Women in Business: Tracey Geren

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,400 views 

Class of 2020 Women in Business Tracey Geren President & CEO Weldon, Williams & Lick Inc., Fort Smith

Residence: Fort Smith

Education: B.S., accounting, Arkansas Tech University

Professional background: In August 2017, Geren was named president and CEO of Weldon, Williams & Lick after serving as chief financial officer for 31 years. She’s the company’s fifth president in its 122-year history, the first female president and the first non-family member president. A certified public accountant, Geren serves on the Arvest Bank board for the Fort Smith region.

What’s the next big personal or career challenge you plan to take on? I’m in it. Pre-pandemic, my goal was to navigate the changes in our industry and make sure our company stayed on solid financial footing for the future. Now, in a much more challenging environment, the goal is the same.

What advice would you give young women who are currently at the beginning of their careers? I would give the same advice to all young people: Always remember that everything you do is relevant, in both your personal life and your work life. Success is about taking advantage of opportunities when they come. Every time you are given a project or faced with a situation, it is an opportunity to make an impact on someone’s evaluation of you.

Be your best. I promise someone will be watching and will see things in you that you don’t even know about yourself, which will then lead to other opportunities. I can honestly say I did not actively seek any of the leadership roles that I’ve had. I was asked to do them because others believed that I could.

What was your dream job as a kid and why? I do remember in high school knowing that I wanted to do something in business, and I wanted to enjoy a job so much that the days passed quickly. I picked accounting … go figure. It turned out to be the perfect fit for me and a great foundation for the future.

What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career so far? In terms of professional achievement, probably three years ago when I was promoted to president and CEO. That was a move that I never anticipated or expected.

How do you spend your time away from work? What are your hobbies? Mainly I spend time with family and friends. I love to read. I also love sports and am praying for fall and football — for both personal and professional reasons.

What’s the last good book you read? “Fearless” by Eric Blehm.

Of all the mentors in your professional career, who has been the most influential and why? I don’t think I can pick just one. A college professor, Royce Jones, believed in me, counseled me and helped to really start my career and head me in the right direction. Dot Rappeport was executive director of United Way when I served on that board. She took an interest in me as a young woman and served as a great role model with her poise and professional grace.

Jim Walcott, my predecessor, gave me a chance as a very young woman to take on a big role at WW&L. I’ve worked closely with Jim for my entire career and learned from his intelligence and passion for our company and industry. Lastly, S.W. Jackson Jr. was the chairman of the board for many of my years at the company. Mr. Jackson was intensely curious, open-minded, fair and had a genuine interest in people and the community. He spent many hours with me and others in our company learning about our challenges and mentoring, truly, by his example.

What is something distinctive people would be surprised to know about you? I took a personality profile once that basically indicated I was not very social. Many people who know me would be surprised to hear that, but it is actually true.

What’s your biggest passion and why? Besides my family, my passions are really work focused right now and for the immediate future. I am passionate about securing a solid future for our company, building the next generation of leaders to take us forward and returning people to work.

Can you share some of what you have learned about your business from the COVID-19 pandemic? I’ve learned the importance of urgency in reacting to the situation and making the changes that are needed to survive and prosper. Our company, with all its history and success, has not always been accepting of change. We are getting a crash course now, though, and are learning fast. I am so proud of our employees and how they are handling the situation.

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