What initially inspired you to get into the hospitality business? My initial inspiration was my parents. They purchased two “motels” in Springdale, Arkansas, when I was in the fifth grade. These two motels were where I spent my afternoons, weekends and summers working. My parents grew up humbly, they saw opportunity in the hospitality industry and they followed their dream. I loved and still love the family environment of working together. I don’t believe they envisioned that InterMountain would become the company it has become but they certainly planted the seeds.
Who were some of your mentors or role models, male or female, and what were their most valuable lessons? I have certainly had many mentors over the years and many of them males. But since the focus of this article is focused on women, let me share with you three very important women in my life:
My mother—Clara Weaver. She just turned 96 years old and is still going strong. Mom taught me to be honest and work hard. Mom is selfless and very much concerned with others. Mom is the culture behind InterMountain. She lived it every day until she retired at the age of 87.
My aunt—Aunt Bett. She lived until she was 81. She had a career with Southwestern Bell for 43 years. She lived below her means and had quite a net worth when she passed. She once told me as she was coming into financial stability that it was “the getting there” that she enjoyed.
Augusta Shepherd was a dear friend of my mom and the mother of my best friend Judy. She was an “it” lady back in the day. She worked, supported her husband’s career as a bank executive, played golf and bridge while maintaining an amazing home life for her family. She was 98 years and 11 months when she passed. A life well lived.
These three women were “influencers” before it was even a word that we use daily to describe those folks we listen to…leaders. They carved out their “niche” in life and made it their own. They were individuals who defined their life and helped me to define mine.
In your opinion, how is the lodging industry doing in terms of getting women into leadership positions? I believe that hospitality is a career path for anyone who is service-minded. There is certainly opportunity for men and women. I have noticed a rise of women in the hospitality industry and I believe the “why” is that they are very dialed in on what is needed at the property. They have intuition and act on it.