CEO Stories: Family Lessons From the Farm to Finance

Warren Stephens
Chairman, President and CEO of Stephens Inc.

Warren Stephens, Chairman, President and CEO of Stephens Inc., shares lessons learned from his family’s transformative shift from Arkansas farmers to financiers; and how capitalism was the driving factor for Stephens Inc. as well as other great Arkansas companies. Listen to the podcast below to hear Warren Stephens discuss capitalism and the story of his family’s business.

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Arkansas Tough

Why Arkansas breeds tough businesspeople is a mystery, but it’s undeniable that a state with a small population has produced an impressive roster of firms. Walmart, Murphy Oil, Dillard’s, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods and Stephens Inc. all owe their success to Arkansas executives. Warren Stephens has never forgotten how toughness that began in the fields with his grandfather would take his family to the boardroom.

Family Philosophy

Fresh out of business school Warren Stephens began working full-time at the family business, soaking up the knowledge of its founders — his father, Jack, and his Uncle Witt. Jack Stephens was fond of saying his goal was to be in business the next day. Warren Stephens came to trust in that philosophy as he watched several high-flying investment firms disappear over the years.

Young Skeptics

Many “experts” failed to follow that philosophy during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. The resulting hardships American workers endured may have contributed to the skepticism some young people feel about capitalism. As Warren Stephens points out, anyone drawn to socialism or communism should look at Venezuela’s recent woes and how China has improved by moving toward a market-based economy.

Positive Impact

Educating young people on the benefits of capitalism is a passion for Warren Stephens. He notes that the smartphones and apps young people so value exist because of businesses, just as once-impoverished areas of Arkansas have blossomed thanks to private investment. Indeed, showcasing such positive impact on society is central to the mission of This Is Capitalism.

About the Series: Featured stories from the intersection of the free market and entrepreneurial success. Here we speak with leading CEOs, academics, philanthropists and up and comers on their contributions and perspectives on the American economy.

About Ray Hoffman: Ray Hoffman, a veteran business journalist, is highly-regarded for his news and analysis features and insightful CEO interviews. Representing BusinessWeek on air for twenty-one years, Mr. Hoffman was the morning business news voice on the ABC Radio Networks from 1995 to 2006. Mr. Hoffman also represented The Wall Street Journal, on air, for eleven years. His daily WCBS CEO Radio feature was recognized by the New York Press Club as best radio business news report in both 2012 and 2015. In this podcast, Mr. Hoffman invites some of America’s most dynamic CEOs to share their stories as business builders and perspectives on free enterprise.