VOL. 131 | NO. 37 | Monday, February 22, 2016
Hardy’s Advice For Women in Business
By Madeline Faber
Carolyn Hardy has been places a woman hadn’t been before in the Memphis business world.
Throughout her career at J.M. Smucker Co., Honeywell-POMS Corp., Coors Brewing Co. and her own ventures with Hardy Bottling Co. and Henderson Transloading, Hardy has made it a point to be confident with herself and make everyone else comfortable with having a woman at the boardroom table. Under her new role as chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber, she’s advocating for greater inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses in the private sector.
Hardy delivers the keynote address at The Daily News’ Women & Business seminar on Thursday, Feb. 25, where she’ll speak about being the first woman in command at the “good old boy” table and inciting women to use their inherent gifts to move ahead and lift up other women.
The seminar, which runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Brooks Museum of Art auditorium, 1934 Poplar Ave., also will include three panelists: Sara Burnett, public relations manager for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital; Stacy McCall, president and CEO of ServiceMaster by Stratos; and Sarah Petschonek, founder and director of Volunteer Odyssey.
“The challenge you’re still facing is that you’re not in a good old boys’ club. That’s number one,” Hardy said.
“Number two is that the world has shrunk since 2008 with a lot of consolidation, acquisitions of companies. Because the world has shrunk, the guys are competing harder. So the challenges you’re facing have gotten more pronounced because the pie has shrunk.”
In encouraging other women in business, Hardy has a few points by which she’s always lived her life.
Know Your Worth
Coming from an impoverished upbringing, Hardy said that the cards were stacked against her family, but her mother’s resourcefulness and fight-or-flight dedication continue to be wellsprings of inspiration in how Hardy tackles business.
“You have to understand it's OK to be who you are and how to make the best of who you are. I'm still a black girl. That's not going to change. But I'm completely comfortable being that girl, and I know a lot,” she said.
Hardy’s mother also taught her that if you have a blend of education and common sense, “the world is yours.”
“There is a third piece,” Hardy added. “You have to have courage. Nothing trumps courage. You have to say, ‘I'm going in there. You can't stop me.’”
Despite her more than 40 years of professional experience, Hardy said that she still introduces herself by highlighting her accomplishments.
“All of a sudden they understand I have a reach, and my reach is 99 percent better than all of them. I have to level the playing field, and I have to do that every single time,” she said. “At times you can get upset about that. Or you can say that's just the way it is and you're wasting a lot of energy getting upset about it.”
Know Your Company
Hardy said one of the most important pieces of business guidance came to her while she was working as the first African-American female plant manager at Coors.
“People hire people that they’re comfortable with,” she said.
“When you come in the room and there’s 15 men and just you, do you think they're worried about making you comfortable? No, you have fit in with the conversation.”
Hardy said it’s her nature to prepare and practice extensively for meetings, but it also allows her to walk in a room with her head higher than anyone else.
“After awhile, they’ll see you not just as a woman, but as the smartest person in the room.”
Support Other Women
Women have to be intentional as it relates to other women, Hardy said.
“At times, we’re our own worst enemy,” she said.
If she hears anyone dismissing a woman she knows personally, she’ll always make an effort to highlight that woman’s strengths and accomplishments.
With her agriculture transportation business Henderson Transloading, Hardy said she makes an effort to contract with women-owned businesses for each link in the chain, from security to trucking.
“We have to give you really good advice and direction, really the best of what we have. After we’ve made it in the room, we have to hold the door open for other women and lift each other up.”