Be Authentic: 5 Tips for Career Success

Lessons from Replacements, Ltd. CFO on Leadership, Values, and Success
Summer 2016


When Kelly Smith (BS ’86) came to Wake Forest, he was looking for a challenge.

“I decided I would try the hardest major, and I thought that was accounting,” said Smith, now the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Replacements, Ltd. “Trying the hardest major at the hardest school prepared me not only for the CPA exam, but also for life and leadership in the business world.”

His responsibilities at Replacements, Ltd., include all financial operations, human resources, inventory management, and facilities for the company, which offers more than 425,000 dinnerware patterns in a 500,000-square-foot facility, and serves more than ten million customers worldwide.

Smith talked about his time at Wake Forest University School of Business and shared his five tips for career success to over 150 Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) students attending the orientation keynote in Broyhill Auditorium.

 

BE AUTHENTIC

“Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Smith also highlighted the LGBTQ-friendly policies and benefits his firm has embraced over the years, such as offering insurance benefits for partners and seeking vendor relationships with firms that offer the same type of benefits and policies. “In the long run, authenticity has helped make us a more successful company.”

 

KNOW WHO YOU ARE

“I once attended a professional theater workshop to hone my skills. The director told us casting was like decorating a room. I may be the most beautiful striped sofa he’s ever seen, but if he’s looking for a polka-dot chair, it just won’t work. It’s my job to be the best striped sofa I can be. If I’m really great, I’ll be remembered for a future decorating project. And if I’m THAT great, then maybe, just maybe, he’ll redecorate and find a place for a wonderful striped sofa.”

Smith advised students to stay true to yourself, and remember that sometimes what feels like a lost opportunity can simply be a situation where someone else had the right unique talents. He also reminded the students to interview employers to ensure the company culture and values mesh with their personal values.

 

SHARE YOUR BEST SELF WITH OTHERS

In addition to his role as a c-level executive at a global firm, Smith is also a singer fronting two bands – the NC Revelers Big Band and the Likewise Jazz Trio.

Find hobbies and ways to join the community. He considers this crucial for not only work-life balance, but also networking. “Make meaningful connections with people,” he said.

 

DO EVEN THE MOST MUNDANE TASKS TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY

“Work hard and do everyday things with your best values.”

 

BE PREPARED

“That authenticity combined with the skill set you learn at Wake Forest will lead you to a lifelong successful career.”