Mastering the art of balancing a “three-legged stool”
By Glenda Graves
Portrait photos by Hudson Photography
From a very young age, Jessica Hendrix was a high achiever. She grew up in the small, rural town of Stone City, Iowa. Stone City was founded by artists, one of which was the well-known “American Gothic” painter Grant Wood. Jessica describes her mother as a bit of a flower child and says, “We didn’t have television until I was in eighth grade. Some of that was lack of financial means, but some of it was just the way she wanted to raise us.”
Jessica, the oldest of three children, says, “Circumstances put me into more of a parental role and I had three jobs while I was in high school – cleaning houses, working at a restaurant and working at the historical society.” Jessica says that what she learned as a restaurant server created a good foundation for her future. “It defined my desire to help people. Though being a restaurant server doesn’t sound philanthropic, I encountered all different kinds of people and really enjoyed serving them – and managing the various personalities.”
By the time she was on her way to college, she had decided that law school would be in her future. “I went to a community college and then to the University of Iowa. I was applying to law schools and working full-time at one of those carts in the mall selling cell phones. Eventually I was promoted to retail store management and began considering putting a pause on law school and trying the business thing out.”
Jessica says that she was never intentional about being in business. “I kept my head down and worked really hard, but I never thought about the destination. I’ve since learned to look out into the future,” she says. “But I didn’t know then that business would become my passion or my career.”
Jessica says she occasionally looks back at her time in college and thinks that she likely missed out on some experiences because she was always working. “I stacked all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could work full-time. I tried to date, but just didn’t have time,” she laughs. “Balance is still something that I have to work at because I love working. I call it a ‘three-legged stool’ with the legs being family, work and self-care. If any one of the legs gets off, you’re not balanced.”
In 2003, a consultant in the wireless business set Jessica up on a blind date. “I had been on a string of terrible blind dates that my friends had set me up on,” she says. “I thought, ‘If my friends can’t set me up on a successful date, how in the world can this woman I barely know do it?’ But I accepted anyway.”
On the day of the date, however, Jessica had something important come up. She didn’t have his cell phone number, only his email. She laughs and says, “I had to go to the restaurant and tell him that I couldn’t do the lunch date. From the look on his face I could tell that this was probably the first time someone had seen him and canceled a date with him!” To smooth things over, she made time for drinks with him later, and says, “The rest is history!”
History being that the blind date was Jody Hendrix and Jessica would become his wife.
Jessica and Jody were working for competing wireless companies at the time.“About six months after we started dating, his job was eliminated,” she says. “We pulled out a map and decided where we wanted to live. We knew we wanted to be together. Ultimately, we decided on Florida.” The couple got engaged on Valentine’s Day 2004.
They made another move, to Dallas, where Jessica went into consulting. The company Jody worked for wanted him to move to Los Angeles. But Jessica said they were starting to tire of moving around. Jody was originally from Arkansas and had attended the University of Arkansas. “His parents were getting older and ultimately we decided we wanted to be closer to his family. Every time we visited Arkansas, I loved it a little more. It’s just a breathtaking place to me.”
They moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2006. Jessica was still consulting and Jody shifted to real estate. Jessica says, “Jody actually pointed out that I thrive in a corporate setting and told me about the Saatchi office in this area. I had this paper résumé that I was very proud of – I specifically formatted it on 11-by-17-inch paper and folded it so that my name extended off the edge making it easily accessible by the HR professionals looking to find it. I walked into the front door of Saatchi & Saatchi X and said that I’d love to drop my résumé off, but I was told that I had to go online. I insisted that I drop it off. I was just so proud of it. I asked who the HR person was, then figured out her email and told her that I had dropped my résumé off.”
Jessica received a call that same day, had an interview the next day and a job offer by the next Friday. Her persistence definitely paid off. She was certain her paper résumé was unique and would stand out from online applications. She started with Saatchi & Saatchi X in April 2007. Just a few months later, in August 2007, she and Jody got married.
Their wedding day was as unique as each of them. “I wanted to go to the beach and get married, but Jody wanted the big wedding,” she says. “Part of it was that he was 35 when we met. He wanted to make it a big deal. So we compromised and ended up having a wedding at Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, with about 60 people at the wedding itself.”
In their own quirky style, the couple chose to spend the morning of their wedding day running the Tontitown 5k. Jessica smiles at the memory and says, “It was a great way for us to start our wedding day – with fitness. Running and working out had always been something we did together. I wore a veil for the race and he wore a bow tie!”
They had their daughter, Frankie, in 2009 and their son, Truman, in 2011. “I was 35 and he was 42 when we married, so we started a little later in life,” she says. “We knew we wanted kids, but for someone who has worked so hard my entire life, when you enter motherhood, there are so many questions about how your career will continue. Thankfully there was, and still is, such a great support system here at Saatchi, whatever stage of life you are in. I was even promoted to VP while I was on maternity leave with my son.
“I truly understood what it meant to be able to be present and spend time with my family and I still have that same commitment to my family to try to be present when we’re all together.”
As president and CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X, Jessica continues to be keenly aware of the importance of having a life/work/health balance. “There is such an empowerment here that doesn’t just extend to women. It really is about supporting the life stage you are in, letting employees experience life events and still grow in our careers. We have paternity as well as maternity leave.”
When it comes to her current role, she says she definitely didn’t start at Saatchi with the intention of becoming CEO. “I started here to do great work and be with great people,” she says. “The CEO job is no different. It gives me the opportunity to lead great people because someone believed in me.”
Saatchi & Saatchi X, inspired to reflect female leadership, is a supporter of the Network of Executive Women. Additionally, in 2003, Saatchi created The C.A.R.E Initiative — Children. Awareness. Responsibility. Encouragement. — to support Children’s Safety Center, Children’s Advocacy Center, CASA of Northwest Arkansas, NWA Children’s Shelter, Youth Bridge and EOA Children’s House.The C.A.R.E Initiative has raised more than $1 million since it was created.
Jessica is also on the Walton Arts Center Board of Directors and, with the WAC Masquerade Ball coming up in February, says, “The Masquerade Ball and the Walton Arts Center do such incredible things for our community. They bring the arts to children across all income levels. That’s why it’s so important to Saatchi & Saatchi X.”
Jessica says that maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been beneficial in giving her the energy to keep up with her busy schedule. Fitness goals have remained a constant for her and Jody throughout their marriage. Jody, who is also owner of CrossFit Commence in Fayetteville, is currently ranked 4th worldwide in the 50-54 age division at the CrossFit Games. Though Jessica’s travel schedule keeps her from competing, she says, “I still try to squeeze in workouts on the road and in the early mornings – and Jody and I workout together when we can. If I’m in town, I try to attend as many classes at Commence as I can.”
Forever a high achiever, Jessica works daily to inspire upcoming female leaders, serve her company and community, stay closely connected to her family, maintain a healthy balance and keep her “three-legged stool” steady on the ground.