Profile: Heyward Garner
COO – Garner Foods
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Profile: Heyward Garner
COO – Garner Foods

by David Brashears

Heyward Garner, Chief Operations Officer at Garner Foods, grew up in the family business, and has worked at almost every level of the organization.  His current role provides him the opportunity to ensure that the pride, conviction, and quality commitment that the Garner Foods brands were founded on continue today.  We had the opportunity to speak with Heyward, and this is what he shared with us.

Brashears: When did you begin working for Garner Foods?

Heyward: I started full-time with the company in January 2004, but I’d done a lot of summer work prior to that.  My first role was building pallets and packing boxes on the line.  I’ve done a little bit of everything through the years.

Brashears: What motivates or inspires you the most?

Heyward: The human connection to food.  Our products are the stuff of life in many ways. The way people personally connect food with their loved ones is so cool.

Brashears: If Garner Foods was a sports team (any sport), who would they be and why?

Heyward: Jimmy V (Jim Valvano, basketball player, coach, and broadcaster).  Nobody saw him coming and he built a system that changed the game. 

Brashears: What are your favorite ways to unwind and recharge?

 Heyward: Games.  I love video games with my kids, board games, anything that I can do with my friends and family.  Great way to connect with them and enjoy fun time together.

Brashears: What is your professional superpower?

Heyward: I don’t think I have one, but if I was pressed, I’d say I have the ability to glimpse the future.  It’s served me well to be able to forecast and prepare for the future of our company.

 Brashears: What is your favorite food or cuisine?

Heyward: Never going to turn down a slab of meat.  I’m all carnivore!  My go-to is a comfort food chicken casserole dish I started making with my family that’s amazing.  Love it!  Basic dish that’s delicious.

Brashears: What are your top 3 favorite places to travel?

Heyward: I love going to New Zealand for just me, for the family that’s a little more accessible, we love going to Myrtle Beach.  It’s got a ton of great food and is highly nostalgic for us.  We’re also Disney fanatics!  Try to go two or three times a year when we can.

 Brashears: What is a professional goal you have for 2021?

Heyward: The biggest goal I have is to continue to improve communication.  It’s an area I’m working on in my personal career so I can better lead our teams.  The pandemic tested our communication structure, and I became aware of how important communication discipline is for us.  It’s going to be the big focus point for me and my staff.

Brashears: What was the last Garner Foods product you used?

Heyward: CHA! Texas Pete® Sriracha Sauce. I had it on my lunch 20 minutes ago!

Brashears: If a movie was being made about your life, what celebrity would you want to play you?

Heyward: Mid 1980s Chevy Chase would need to portray my life, lol.

Brashears: What was the last thing (podcast, book, speaker, etc.) that really inspired you?

Heyward: There is a series written by Brandon Sanderson (Epic fantasy series author) called The Stormlight Archive that I’ve really loved.  He is on top of his game!

Brashears: If you weren’t working in your current career path, what would you be doing?

Heyward: Making music and/or making movies.  I was in a band in high school which I loved.  I’d enjoy making music with other talented artists.  I’m also a die-hard movie fan and would love to try getting behind the camera.

Brashears: What are you binge watching right now?

Heyward: Getting ready to start The Expanse

Brashears: Who is your favorite musical artist?

Heyward: Edwin McCain.  He’s so incredibly talented, and a great performer.  I love how he stops between songs to tell some random story to the audience.  He really engages people when you go see him live.

Word association lightning round: (Tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear;)

  • Innovative – Winston-Salem
  • Holiday – Disney
  • Memory – What did I have for breakfast?
  • Artist – Picasso
  • Family – Love ‘em
  • Mentor – Dad