Saying she’s not quite sure how she got there, Laurie Lawhorne credits her endless curiosity about the business world with propelling her successful career.

After receiving an accounting degree from Texas A&M University in 1986, Lawhorne went on to hold a number of assorted positions. She was the director of field finance at Yum! Brands, Inc. and also worked for their international division as the director of financial planning & analysis. She has jumped from public accounting to private equity and from taxes to finance, and most recently held the title of vice president of asset management at Hudson Advisors/Lone Star Funds. She recently accepted a position as CFO of a restaurant chain based out of Nashville, Tenn.

“No job is worth sacrificing your integrity,” accounting grad Laurie Lawhorne ’87 told Mays students. “You have to ask yourself, “Would I want this published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?'” (view more photos)

Lawhorne’s shifting career moves have achieved her invaluable experience and wisdom in the business arena. In a recent lecture to Mays Business School graduate students and in a small-group discussion with business honors students, she imparted the tips for success she’s picked up throughout her career.

  • “Play well with others”
    Lawhorne emphasizes the diverse workplace. Students will be working with bosses and coworkers of various generations, backgrounds and morals. Learning to adapt is key to a successful career, she says.
  • “Recognize others’ work”
    Lawhorne stresses that quick, verbal recognition doesn’t cost anything, but makes all the difference in coworkers’ motivation. “A simple, “Thanks for staying so late last night and finishing those reports’ works wonders,” she says.
  • “Integrity first — and always”
    Especially in the finance industry, maintaining integrity keeps you grounded, Lawhorne says. “No job is worth sacrificing your integrity. You have to ask yourself, “Would I want this published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?'”
  • “There is no balance”
    According to Lawhorne, the “40-hour work week” is a myth. She says there’s no true balancing act with a job, family and hobbies—it’s a juggling routine. “There will be good days when you get lots accomplished and bad days when you don’t,” Lawhorne says.
  • “Play on the corporate jungle gym”
    Lawhorne says one of the most applicable statements she’s read regarding the business world is to “forget about climbing the corporate ladder, play on the “corporate jungle gym.'” In other words, focus on moving laterally, rather than vertically, throughout the company. She argues that employees bring more value to the company when they have a broader exposure of different aspects within the business.

    For example, when Lawhorne started at Yum! Brands, the company had her working in a Pizza Hut restaurant for the first month. She took orders, made a “mean supreme pizza,” and even delivered it to the customer. This exposure greatly aided her when she was later making financial decisions such as, “Is additional insulation in the pizza delivery bags worth the money?”

  • “Stay true to yourself”
    Follow your passions, says Lawhorne. “You spend most of your waking hours at work, so you want to enjoy what you’re doing.” She says each person is his own brand, and that brand is his biggest asset. “Always assume someone is watching you,” Lawhorne says, adding, “What do you want to say and show about yourself?”

Just as each person has his own brand, Texas A&M has a brand of its own. “I’ve had human resource departments tell me how humble, hard-working, smart and ethical Aggie employees are,” Lawhorne says. “It’s an extremely well-perceived university in the business world.”

Lawhorne’s tips for a fulfilling career are evidence of her dedication to break the monotony that entangles so many in the workforce. She says the end goal before retirement isn’t to achieve the highest title out there—it’s to continually gain new perspectives of a company you’re passionate for.