Episode 184: Creating a Successful Career with Tiffany Hamilton

July 20 , 2022  |  By Matt Waller

Share this via:

This week on the podcast, Matt sits down with Tiffany Hamilton, Vice President of Sales - Hardware and Club at Reckitt. Tiffany graduated from the University of Arkansas with an accounting degree and went on to work at Nestlé Purina North America, Duracell, and now Reckitt. To begin their conversation, Tiffany shares the exhilarating experience of when she left her small hometown in Camden, AR to move to Chicago at the start of her career. She attributes her career success to a value that she was raised with and was taught at the U of A: Always treat people right. They conclude their conversation with some advice for incoming and current students. 

Episode Transcript

Tiffany Hamilton  0:00  
Take a chance, try a different location, get exposed to something new and fun. It will only make you be better in life and as a person.

Matt Waller  0:11  
Excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality. These are the values the Sam M. Walton College of Business explores in education, business and the lives of people we meet every day. I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Walton College, and welcome to the Be Epic podcast. I have with me today, Tiffany Hamilton, who is Vice President of Sales for Reckitt and she is in charge of Hardware and Club. And she has extensive experience in consumer packaged goods. She started her career with Nestlé Purina in North America was there for over 13 years, she was at Duracell for almost four years. And now she's at Reckitt. She came to the University of Arkansas, in 2000 and graduated in 2004 with an accounting degree. Welcome, Tiffany, thank you for joining us for this podcast recording.

Tiffany Hamilton  1:10  
Thank you, Matt. Excited to be here.

Matt Waller  1:12  
Tiffany, when you graduated from the accounting department, it was called the Department of Accounting, but now it's called the William Dillard Department of Accounting. Bill Dillard gave us an endowment of $10 million for the accounting department. And it's really helping a lot. The funds that that generates, I wasn't sure if you were aware of that or not. So,

Tiffany Hamilton  1:34  
I had heard that there have been a lot of success with the growth of alumni is giving back and other companies giving back to the University. So I'm excited when you think about accounting, specifically with kind of what I do, being in the CPG industry, numbers are at the foundation of everything, regardless of if you're going to sales or marketing or whatever it may be. Excited to see the University leaning in and having one of the best accounting programs out there.

Matt Waller  2:01  
Well, Tiffany, that is so true in all areas of business. Understanding numbers and how they relate and being able to tell stories with them. Regardless, here you are a Vice President of Sales, I think it's particularly important in sales, but it's really important in all areas of business to be able to make data driven decisions and explain things with data. 

Tiffany Hamilton  2:24  
Absolutely. We spend a lot of time to your point, analyzing the numbers, and really trying to figure out what are they saying? What trends do we see currently? What things do we need to look at for the future. And all of that is in the numbers. I haven't been a part of a CPG company yet that didn't have a P&P or a bottom line that they needed to account for. So accounting along with some of the other courses that I was happy to take from economics to supply chain, all of those really helped build me out as a well rounded CPG individual and gave me such a great foundation. 

Matt Waller  2:24  
Yeah, that's so true. A lot of students don't realize it coming into this. But regardless of what you major in, you wind up taking all of the disciplines, you take marketing, management and strategy, regardless of what you major in. And you're right that well roundedness is so important, like for example, in sales, you you wind up dealing with supply chain issues all the time.

Tiffany Hamilton  3:27  
Absolutely. And when you think about the events of like the past two years, right? There were so many companies who either didn't have supply, or couldn't figure out how to get drivers, right. And all of that comes down to a bottom line. So it's not just can I get product from A to B? It's like, how much does it cost? How much are the costs changing? We made too much of a product, how much does that cost? How are we making sure that we're, you know, keeping our inventory levels, right? So numbers are in everything. And I think it is just really crucial as we see our younger people, our young adults, right, getting ready to go out into the workforce, that they embrace it and get a comfort with them. And know that that comfort is going to grow on time. Like, you know, truth be told, I can't remember which one it was but I did fail one of my accounting classes. I didn't fail it, I got a D, but you know, a D's not passing. And it was just because at the time I was not comfortable. I was doing all the things that I needed to do. But I just was not comfortable enough with the numbers and it ended up being one that I don't know if you guys still do grade forgiveness, but it was one that I went back and I did grade forgiveness for, retook it and ended up making a B in the class, but at that point, when I retook it I had a different level of comfort with the numbers and I kind of knew what was expected of me. So it's not always easy. Numbers are scary for a lot of people. 

Matt Waller  4:59  
They are. And, you know, when I came to college, I didn't know what I was going to major in. I mean, I'm always amazed at the students that come here at the age of 17, they know what they're gonna major in. It's like, how do they do that? But, 

Tiffany Hamilton  5:13  
I had no idea. 

Matt Waller  5:14  
You've told me the story. But would you tell the story about how you first thought of accounting?

Tiffany Hamilton  5:19  
Yes, I want you to hear the story of how I ended up being declared an accounting major. I came to the University of Arkansas as an undeclared student, because to your point, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do something in business. And that's about as far as I had narrowed it down. I had gone to some summer programs at the University, there was the Accounting Careers Awareness program, there was a Technology Awareness program. So I had done some of those programs. But I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, what I wanted to major in. And for me, I was there for two weeks, and someone from the Business College reached out, and they said, "Hey, I see that you're undeclared. The accounting department has some extra scholarships, if you will declare your major." And I was like, "Why not?" So I declared accounting. And it made good sense to me, like I kind of talked it over with my parents. And we're like, numbers are at the foundation of everything. I had seen my father who had a small tax preparation business, so I knew kind of what I could do. But it really gave me a strong foothold is I got ready to get out into the workforce. So very, very happy of my decision to take the scholarship and get a good degree.

Matt Waller  6:40  
Well, you know, and for those listening, there are lots of examples of how scholarships, create paths for people and really make life better because not only did you get the scholarship and it helped you make the decision, but it also helped provide for you while you were here. 

Tiffany Hamilton  6:59  
Yeah, it did. 

Matt Waller  7:01  
Well, you know, I want to back up a second to, well you're from Arkansas. 

Tiffany Hamilton  7:06  

Matt Waller  7:06  
You came to the University of Arkansas. 

Tiffany Hamilton  7:08  

Matt Waller  7:09  
All of a sudden you major in accounting. And then you graduated and then you went to work, not long after that for Purina. Was Purina already owned by Nestlé by that point?

Tiffany Hamilton  7:20  
Purina was already owned by Nestlé. And they were recruiting at the University at the time. A friend of mine had done a summer internship with Purina. She had a fantastic experience and they made her a job offer as she was getting ready to go into her last year of school. So sounded like a good idea. And I looked into it, I had heard a lot of really good things about Purina, my family had owned a dog before so I knew some of their brands. And I applied and I believe it was through Career Development Center. And got an internship with them, and that is how I started my relationship with Nestlé Purina. That's how I started my career.

Matt Waller  8:01  
Well, and after you graduated, you wound up going to Chicago, didn't you?

Tiffany Hamilton  8:07  
I did. I did. 

Matt Waller  8:08  
So here you are from little Camden, Arkansas. For those of you who don't know Camden is a very small town in Arkansas. There's industry there, like doesn't, 

Tiffany Hamilton  8:20  
There was a paper mill at the time that I was there. There was a paper mill. But yeah, there are small industries in Camden. Yes. 

Matt Waller  8:29  
But you come up here to Northwest Arkansas, which some Arkansan young people are intimidated by that are from small towns. But you did it, you came up here. You majored in accounting, and then you graduated to go to work for one of the biggest CPG companies in the world in one of the biggest cities in the United States. I would think that would be a challenge to adapt to. Was it?

Tiffany Hamilton  8:54  
I honestly think I didn't know enough of the world to be afraid of the world. I have parents who were very supportive. I have a support system that's very supportive. And they were like, go and try it. And you bring up being from a small town. I think I've had a lot of friends who have chosen to stay in small towns. And I think that's fantastic because I love going home and seeing my friends and seeing how they help the community thrive. But staying at home wasn't something that I wanted to do. So I was ready to just step out and try something different. It was a little scary, because at the time that I left, like GPS barely was a thing. You know, I got a map. They handed me a map and was like, here's the city. Mapquest was just now kind of hitting the internet. So I was printing out, you know, my Mapquest directions, because at the time I started in the field, and you go and you visit stores and you help them figure out how to, how to make their sales better. So it absolutely was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time because I wanted to see the world I was happy to be in what I call a big city right to go to Chicago. I was like, I'd never seen buildings that tall. So it gave me a path. You know, my internship, the experience with the Career Development Center, the grooming that I had with the Office of like multicultural and Dr. Lofton who was instrumental in, in my bringing up through the University. It prepared me to be able to want to try something different.

Matt Waller  10:29  
Of course, you moved around quite a bit with Nestlé Purina. After Chicago, you went to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then Minneapolis for a couple of years. And then Bentonville, Arkansas, for a couple of years and then to Atlanta. So not only were you all the sudden thrown into a big city, but you were thrown into lots of different situations over a, you know, almost a 15 year timeframe.

Tiffany Hamilton  10:57  
I was and you know, I think one thing that I learned at the University is treat people right. And I know it sounds simple. But as I've gone through my career, I've always tried to treat people with the kindness and generosity that I want extended to myself. So no matter where I moved in the country, I felt like that has always been something that worked for me. The other thing while I was on campus at the University, I did join a sorority. And so as I moved from place to place, I had that linkage of people who had a common interest. And that was also something that kind of helped me feel a little grounded. As I'm in a different place. I always kind of have a network that if I needed to, I could reach out to.

Matt Waller  11:42  
That does make a big difference. Well you know you had experience with Nestlé, selling to companies like Target, Walmart, Albertsons, Safeway, these are some of the major retailers in the United States. When you were in Bentonville, Arkansas, of course, you were from Arkansas. How did it feel coming back to Arkansas?

Tiffany Hamilton  12:05  
I think that number one, any student that's in Arkansas that chooses to branch out and do something different, there's always a path back to Northwest Arkansas back to Arkansas, like if that's what they choose. And that was the one of the things that at Nestlé, they told me, they were like, "Give me six months. If you ever want to go back to Arkansas, just give me six months and we can figure out a path." When I did end up coming back to Northwest Arkansas just to be closer to my family, I was honestly shocked and surprised with how fast Northwest Arkansas had changed. I was so excited to see. Because I was I was here during the time where the Embassy Suites was pretty much it, you know, and a lot in Bentonville, people just just didn't do that. So to see that the way that the area had changed so much. It was amazing. And then to see my friends who had stayed in the area who were now beginning their careers either at Walmart or Tyson or JB Hunt, and building their families and like being successful in the area. That was very, very exciting to me to see the amount of people that stay in the community and put back and give back to the community. When we all know that there are other places that people could live.

Matt Waller  13:18  
Well, you know, even though now you are at Reckitt, and you're living in Atlanta, near Atlanta, you still come back to Northwest Arkansas, because clubs are a part of your business. 

Tiffany Hamilton  13:31  

Matt Waller  13:31  
You graduated in 2004. You came back here in 2009, were here for a couple years. And now you come back frequently. And of course between when you left in 2011 to today, Bentonville's really changed a lot. It's remarkable actually.

Tiffany Hamilton  13:50  
So I visited pre-pandemic, and I believe that the amphitheatre was just getting ready to go up and the TopGolf was almost, and I was like, you know that Northwest Arkansas has made it when you get a TopGolf.

Matt Waller  14:06  
Yeah, it is nice. I mean, having all of that so close. And, of course in Bentonville, I guess, you left in February of 2011 and Crystal Bridges opened November of 2011. Is that right? Yeah, it's easy to remember 11/11/11, that's when they opened. Then of course, the Momentary popped up and a bunch of, there didn't used to be any good restaurants in Bentonville. Now, there's a bunch of them.

Tiffany Hamilton  14:37  
They're a bunch of 'em. My favorite restaurant still is the Catfish Hole. I will not come back and not go down. I remember Mr. Pat being there. And like just the history of it, I, I love the Catfish Hole, but now to come back and be able to go and experience fine dining and the outdoor markets and the fresh seafood. I'm like, "Where am I?" And like this, this is the new Northwest Arkansas.

Matt Waller  15:02  
It is pretty remarkable. You are well into your career, you're Vice President of Sales, would you have imagined that you would be a VP of Sales for one of the largest CPG companies back when you left college when you graduated in 2004?

Tiffany Hamilton  15:24  
Honestly, no, I wasn't one of those people that said, I need to be A, B and C. By the time I turned 40, I need to be doing this, I need to have a husband and kids and like the dog and like the whole life. That wasn't me. I'm person that was just open to trying different jobs, open to moving to new cities. And I had no idea where my path was going to be. And I commend people who know exactly what they want to do. But I will say, I'll tell you, at 40, maybe four months ago, I figured out what I wanted to do with my career. I've been working well over 20 years. And I finally have figured out that I want to be an amazing leader that inspires people that helps drive organizational change. And that I have the belief in myself that I can do all these wonderful things in a much, much bigger way. But no, I didn't. I never imagined that I would be here. But I know I said it earlier, like there is some greatness that comes with treating people the right way. And I know Sam Walton used to talk about it, right and the college like embedded that in us also about treating people the right way, and just my upbringing as a Christian also. And so I know for a fact that that has helped me, like get to where I am.

Matt Waller  16:47  
That is remarkable. Tiffany, you've had a tremendous career. And like you say, you now you're realizing you really enjoy leadership.

Tiffany Hamilton  16:57  

Matt Waller  16:57  
And transforming the organization. That's a terrific thing. And that's something that a lot of times people don't realize that as you do something, sometimes it takes years to figure out what you really want to do. And you come to that place where you're excelling, you're doing really well and you're making a big difference. It's very exciting. It's fun to come to work when you get to that point. 

Tiffany Hamilton  17:23  
It is, it is.

Matt Waller  17:24  
But I would love for you to share some thoughts with the students, regarding advice for them.

Tiffany Hamilton  17:32  
Really figure out what's important to you, whether it's family, whether it's seeing the world, whether it's how you want to grow and change, do your best to figure out what's important to you. So that you have a grounding, to come back to when things get rocky. I'd also say, Take a chance, you can always, always come back to Northwest Arkansas, take a chance, take a job somewhere, try a different location, get exposed to something new and fun, because it will only make you be better in life and as a person. And then when you do get your job. Take your vacation days. One of my biggest regrets is that when I first started in my career, I didn't balance enough. I thought because I don't have kids or a significant other, I can just go go go go go. That's not healthy. So when you start your career, go ahead and start it out in a healthy place. Plan out your vacations so that you have something to look forward to. Make sure that you are taking time for your physical health as well as your mental health. Because you might want to work for a long time, you need to take care of yourself to do that. And then just continue to be open to learn and try new things. The world changes fast, it changes fast. And the better you are at learning how to be flexible. The longer you can have a career in whatever you want your career to me.

Matt Waller  19:07  
That's so true. And you know, you start out, the first thing is figuring out what's important to you. 

Tiffany Hamilton  19:13  

Matt Waller  19:14  
I think that's so true. And you said, because when things get rocky, you have grounding, right? And you didn't say "if things get rocky." 

Tiffany Hamilton  19:24  

Matt Waller  19:25  
"When things get rocky,"

Tiffany Hamilton  19:26  
When things get rocky. Yes. 

Matt Waller  19:27  
They will, won't they? 

Tiffany Hamilton  19:29  
Yeah, it's life. It is. But you know what? Things get better, also.

Matt Waller  19:35  
Well, I think that's really great advice. Tiffany, all of these concepts and we're so proud of what you've accomplished as an Arkansan who went to the University of Arkansas. And now your leadership is shining and you're in a executive position in sales with one of the largest CPG companies. So congratulations on your success and thank you are staying in contact with us. 

Tiffany Hamilton  20:02  

Matt Waller  20:03  
On behalf of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, I want to thank everyone for spending time with us for another engaging conversation. You can subscribe by going to your favorite podcast service and searching Be Epic. B-E-E-P-I-C.

Matt Waller

Matthew A. Waller is dean emeritus of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and professor of supply chain management. His work as a professor, researcher, and consultant is synergistic, blending academic research with practical insights from industry experience. This continuous cycle of learning and application makes his work more effective, relevant, and impactful.

His goals include contributing to academia through high-quality research and publications, cultivating the next generation of professionals through excellent teaching, and creating value for the organizations he consults by optimizing their strategy and investments.