As director of operations for Alabama Outdoors, Kristy Ward has cultivated a dynamic team through her well-balanced sense of leadership, support and integrity. Her ability to assemble a passionate, driven team with shared goals has been instrumental to the success of the rapidly growing company, which is soon launching its new venture, Water and Oak, in Louisville and Lexington, KY. We are pleased to welcome today’s FACE of Birmingham, Kristy Ward!
Are you a Birmingham native and, if not, what brought you to the Magic City?
My family moved to Birmingham when I was young. I graduated from The Altamont School in 1993, and I absolutely consider myself a Birmingham native.
Was this the career you originally pursued? Tell us about your professional journey.
My degree is in psychology, so this was not the career I originally envisioned. Like most young people, I was not entirely sure of what I wanted to do with my life and career. When I was younger, I took a position assisting with daily operations for my father’s business and found that I enjoyed it. I learned a lot about the business world. That experience helped me develop my own vision of what I wanted my career to look like. I’ve always loved Alabama Outdoors, so I joined the company in 2003. I saw an opportunity for growth and have worked my way up over the years.
Tell us about your current position at Alabama Outdoors.
I serve as the director of operations. My responsibilities include day-to-day operations at each of our retail locations and distribution center. I’m also responsible for visual merchandising, inventory control and accounting. I cover a lot of ground, but I’m fortunate to have an extremely talented team that helps me make it happen.
As a successful female executive, what advice would you give other women seeking corporate success?
Three things: First, be consistent. Set the expectations for your team early on, and provide them with the tools and support that they need to meet those expectations. Second, be fair. Treat everyone that you encounter the same way that you would want to be treated, and hold yourself to the same standards that you hold others to. Third, be passionate about the goals and accomplishments of your team and company.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
We are a growing company, and part of our success is our ability to stay dynamic and responsive as we grow. Over the next year, that growth will extend into Louisville and Lexington, KY, featuring our new venture, Water and Oak. Though day-to-day operations in this rapidly growing climate can be difficult, it is extremely rewarding when those plans come to fruition.
What is the most rewarding?
Being a member of an incredible team that shares a common passion and focus. No matter what challenge presents itself, as a team, we figure it out together.
Tell us about Alabama Outdoors’ constant support of charities, local organizations and nonprofits.
I’m blessed to be a part of a company with strong roots in the local community. As a whole, we are extremely active in local grassroots events and support of nonprofit organizations. You can see this embodied in one particular event series we hold each summer called Party on the Porch. From the nonprofit groups the event supports, to the musicians, breweries and food trucks who provide the entertainment, we try to bring the community together in an atmosphere that promotes everything local. I cherish being able to give back to the community through my involvement in these areas.
Have you taken up any new outdoor activities since joining Alabama Outdoors?
I’ve always loved the outdoors. I worked in Yellowstone National Park one summer and spent time backpacking through Europe when I was in college. Now, my outdoor activities are more centered around our 4-year-old daughter and what she loves. We took her on her first camping trip this past summer at CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival held at Horse Pens 40. She has the camping bug and can’t wait to go again.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I love spending my free time with friends and my family, either cooking out or just enjoying the outdoors. You’ll often find me on my front porch or at Crestwood Park, or local outdoor events and festivals.
What do you love most about Birmingham?
I absolutely love Birmingham. This is where my family lives, and, of course, so many of my wonderful friends. I’ve lived in other areas, both in Colorado and Charleston, SC, and loved every minute of it, but Birmingham has always had my heart. I love the future I can see for this city through progressive evolution that has been happening downtown and spreading to communities such as Avondale, Woodlawn and my own Crestwood. The aesthetic revitalization of our city with projects like the restoration of The Lyric Theatre, and with new landmarks that bring people together, like Railroad Park, Regions Field and Uptown, is something to be proud of. You can feel the energy and common purpose that has been inspired by this progress within our communities.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
Because of her strength and confidence in every situation, my mom is definitely my role model. She has this ability to never meet a stranger and make everyone around her feel welcome and happy, and I look up to her for that. I’ve probably never gone more than two days in my entire life without talking to her. She tells me what I want to hear and sometimes what I don’t want to hear, but she’s the first person I call for advice. I can only hope my daughter feels the same about me one day.
What would be people be surprised to know about you?
That I’m naturally shy. I’ve always had passionate opinions and felt comfortable voicing those in one-on-one environments, but not necessarily in front of larger audiences. However, I did realize early on to have a voice or be impactful on a larger scale that I would need to find a way to overcome my reluctance. So I’ve worked very hard over the years to challenge myself in situations that I would naturally shy away from, such as speaking in front of people. Now I’m not saying that I love speaking in front of larger audiences, but I don’t avoid those moments either.
Any guilty pleasures?
I have more than I probably should, but a few that come to mind are chocolate, beer (especially Cahaba Blonde) and I’m incredibly competitive, so any sporting event.
What is your best piece of advice?
Always be honest, and never miss an opportunity to invest in someone who shares your passion.
With the exception of faith, family and friends, what are three things that you cannot live without?
Sunglasses, earplugs to sleep and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my cellphone.
Thank you, Kristy! To learn more about Alabama Outdoors’ events, sales or to shop their online store, visit Alabama Outdoors.
And thank you to Brendon Pinola for the fantastic pictures of Kristy at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.