Reade Tidwell has come along way from her Delta youth in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The Ole Miss alumna has found her success in being named the Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Chick-fil-A in Atlanta. HottyToddy.com’s Steve Vassallo caught up with Tidwell while in Oxford recently during presentations to the Economic Development Foundation and Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber.
Vassallo: Reade, as a child in Clarksdale, did you ever envision a career in communications and landing in Atlanta?
Tidwell: No, I actually always thought about retail or marketing; but early in my career, I, fortunately, landed in the communications world and I’ve never considered leaving it.
Vassallo: Apparently, graduating from Ole Miss, with your business background, prepared you well for corporate America.
Tidwell: Ole Miss truly prepared me for life after college – specifically in leveraging social and people skills in business environments and balancing priorities. It really taught me how to balance all my interests in life (not that I do that perfectly) – whether it was school work, jobs I had in Oxford or with the Student Programming Board or social things. Work/life balance is a constant thing you are managing.
Vassallo: What advice can you share with today’s students at the Meek School to prepare them best for the challenges ahead?
Tidwell: Take advantage of unexpected opportunities. This is a quote from our founder, Truett Cathy, and has really resonated with me in both my personal life and career. (I think chicken sandwich became his unexpected opportunity and he never planned Chick-fil-A. He was just looking to find something unique and delicious to serve his customers.) For any student, my advice is don’t put your blinders on and be so locked in to achieving a certain thing that you miss unexpected opportunities that come up. We all love to plan and be so intent about what we do next. But in a rapidly changing society and business climate, you can’t even predict what’s next.
Vassallo: Were there other stops along the way following graduation before connecting with Chick-fil-A?
Tidwell: Yes, and my first 2 employers in Atlanta were from Mississippi. I worked for a small consulting firm and then joined A. Brown-Olmstead, a local PR and community relations firm. After working there for more than 3 years, I joined Porter Novelli, a global PR agency based in New York.
Vassallo: As a Director of Corporate Communications, what strengths and skills are most demanding?
Tidwell: Adaptability and awareness of the situation. You have to be flexible and ready to react at a moment’s notice – it’s a very deadline driven business. Also, you have to really understand your audience and who you are talking to or your messages will miss the mark.
Vassallo: Describe a typical day in your corporate environment.
Tidwell: No two days are alike and this energizes me! Even though I’ve had the same “job” it changes every day – there is always a new thing to communicate, a new issue to manage. It is also highly collaborative where you have to pull together and support many functions of the business and get everyone on the same page.
Vassallo: If you had the opportunity to do anything differently in your academic journey, what would that have been?
Tidwell: I was a Business major with an emphasis in marketing. I should have taken more writing and/or history classes but the business background has served me well.
Vassallo: Chick-fil-A is a phenomenal company as we can attest from its Oxford success story. What is it about your corporate philosophy that has made this company such a stellar operation?
Tidwell: Lance Reed is the perfect example of our local Operator model at work. The way he and other Operators serve their local communities has been a huge part of the company’s success. They are so similar to how our founder, Truett, ran his first restaurant and invested in the lives of his customers.
Vassallo: Reade, in wrapping up, how much do you miss the Delta and Ole Miss and how often are you able to return?
Tidwell: I don’t return as much as I’d like as my immediate family members are in now in Birmingham and Atlanta. But in my home, I am surrounded by elements of Mississippi and keep many reminders of the Delta. And anytime, I come home, it really energizes me!
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 985-852-7745.