C-Suite: Bethany Stephens

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Class of 2021 C Suite Bethany Stephens President Soapbox Influence, Bentonville

Fast Fact: Stephens has led Soapbox Influence since its inception in 2014. She previously spent more than 15 years in marketing, communication, public relations, development, strategy and leadership roles across multiple sectors.

What’s the most recent book you read? I’m currently reading “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner, which explores healthy habits, good habits promoting longevity and patterns among the world’s longest-living individuals.

What is the best business advice you have ever received? I spent a number of years working for Raymond Burns at the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, and he would always say that there are at least three sides to every story. It’s easy to assume that the facts are cut and dry without considering multiple possibilities or scenarios, and that mindset has kept me open to more broad interpretations and solutions.

In one sentence, can you express what the most important thing about being a leader is? Being in a position of leadership is an amazing opportunity to essentially “use your power for good and not evil” by supporting and building up those you have the privilege of working alongside every day as well as a chance to return the favors you’ve been granted throughout your own career.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that isn’t on your resume? Probably my childhood in the Caribbean and South America thanks to our family living overseas due to my dad’s job with a global aluminum producer. It certainly gave me an atypical upbringing and life lens.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you be doing? I studied foreign languages and grew up moving around the world, and I always thought I’d land in international business or the Foreign Service.

What is the most used app on your phone? Slack (for internal messaging with the Soapbox team) and Fitbit (I’m a little obsessive with my health and wellness data).

If you had $1 million to give, what would you support? While I’m passionate about literacy and entrepreneurship, if I truly had the capacity to give at a significant level, I would look to the areas of highest need and immediate impact in my own backyard such as our area food banks and homeless shelters.

What is the best business advice you have ever given? My hope would be that it is “Be kind but firm.” I think we can deliver hard messages with firmness, and that we can push back with a clear message and courtesy. But I also often say that kids, direct reports and plants can all benefit from a little benign neglect (and less hovering, hand-holding and micro-managing).

In your company/industry, what are the main differences between pre- and post- COVID-19? The marketing and advertising industry has been most impacted by issues surrounding supply and demand. Pandemic concerns and social justice issues caused hesitancy to market last year, and this year the primary issue is supply chain challenges creating a lack of inventory on shelves (and hence a pullback on marketing).

What keeps you up at night or worries you the most? I’m not an immense worrywart, but if I’m fretting or waking up with a jolt in the middle of the night it’s probably related to an email I’ve neglected or individual I’ve forgotten to follow up with. I do try to just walk away each day rather than working myself to death to check off every single thing on my list every single day… because realistically, it’s all never-ending.

What is one thing you would change about your company if you could today? I’m tempted to say the chance to leapfrog some of the years of fits and starts as we were hitting our stride or going through challenges such as toxic hires, differentiating ourselves or streamlining processes. However – at risk of sounding like Pollyanna – those things have truly made us into the company we are today, so I wouldn’t trade them.