The food industry is still predominately a man’s world. “I just came back from a leadership conference of restaurant CEOs,” says Laura Rea Dickey, CEO of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants. “It was a group of some of the most impressive minds all in one room. And I was the only female.” But, she says, her results-driven approach to business serves her well. “I never look at it as, ‘Am I the only woman?’” she says. “I look more at outcomes. If you have a truly genderless approach, it’s performance that matters.”
What’s it like working in the food industry?
“It is not what you see on the Food Network. It’s challenging; it’s not easy. There are a lot of great things about being your own boss and having your own restaurant, but there are a lot of challenging parts, too. It’s not like I grew up as a young girl and said, ‘I want to smell like hickory wood and barbecue smoke all day.’ I’ve cleaned more fryers and slung more brisket than I ever thought possible. It’s hard work.”
What is the one attribute you look for when you’re hiring?
“The one thing you can’t do for people is motivate them. True motivation has to be self-driven, and those are folks who are successful.”
What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
“Fake it until you make it. Candidly, this is especially true and important for women. You have to be substantive, but it’s all about confidence. Stand up, jump in, and be assertive.”
You work closely with your husband, Roland Dickey Jr.. That’s got to be challenging, fun, stressful, and hilarious every day.
“It is all of the above and then some. The question I am usually asked is ‘Who reports to who?’. That’s the wrong question because with Roland and me, it’s whoever makes the coffee first wins the day. It works for us because we are opposites. He is dynamic, and I much more believe in quiet power. We complement each other very well. The other piece is having clear lines of responsibility, so we’re both rowing in the same direction and stay in sync.”