Hello, my name is Andrew, and I’m the new CEO of Fayettechill.  This is a sentence that still sounds slightly foreign to me, but hasn’t for a moment felt unnatural.  

With Mo (Fayettechill’s Founder and former CEO) on the road, it became apparent that we would need someone in Fayetteville to lead at the Smokehouse.  I was thrilled to take on the role.

Who am I?

Born in New Orleans, my family moved to Fayetteville when I was two.  I grew up in the Ozarks.  I grew up in the woods.  I grew up fishing, hunting, and camping in this amazing region’s natural spaces.  As a boy, Fayetteville was my stomping ground.  I had a bike as soon as I could ride and it was my ticket to the world.  I would spend every bit of time after school and on the weekends exploring Wilson Park, constructing forts in the treeline and fishing in the creek with a coke can and a ball of line.  My bike took me to the U of A campus, Dickson Street, and other “faraway” places that Fayetteville had to offer.  I continue to be enchanted by this town’s hidden natural places; the tree-lined creeks tucked behind businesses and the little waterfalls hidden next to a busy intersection.

In Boy Scouts, I learned how to pitch a tent, whittle a stick, and build a fire.  With my dad, I learned how to catch a fish, shoot a gun, and drive an old Chevy down a dirt road.  With my friends, I learned how to tell ghost stories, how much beer was needed for a three night camping trip, and how to pack it all out so as to leave no trace that we were there.  As I got older, my experiences in the forests of the Ozarks diversified, and I began to learn my most valuable lesson so far in life: that I need time in natural places in order to be fulfilled. As I get older, this message becomes more and more poignant.

Fayettechill serves as a constant reminder to appreciate the world around me--to take a pause and relax, especially when the stakes are high.  I’ve always had an easy ability to stay calm, maybe that’s why I fit in so well here.

History with Fayettechill

It was Grant Holden who took the chance and hired me into the FC Family in the Summer of 2013 as a part-time employee in the warehouse.  After pushing through an eventful Fall/Winter ‘13 line launch and Christmas season, I found myself as the Warehouse Manager, co-leading a motley crew of warehouse ninjas with Brian O’Dea, now our Director of Operations.  

From the start, I was drawn to our online operations.  I started customizing our packaging and looking for ways to improve the online buying experience for our customers.  Interest in the online realm lead to an evolution of my role to Web and Logistics Director.  I still had a leadership role in the warehouse, but I also took on a direct management role of the website alongside the other O’Dea, Devin.

After serving in that capacity for quite some time, my other main interest, people, came to occupy a larger portion of my head space.  I have always been, and continue to be, fascinated with motivation and psychology.  I took to management naturally.  Fayettechill is both a group of friends and a group of motivated entrepreneurs - two descriptors that don’t always align.  After diving into our workplace culture, policies, and habits, I began attempting to progress our work environment, in concert with Mo, Devin, and everyone else on the team.  This work led to my promotion to Chief Operating Officer, with HR and personnel management added to my responsibilities.  This allowed me to lead with Mo and Devin and offer a middle-ground point of view in many situations.

Transition to CEO

With Mo leaving town for a year long trip around the country in his Sprinter van, it was time for me to step up and assume the role that I was both excited and nervous to take, CEO.  Mo and I had a series of conversations and agreed that my personality and talent-set was suited for the role, thereby allowing Mo to concentrate fully on roles from the road: carving out our brand presence nationwide, visiting our manufacturers and retailers, and serving as our most powerful R&D source.  

The title comes with implications that I am finding both surprising and amusing.  Besides an update to Facebook and LinkedIn job descriptions, I haven’t made a large to-do of the promotion.  When my friends and family find out, usually through the grapevine, congratulations and the question of, “how do you like it?” usually follow.  My interactions haven’t changed, and I don’t make more money. I just feel lucky.  But luck doesn’t account for everything.  Confidence helped get me here, but confidence without humility will bring me down.  I remind myself of that every day.  

I’m only as good as my team, and my team is amazing.

As far as day-to-day differences, there isn’t much that is drastic.  Although this was never my go-to response, the biggest difference is there is no more, “not my problem.”  If something makes it to me for a decision, there isn’t a higher court to which to punt.  If there is time to do so, I prefer to take the advice and counsel of the talented group of people around me.  If there is still disagreement, I’m a big fan of a good old-fashioned vote so everyone’s voice can be heard.  As CEO I try my best to maintain an elevated degree of objectivity.  It is my job to look out for the best interest of the company as a whole.

Wrap up

Leading Fayettechill is a challenge.  But it’s just that, leading Fayettechill.  How many people get a chance to shape something so dynamic and positive.  The people I work with are great, I’m proud of the products that we make, and I believe in the message we promote. There are difficult tasks every day, and sometimes there is stress, but that is entrepreneurship, and I sleep like a baby every night.  

And as far as the question above: “how do you like it?”  

I love it.