Karen Garrett was raised on a poultry farm in the small town of Mena. She then attended the University of Central Arkansas and graduated with an accounting degree. She lives in Conway with her husband of 26 years, Mike Garrett. They have two daughters, Megan and Isabelle, who attend St Joseph School in Conway.
Garrett is the managing partner of Hudson Cisne & Co. LLP and has been in public accounting for 27 years. She has been a member of the Rotary Club of Little Rock Midtown, an associate member of Associated General Contractors (AGC), and is a current board member of Home Bancshares Inc. Her areas of expertise are employee benefit plan audits and high net worth individuals.
What motivates you to keep coming to work each day?
The world of public accounting presents challenges every day and that is what motivates me to come to work each and every day. From a young age, I have loved to solve problems, and in this career, you get to do that daily. I enjoy learning new things that help solve my client's problems.
COVID-19 has created unique challenges across all industries. What has been the key to navigating the crisis successfully and safely?
Being a CPA during COVID-19 has been a stressful experience but a rewarding time as well. I feel the ability to make quick decisions and significant changes are the keys to navigating this challenge. We had to pivot to virtual auditing, virtual delivery of tax returns, all while maintaining the focus on health and safety of our employees and clients.
As a successful woman in leadership, what experiences most shaped your career and philosophy?
One experience that stands out for me was the opportunity to be a part of Arkansas AGC. Back in the 90s, this was a predominantly male field and a female accountant stood out. I attended every possible event I could from golf tournaments to formal banquets and learned the ability to develop relationships. Many of the people I met during this extended “experience” are now colleagues, clients, and extended “family” to me. This led to being recognized as Associate of the Year and shaped my philosophy on the importance of developing relationships.
What is the best moment of your career so far?
Being named a director of Home Bancshares in 2017. At the time, I was the only female on this board, and it was an honor to join this distinguished group of board of directors. This experience has been rewarding as a CPA to have the ability to use my talents in a different platform.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life and career?
There have been so many- but I would have to say my parents and husband. My maiden name is "Wright" and my parents instilled in me to always do the right thing along with a strong work ethic. My supportive husband has been my biggest fan, but he taught me over the years to stop and "smell the roses" and not to worry about the things I can't control.
Tell us the best piece of career or life advice you have received.
Finding a mentor - I was fortunate to mentor under Johnny Hudson and Dick Cisne for 20 years and the experiences they taught me shaped my career. They taught me to recognize and seize opportunity - that might require risks but that is how you learn. They also taught me to surround myself with people smarter than me. That is evident by my team here at HCC - we have an incredible leadership team that makes my position easy.
How do you like to de-stress after a difficult day/week?
My motto has been "Work hard, play hard" so we have always enjoyed traveling. I spend a lot of my time searching for the perfect vacation.This year we have really treasured our family time on Lake Hamilton and that is always a destress for me
What advice do you have for keeping a team focused and motivated in challenging times?
This year my focus for our team is to find the positive or "silver lining." I have tried to be very open with our team and communicate the known and unknown, but also encourage our team that we need to be thankful for still being able to do what we do during this time. Our profession can work remotely, and with all the new Paycheck Protection Program rules and tax law changes, we can still maintain our jobs and continue to serve our clients even more than we did before. I think open communication is a good way of keeping the team focused and motivated.