Vickie Judy signed up for an accounting class at Springdale High School because her older sister, Karen, was an accountant.
It turned out to be a pretty wise life choice.
“It just kind of clicked with me and it went from there,” Judy said. “I was always a numbers person. I am certainly not the creative type.”
Another bold decision has also turned out well. Judy joined America’s Car-Mart Inc. in 2010 as the company’s director of financial reporting; in 2017, longtime CEO Hank Henderson retired and CFO Jeff Williams was promoted to replace him.
Judy, by then the company’s vice president of accounting, was a prime candidate for an in-house promotion if she wanted to pursue the added responsibilities. Judy decided to take the plunge and find out what she was made of.
“I asked, ‘Do you really want to step up to that level?’” Judy said. “You can either step back and take things the easy way or choose to charge ahead and make the biggest impact you can.”
Judy said she isn’t normally one to choose the spotlight but said it is important for her to be a role model for other women in the accounting and financial fields. She remembers her early days at America’s Car-Mart when she would attend investor meetings or meetings with dealership managers and she would be the only woman present.
She said now about half of America’s Car-Mart managers are women.
“That is something I’m passionate about, especially being in the car industry,” Judy said. “A lot of meetings I first started attending I might have been the only woman in the room. That has not generally been a women-led business.
“I am passionate about helping women build their careers and letting them know there are no limits to what they can do.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the automobile industry was one of the most affected. Car manufacturers stopped production, making used cars harder to find and more expensive for America’s Car-Mart, and regional infection surges made each day a question of which dealership would be open for business.
“We certainly had to be flexible,” Judy said. “Things were changing every day. You had to also be pretty reactive to whatever was going on and be able to make decisions pretty quickly. You couldn’t sit around and wait to see what happens.”
Judy, 55, said her first job as an accountant was with Arthur Andersen, working with many companies on their financial information. She said those four years proved to be invaluable experience that she took with her when she went to work for private companies: first for 17 years at National Home Centers Inc. of Springdale and for the last 11 at America’s Car-Mart.
“Public accounting gives you a good view of different industries and different personalities, different ways of doing things that you don’t see if you just start at a single company in a single industry,” Judy said. “It gives you a lot of background. It also teaches you a lot of professionalism and how to deal with different people.”
Judy said America’s Car-Mart has done a good job of being intentional with its diversity hiring. She said being open to more points of view has always been important to her and has helped her as an executive.
“It’s about adjusting to the individual person you are working with,” Judy said. “It’s important to listen and try to understand their view and their perspective. Everyone has a different perspective. You might learn something you didn’t know.”
Judy said the lifetime achievement award isn’t the end of her story, either. “I’m not ready to retire yet,” Judy said. “We have a lot of great things going on here at Car-Mart. I have a lot of time left.”