Dallas 500: The Rest of the Questions

Each year, D CEO Magazine curates a list of the 500 most influential business leaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, aptly called “The Dallas 500.” I’m very proud to have been recognized as a member of the esteemed group.

The magazine published a condensed Q&A with each of the Dallas 500. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person who admitted to enjoying painted toenails and Christmas decorating!

Just for shits and giggles, here are the rest of the questions I was asked. Enjoy!

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
My first job was working for the United Way as a workplace campaign fundraiser. The primary lesson I learned, and still use regularly, is that people usually want to help you, they just haven’t been asked.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life?
My late grandfather, Calvin Smith, was my moral compass growing up. Many of his daily sayings have stuck with me. They’re simple but powerful things, like doing what you say you’re going to do, never saying yes when you really mean no, accepting that sometimes you’re going to do things for yourself that not everyone likes (and that’s okay) and to trust that most people are good and honest when you let them be. He and my grandmother also made sure that we grandkids went to etiquette classes and learned to play golf.

What has been your/your company’s biggest success over the last 12 months?
We have successfully transitioned from a firm with a lot of clients in architecture, construction, commercial real estate and building materials to one that specializes exclusively in those industries. It first seemed scary to turn away business outside of those industries, but ultimately it’s paid off both financially and workload-wise.

What would people be surprised to learn about you (fun fact)?
My toenails are almost always painted. It started off as a silly thing I did with my daughter, but then I started liking it myself! (Admittedly, to those who know me, this may come as no surprise whatsoever.)

What’s the toughest business challenge you’ve had to overcome?
Even after almost 20 years of owning my business, delegating does not come easy to me. It’s a daily struggle.

What one piece of advice would you give an 18-year-old version of yourself?
Be authentically who you think you are. There will always be people who don’t like that, but in reality, most people don’t judge you — or even think about you — as much as you think they do.

Do you have a pet you adore? If so, please tell us about him/her/it.
Our family has always had lots of pets. Currently, we have two poodle mixes and two cats. My favorite of the four is our super chill black cat named Bear, a.k.a. “Floppy Kitty,” who lets the kids and I hold him upside and on his back while he purrs with delight.

What is one of your favorite things (special golf club, gift, piece of art, etc.)?
I have an enormous painting by contemporary artist Steven Shores called “Pink Cowboy, Director’s Cut” that makes me smile every time I see it. It’s a bright, exaggerated cartoonish interpretation of a grinning cowboy with a ridiculously oversized cowboy hat. The painting hangs at the top of the stairs outside my bedroom, so it’s one of the first and last things I see every day.

Is there a nonprofit cause that has special meaning to you? Please tell us about it.
I’m a national Board Member for an organization called Help Us Adopt that awards large, life-changing grants to help cover the costs associated with adoption. I know firsthand that adoption is expensive. The average adoption in the United States costs about $45,000. No one who wants to be a parent should be precluded simply because they can’t come up with that lump sum. More importantly, there are millions of children who need loving parents and permanent homes.

What are some of your favorite destinations/places to visit?
My favorite vacation of all-time is the week we spent in Italy, particularly the Amalfi Coast. So much fabulous food and wine, not to mention the views — La Dolce Vita!

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done or experienced?
When I was 16, I left home to spend my junior year of high school in Germany, living with a family I never met in a country where I didn’t speak the language. That year as a foreign exchange student, through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, turned out to be the single most impactful thing of my life. It totally changed my trajectory.

Are you passionate about a particular sports team?
I’m a stereotypical fairweather sports fan. I’ll cheer for whatever local team is having a good season.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?
Auntie Mame (If you know me personally, this makes sense on many levels.)

Beverage of choice?
A dry white wine, preferably French.

What would you request as your last meal?
I can’t turn down a fabulous cheeseburger and french fries.

What’s your hobby/passion?
I’m crazy about Christmas decorating. Each year, my house slides closer and closer to Clark Griswold territory. Last season, my husband and I built and erected a bright white, 18-foot reindeer in the front yard, complete with spotlights and a wreath around its neck.

Name one item on your bucket list.
To do stand up

What has you most excited about the future?
I love that Dallas is returning to its city center and the surrounding areas are becoming much more cosmopolitan. We have an exciting future.


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