Women in Business: Debbie Creek

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Class of 2024 Women in Business Debbie Creek Vice President of Finance Harps Food Stores Inc.; Springdale

Residence: Springdale

Education: B.S.B.A., accounting, University of Arkansas; MBA, John Brown University

Professional background: Creek joined Harps in 2006 as controller and helped oversee day-to-day financial operations during the company’s growth from 52 stores to 149. The company appointed her to vice president earlier this year. Creek has been a member of the Springdale Public Schools School Board since 2018. She also is on the Springdale Chamber of Commerce and Springdale Public Schools Education Foundation boards.

What is the most fulfilling part of your work? I am an accounting nerd, so there is nothing more satisfying on the micro level than getting a complicated spreadsheet to balance. On a larger scale, working for an employee-owned company is the most fulfilling thing I could imagine. I love knowing that the work I put in is helping build retirement wealth for myself and my fellow employee-owners. Employee ownership is life changing and even legacy changing for many of our long-term employees.

What is the best leadership advice you have ever received? Surround yourself with a great team. Find people who are motivated and capable and help them grow. Their growth will force you to keep growing too. One of the smartest people I ever knew told me that the real measure of a leader is what happens when they are gone. When you have a strong team, things keep running smoothly even when you aren’t there.

Who was a big mentor to you in the early part of your career? I have the best life-long mentors, my five sisters. Our mother was amazing and raised us all to be strong and independent. When she passed, we sisters agreed to try to take her place in each other’s lives. We hold each other accountable, give advice, proofread documents, and support and cheer each other on in all our endeavors. And we are super competitive, which drives us all to be our best.

What do you think of the opportunities that exist for women in business compared with when you started? I have been very fortunate to have always worked for companies and supervisors who encouraged me and helped me grow. One of my earliest bosses used to tell me he was “teaching” me and would frequently take the time to explain in more detail what he was doing and why. At my current job, I have been surrounded by support, and Harps has invested heavily in my growth as a leader. Harps has given me a multitude of opportunities to learn and grow, both inside and outside the company.

How should women support other women in their organizations? Be kind. Be honest. Be encouraging. Listen to their ideas. Help them see the potential that they may not see in themselves. Challenge them to dream bigger. Celebrate their successes.

What are some of the leadership skills that helped you move up in your organization? There is no substitute for hard work and loyalty, but caring for and understanding people is the most important part of being a leader. The people are what makes everything click, and when you truly care for them, they can be their best.

Why do you think companies would benefit from having more women at the top? Women can bring a different perspective to issues. When you have more perspectives at the table, you have a better chance of finding the right answer.

What is something distinctive that people would be surprised to know about you? My dad was raised Amish, and his hometown in Illinois is one of my favorite places to get away from a hectic life. Late night conversations by lantern light and slow buggy rides through a gorgeous countryside bring such peace to my soul.

What’s the most recent book you’ve read? I read every day, both for fun and for learning. My husband and I are currently binging on Kristin Hannah audiobooks. We have loved them all.

What do you do to relax when not working? I love traveling, hiking, reading, puzzles and spending time with my family. I have five kids and one grandson, and they are the joy of my life.