From Ham Glazer to Hospitality Visionary: Meet Chief Growth Officer Woody Woodward

In the world of hospitality, few stories are as intriguing and full of personality as that of Woody Woodward. His journey from shaping hams at Honey Baked Hams to becoming a pivotal figure in the hotel industry is a testament to hard work, resilience, and the power of a good story. Let's dive into an engaging conversation with Woody, where he shares insights from his journey, sprinkled with the humor and wisdom only he can provide.

The Humble Beginnings

Q: Woody, what was your very first job in hospitality?

A: It's hard to forget! My first taste of hospitality was quite literally at Honey Baked Hams, shaping and glazing hams during Easter. My buddy Cory and I were always looking for ways to make a buck, and this was our introduction to the hustle of hospitality. It was perhaps the most exhausting job I've ever had, but it taught me early on about hard work and the importance of a good ham glaze technique!

Q: How did this experience impact you?

A: It showed me what I definitely didn't want to do long-term, which was shaping hams under pressure! Jokes aside, it was my first peek into the operational side of food services. While I'm grateful for the experience, it made me realize my passions lay elsewhere in the hospitality spectrum.

The Road Through Hospitality

Q: Your career has taken some fascinating turns. Can you walk us through some key moments?

A: After the ham glazing episode, my journey took me through several industries, from wealth management to pharmaceutical sales. Each role was a building block, teaching me something crucial about sales, people, and perseverance. Eventually, I found my calling in the hotel industry with Wyndham, where I truly began to understand the impact of building relationships and creating memorable experiences.

Q: What would you consider a pivotal moment in your career?

A: Transitioning to Focus Brands was a leap of faith, moving from hotels to the broader world of franchising and food services. This shift challenged me to apply my skills in a new context and reignited my passion for the industry. It was a reminder that growth often comes from stepping out of your comfort zone.

Advice from the Top

Q: What advice do you have for those starting in hospitality?

A: Dive in headfirst and be ready to learn from every experience, good or bad. Seek mentors who can guide you and never underestimate the power of a positive attitude and a willingness to work hard. Hospitality is unique in that it truly rewards those who are passionate about service and creating unforgettable experiences for others.

Q: Any missteps along the way you're thankful for?

A: This is more of a misstep that I narrowly averted. Early on in my college career, I considered transferring from Connecticut to get more playing time in basketball, thinking it might redefine my path. Thankfully, my mom steered me right, keeping me grounded and focused on the bigger picture. It was a lesson in making the most of where you are and finding growth opportunities, no matter the situation.

Q: Who do you admire in the business world?

A: Warren Buffett is a figure I've always looked up to. His ability to distill complex ideas into understandable wisdom is something I've tried to emulate in my own career. He's a reminder that success isn't just about financial gain but about integrity, simplicity, and helping others find their path to success.

Final Thoughts

Woody Woodward's journey through the hospitality industry is a testament to the power of hard work, adaptability, and never losing sight of what truly matters. His story is not just about the roles he's held but about the lives he's touched, the challenges he's overcome, and the laughter he's shared along the way. In a world that often prioritizes the destination, Woody reminds us to savor the journey, ham glazing and all.