Carey Parker

Chief Executive Officer & Firm Council Chairperson of LHP Capital

As a young person, you played basketball…You were a little starlet, I am told.

I was the MVP, but let me say this. I started playing basketball, dribbling, when I was five years old because my dad played basketball. For as long as I can remember, I was always around the sport. My dad said, “Once you can dribble with your left hand, I’ll start coaching you.” So, when I finally got the hang of using my left hand, my dad started to coach the rec league I played for. I think my dad would say that we have a close connection because of those years together, he coaching and me playing. Sports provide a connection that cannot be explained. My sister also played. We both spent long hours practicing. We played AAU, and we were both on varsity. It really shaped me into who I am today.

Why didn’t you play basketball at the University of Tennessee?

I was ready for something different I think. I knew it was not something I would want to do as a career. Although basketball defined me for who I was growing up, I wanted to be more well-rounded.

What life lesson did you learn playing ball?

Oh, I could sit here all day and talk about that. Basketball is a reaction sport. It is very much a reaction sport. Everything about basketball is based on how well can you react to something, which requires planning and practicing. If you have the right team, a team that has planned and has practiced together, you can react to anything. And, conversely, if you have a team that has not planned or has not practiced together, when the defensive team plays a maneuver that you have not prepared for, you will not know how to react. You may have the best players, but if they have not played together, and do not know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, they will not know what to expect from each other or be able to react as a team. I think that is very much like business. It is all about reaction. How do you react to the various things that happen on a day-to-day basis? How do you solve unexpected problems? Business is about making certain that the right team members are in place in the office. Basketball very much relates to and crosses over into the corporate world.

As Chief Executive Officer of a robust business, are you playing the same mental game that you played in basketball?

Absolutely. You have to. Having the right team members in the right place is critical for success. You have to have some team members who are comfortable in their position. You have to have some team members that are superior in their position. The team must have a lot of interpersonal skills. You have to understand the different personalities, each individual’s strengths and weaknesses to work with them. It is important to find the best place for them, so that they can contribute to the team. So, absolutely. Every day competitiveness never goes away. Growing up, there was never this notion that “everybody wins.” It was always understood; there’s a first-place winner and second place, which is not the winner. It is that differentiation that provides incentive to keep practicing. In business, we do not win every deal. But you just keep trying and keep practicing. If you research, work hard, and if you plan, you will get the deals. You will get the right deals, and good things will happen. Finding a team that knows how to work well together, and one that has a strong work ethic, makes the difference. Sometimes you have come in on Saturday, late at night, early in the morning, whatever it maybe. Work is a priority. It has to be a passion, and not everybody has that passion. That was a hard thing for me to understand when I first started working. I didn’t really understand why some people didn’t have that same passion. I call them “nine to fivers.” They came in at 9:00 and left at 5:00 and that was it. I almost felt offended. “What do you mean you don’t want to finish this assignment; do whatever it takes to get it done…work as much as needed!” I have come to realize, and to appreciate, that there are people like that out there. Wouldn’t it be awful if everybody was as passionate about work as me? I mean it would just be awful. I do think that you need to find people who are passionate and want to spend their energy on whatever profession or vocation they choose. They need to be challenged. I am challenged every single day, and that’s fun for me. It is something that I enjoy.

Carey with her husband, Pat Curtsinger, at a signature event by Girl Talk Inc., an organization whose mission is to empower girls to become their best selves by reducing the likelihood of teen pregnancy and helping them to advance educationally.

What do you look for in a person when you hire?

The top three. Hiring is very difficult. It’s personality. It’s judgment. It’s a feeling that you get from somebody. It is hard to really know somebody in the first few minutes, at an interview, in one hour, just by having a conversation with them. I look at how authentic they are and try to understand who they are. You must dig deep, and sometimes you are not even really talking about the responsibilities, skill sets, and tasks at hand. Hiring is deciding whether the person will fit into the organization’s culture. Three things: First, my general feeling, or my sense about the person. I can’t explain it. It’s just a feeling you get from interacting and asking questions. Second, what are their morals? What do they believe in? You can only ask so many questions in an interview in today’s climate, but it is important to hire somebody who is synergistic. A new hire should share similar beliefs as the culture that you have in your company. This is difficult because it cannot always be found by reading a resume or talking to an individual. You might give a scenario to vet how a situation might be handled. This sheds light into the real, authentic person. The third one is probably education. I think education is important, though not a deal breaker. Growing up, the importance of education was instilled in me. The idea is simple, why wouldn’t you want to better yourself ? I would ask that question to a person I was interviewing who did not have a higher education background. I feel like you should always want to be learning new things.

On a scale of one to ten, how important is loyalty to you?

Extremely important. A ten.

And how time every day do you spend focusing, not on your core competencies as Chief Executive Officer, but on relationships?

A hundred percent. Without a doubt.

Do you find that your male counterparts have that same focus?

No, definitely not. I work with men and women, and both are great. Working with men is different because you have to realize that they don’t do anything maliciously. They don’t think about things the same way and are driven by different things. You have to be cognizant of the difference when working with men.

When you came here to Tennessee, did you ever think that this would be your home?

No, definitely not. I mean I didn’t really think that it wasn’t going be my home, but I did not come here with the idea that this was where I wanted to build a family. One thing led to the next, and this is where my life is, and this is home now.

You have one son; tell me about him?

My son, he’s six years old. He was not planned, but it was a wonderful surprise. I mean, I believe wholeheartedly that everything happens for a reason. He definitely was a gift from God. At that time, I would never have thought I was prepared for or ready to have a child. He is full of energy. He’s all boy. He is just a wild child. He has great wit about him and has the best personality. He soaks up information all the time. I’m thankful for Google because every day he’s asking me questions. If I don’t know the answer, I look on my phone and Google his question. It is amazing to me to see this little human develop into a young man—I love it. It’s the very best thing I think I have ever experienced.

How did you meet your husband?

We met at a tailgate. Low and behold, we both are huge Tennessee fans. He went to Tennessee, and I went to Tennessee.

When you saw him at the tailgate, did you know that you would marry him?

I can’t say that necessarily, but I knew that he was somebody I wanted to be around. He is in sales and is a loud, gregarious, and big guy. He’s just—I don’t know. A part of me was very much attracted to him from the first time we met.

Carey with her son, Parker Curtsinger, an inquisitive boy who she says was “a gift from God.”

How are you able to balance serving as CEO for this company and being a mother? How do you balance the two?

That is a tough thing. Mom guilt is real. Balance is a challenge every single day. You have to constantly work at it and constantly try to find the right balance to achieve perfection, which will never happen. You need a supportive spouse, and, thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who is both supportive and very helpful. Pretty soon you learn that you can’t always attend all the school events or field trips with your child. You want to, but you just can’t. You just need to pick and choose. There are things that I do get to do. It is a struggle sometimes to find the right balance. On the one hand, I want my son to know that both men and women can have jobs and be successful at them. That understanding in my son is very important to me. In the mornings when I’m getting him ready for school, I talk to him about why I’m going to work and why it’s important that I’m going to work, and what I will be doing that day. I talk to him about school and why it’s important that he goes to school. I want him to understand that, in order to be successful in this life, you have to work hard. Both men and women can do this, and they both can be equally successful. Life is about finding the passion that is going to drive you in something that challenges you every day.

What was a childhood dream that was not realized?

I have lots of dreams. I dream all the time. I guess, as a child, it’s no different. As a child, I thought that I was going to move to New York City and work on Wall Street. Part of me still really is dying to do it. I sometimes just wish I could stop doing what I’m doing and move up there, live in a holein-the-wall and work on Wall Street. I just think that would be so much fun.

I want you to pretend that I am your son. Share with mean important life lesson you would want him to understand.

Things are not going to be handed to you. Figure out what you want to do. Whether it is playing a sport or a profession, a marriage, or anything. Just know you have to work at it. Life is not like the TV shows, where everything is candy canes and gumdrops. You must work hard. There are times when you just want to throw in the towel and say, “I am done. This is just too hard and too complicated.” But that is when you cannot quit; you just can’t do that. Right when you think you’re about to break, you have to take one more step forward, and, generally, it will work out. We all are faced with challenges, and no one’s life is perfect. It seems sometimes that everyone is striving for more and more. Even the most successful and the richest people want more of this or more of that. Life is not about money. It’s about fulfillment and finding something that you can be fulfilled in, whatever that may be. Whether it’s sports, a wife, or whatever. I hope that you can find that purpose.

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