A Myers-Briggs personality test started Talmage J. Whitehead’s route home to Augusta and a senior-level finance job serving that community and beyond.
The test he took as a student at Harding University in Searcy revealed that Whitehead’s personality fit the accounting profession, he said. So he chose to obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting, which began a career that took him away from home and back again.
In 2002, after graduating from college, he went to work as an accountant and prospector for BKD LLP in Little Rock. BKD sent Whitehead traveling to visit clients across the state. He spent about 35 weeks of his first year at BKD on the road.
Whitehead’s switch to the nonprofit sector in 2005 with first a comptroller job, followed by his current CFO position for community health care provider ARcare, permitted him to return to and invest in his hometown of Augusta. The move also allowed him to be mentored by the doctor who had provided Whitehead’s medical care since his infancy: ARcare CEO Steven Collier. ARcare, previously known as White River Rural Health Center, is headquartered in Augusta.
Improving life for rural Arkansans and investing in Augusta, where, Whitehead said, he “got my work ethic out there in the dust” on his parents’ farm, were among his goals.
He was able to take on leadership duties in his 20s, he said, because he could learn from other people without necessarily repeating their mistakes.
The relationships he built across Arkansas while working for BKD, as well as the experience he gained learning to “under promise and over deliver” quality services for the for-profit, prepared him to help lead ARcare. His statewide contacts eased his way as he contributed toward expanding ARcare from a 16-clinic system to one with 25 dental and medical locations throughout Arkansas, and more in the works.
At ARcare, Whitehead, 32, oversees a finance staff of seven people, as well as the 14 employees in the organization’s human resources, pharmacy and wellness divisions. He works to ensure ARcare is successfully pouring its earnings back into itself by improving its services, technology and wages for its staff.
“That’s a direct correlation between finances and impacting people’s lives,” Whitehead said.
He helped the organization increase its revenue by 28 percent from 2008 to 2009, and by another 26 percent last year.
He likes that his leadership position is not merely about dollars and cents. “I’m not a number cruncher,” Whitehead said. “I enjoy the people side as much as anything.”
Whitehead negotiates contracts with doctors, medical supply vendors, insurance companies, the Arkansas Department of Health and other groups. He is also helping lead the organization in its expansion into Kentucky in 2012.
“Our mission is health care for all,” he said. “I’m lucky to work for an organization that’s doing a lot of good and changing a lot of lives.”