 different leaders, but they’re all very different, but unique to them.
Mm-hmm. And very, very impactful. Any story out of the book that you care to maybe share? Yeah, it could be, it could be that you wrote or that one of the authors wrote. Well, or just anything that sticks out. I, I, I’ll give you, you know, all of them are good without question, but I’ll give one. Not telling, not telling you to pick from your favorites.
I tell no, I if you, I I do sometimes do that, but I’m, we’re in a, we’re doing an in-person interview, so I’m not gonna do that to you, but, but if we are virtual, I might do that question. Well, you know, I think one of the stories that I really love in, in this book is one from our good friend, Aaron. Mm. Aaron talks about the name of his story.
The title is making Smaller Doors Bigger. Mm-hmm. And when you look at that title, it, it makes you think, what is, where is he going with this? Mm-hmm. But his story is a personal reflection on how he was able to understand what his purpose and mission in life was to do. Mm-hmm. And he came from a situation that’s very challenging.
Yeah. And in some respects, some people may say Minute Newton small. But what Aaron took from that, that whole life experience was how can I take where I’m at into enlarging it? Yeah. Through my network, through my experiences. Through my gratitude and it’s one of my favorite stories. Oh, that’s a great one.
Yeah. I’m familiar with Aaron’s stories and for a long time listeners and viewers, you probably, Aaron’s been on the show a couple times. Of course. We gotta snag ’em for an interview on at conference though. I haven’t gotten one on this one yet. So yeah, we have one more book over here. Yeah, yeah, we do.
This book came, come, this book came out in January of this year. It’s a children’s book and the name of the book is, what do you see when you look at me? This book is, The inspiration. Great cover, by the way. Well, thank you very much. Well, the artist I have to Olivia Hmm. One of the best mm-hmm.
Illustrators. She illustrated this book and she’ll be illustrating the next one for me. Mm-hmm. But that being said, this book is a testament in a celebration of a child’s imagination. Mm-hmm. It’s a read along book for ages three to eight years of age, and it, it really celebrates the curiosity. I call it the superpower that all children have.
Yeah. And it captures that. But more importantly, it really represents the mindset as a child and that the powerful mindset that has no limits that children bring to the world. And so the inspiration was from my son, Michael Joseph Franklin. Michael is hi of functioning Asperger’s and. When he was in school, people, some people would look at Michael and only would see him through his Asperger’s.
Mm. But believe me, he, like other children, is like a nice bird. What you see on the surface mm-hmm. Does not count for what’s beneath and very talented voiceover actor today. Mm-hmm. Thespian on a stage and he has his own business. But what do you see when you look at me? It’s not just on how people see you, but more importantly how you see yourself and how you can really.
Take it this way to expand horizons and opportunities for a, a child, and you only can be what you can imagine. Yeah. So we opened the doors for that and I I think I overheard You’re working on another one. Did I hear that right? Yes, I am. Man, you’re busy. Come on. Super author. Well, super author. I, I have to thank Lois, Lois Franklin for that.
She, she does inspire me and put me to work without questioning my wonderful wife. But the next book is called Conversations with Cleo. Hmm. And it’s going to take a little bit of a the best of coffee with Cleo and the best of lessons from our mothers and fathers. It’ll be 14 stories. I’ll contribute half of the stories, and I have some other authors and successful people, and it’s taking the success and extending it from there.
Hmm. And as I said earlier, I love hearing stories. I love sharing stories. Yeah. We learn through the storytelling platform. This book, I think is going to be, I’m very excited about it. It is one of the, I think it’s a pretty good one. Is there an accompany? Okay. Big question. Yeah. Is there an accompanying podcast?
Like you gotta, you gotta, what’s going on? Well, I, I have to, I have to talk to you Adam, to understand the build this podcasting platform. Oh, that’s well let me, let me just announce it now. We’re getting Cleo a podcast that’s happening one way or another. This got, this has to happen. Yeah, we, you know, it’s, it’s podcasting and, and I, I appreciate what you do and, and being able to take the information and share it.
But you share it through different platforms and yeah. Let’s, let’s talk about that without question. Awesome. Yeah. Alright, let’s let’s get into a little bit of the, what, what we’re promoting here at the, at the event today. So, or excuse me, at the conference this week. So what do you hope that your re, so a lot of work went into thiss, a lot of different leaders in Texas.
What do you hope from either your chapter or even others, That some of the readers walk away with to kind of give ’em a flavor? Yeah, I’ll answer it in two ways. I, I, this book this, this volume one Texas edition is, is from leaders that quite frankly are giving, as you’ve said earlier, their best, their best experiences.
They’re really are very personal. Mm-hmm. And are showing a lot of vulnerability. I think we mentioned that earlier. Yeah. But what I think that people would take away is this, A blueprint. Mm-hmm. A game plan. Mm-hmm. Or at least some sort of initiation of, you know what, if this is an example of how somebody has done it.
Yeah. Struggled, championed. Or if this is an example of something that I’ve can learn from someone who’s a multimillionaire. Yep. Why can’t I? Mm-hmm. And so here it is in this book. All together from 14 different people. So this to me is something that is more or less a game plan of, you know, what it takes to be successful, but more importantly, how do you hurdle the failures?
Hmm. How do you challenge yourself to go beyond where you are today, but more importantly, how do you collaborate and cooperate with other people to really put together a network of experiences to apply forward and share with others? So that’s what I hope people would take away from that. Were there any kind of surprises, whether it was in the process, the book after you got it, you read it?
Any, just anything that stuck out as like a, huh. You know, the, the biggest surprise I’d say, Adam, is the fact that what I’ll question, knowing that I was going to be part of this platform with 14 superb, fantastic people that. You have to your A game. And is it a surprise? I, I, maybe it’s more or less of inspiration, right?
Mm-hmm. That I need to be able to provide, you know, at least at par of this. Mm-hmm. This, this fabulous set of colleagues that are pretty darn good. The other surprise that I love in this, in this particular process was this. Understanding that this would be not just for Texas F ffa Yeah. Members, but for people who are nationally involved in F ffa, but people who aren’t involved in F ffa.
Yeah. Or don’t even know what it is. Yeah. It this is for anybody. Mm-hmm. That looking for insights to success from people across different areas in business, nonprofit, and for profit. And it’s right here in this book. I mean, this is aggregated and I don’t think there’s anything out there like this. No, there’s not.
I haven’t. And so not as a biased publisher, but there’s not, and so there’s not, and I don’t take credit wasn’t for, if it was not for the f f A. Yeah. And if it or Texas f f a and Aaron, Alejandro yourself as a board member and all of the contributors here could not have happened. It’s impossible. Well, it, it, it’s and the other surprise is just the opportunity.
And honored to be invited to be part of the book, which It has me smiling now, and I was smiling then. So. Well, Cleo, I know you and I can we can talk about books all day. Yeah. But we’re, we’re about out of time on this particular episode, and I’m sure we’re gonna get you a podcast. We’re, we’re gonna keep you, you’re, we’re not done with you Cleo, but for, I’m glad.
I’m glad. So, that being said if somebody’s watching this or listening to this and they wanna follow up and they wanna learn more about your books, your brand overall, like what’s the best way for people to connect? Yeah. There, there’s two ways that you can find me. You can find me at. Www.coffeewithcleo.com.
Mm-hmm. Or coffee with cleo.com. Mm-hmm. Or Franklin, S as in Sam, S as in sam.com. That’s Franklin. Ss as in Sam, S as in sam.com, and you can find me there and just Google me. I’m, I’m easy to find. Yeah. Can’t hide on any internet and on LinkedIn. Yeah, Clio puts out great LinkedIn content. I, I suggest look him up and definitely connect there because I, I, I mean, he puts out great content.
I, I watch his content. So again, thank you Cleo for coming to the show. Thank, thank you for all you do. Appreciate it, Adam. Thanks so much.