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Women Who Mean Business

Sally Hargis is a Woman Who Means Business

Hargis is carrying on a 100-year family legacy at Ozarks Coca-Cola. She believes that the company's focus on valuing people over profit has helped the business continue to thrive for a century and significantly grow in the past three years.

By Tessa Cooper | Art Direction by Sarah Patton | Makeup by KKD Beauty Café

Mar 2020

Sally Hargis: Chairman of the Board, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company
Photo by Brandon AlmsSally Hargis: Chairman of the Board, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company Purchase Photo

Sally Hargis isn’t one to brag about herself or her achievements. She’s a firm believer that a business is only as successful as its team, so she’s always made it her goal to place focus on the employees at Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company. In her experience, company growth organically follows suit when employees feel valued. According to her, this is a lesson that she learned from her father, Edwin C. ‘Cookie’ Rice, who is the current CEO of the family business. 

“When people would ask my dad, ‘How many trucks do you have?’” Hargis recalls, “he would say, ‘Well, I don’t know how many trucks we have, but I know how many employees we have. I know how many people we have driving them.’ That was really significant to me.”


This inherited value is one reason why she thrives in her role as chairman of the board. Through her current job, she helps maintain relationships within the communities the business serves. So in true family fashion, the growth-related number that Hargis offers for the past three years is increasing the company’s staff count from 225 to 730 employees. 

“The growth over the past three years has been really huge, and trying to maintain a family culture in that kind of growth takes effort,” Hargis says. “Our employees really are the ones who dedicate their lives to our business and to the brands that we serve. We want them to be proud of the brand and proud of being associated with the family company.”

To maintain a close-knit work environment through the growth, Hargis, Rice and the executive team regularly make trips together to the business’s branches. For example, they make an effort to attend the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Service Award luncheons at each of their six branches.

“It is really important to be in those workplaces with the people who are there every day, show them our appreciation and give them an indication that we really value their leadership, wherever they are in their career, whether they’re brand new or if they’ve been there 40 years. We need to give them the tools to go to win in the marketplace because that’s what they want to do.”

“I think all business is personal. When you can develop those personal relationships with people, you gain a better understanding of what their needs are and what they’re looking for.”
— Sally Hargis

Her past five years at Ozarks Coca-Cola have marked some of her proudest moments. Alongside Rice and their executive team, they completed two franchise expansions in 2015, one in Joplin and one in West Plains. Most recently, in 2017 they expanded their franchise territory to Northwest Arkansas. 

Prior to working at Ozarks Coca-Cola, Hargis started her career on a very different path. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and home economics from Mizzou and spent 10 years working at KBUG radio and KY3 in advertising and sales. Although she left her role at KY3 in 1990, she still finds that the relationships she developed there are important to her even today. 

“I think all business is personal,” she says. “When you can develop those personal relationships with people, you gain a better understanding of what their needs are and what they’re looking for. I was obviously selling TV ads at KY3, but what I was really doing was trying to learn about my client’s business well enough to know how to reach them. I think the same thing happens here at Ozarks Coca-Cola. We’re always learning as much as we can about our customers, and they are varied. We’ve got the mom and pop, the entrepreneurs and the giant businesses.”


For Hargis, giving back to the community that has given her so much is a top priority. Through the years, she has been involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, Rotary Club of Springfield, Junior League of Springfield, Leadership Springfield and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is currently serving on the CoxHealth Systems board of directors.

She’s also passionate about lifting up other businesswomen in the community, and she often finds herself inspired by fellow women. Hargis, who has had many mentors in her life, tries to observe the specialness of each woman and incorporate their positive traits into her own life.

“I believe the biggest challenge women face in the workplace today hasn’t changed much over the years during my career,” Hargis says. “It’s the feeling of high expectation of one’s performance at work while also trying to maintain a home and raising children. Not everything can run as smoothly as I’d like for it to, but I never give up on trying.” 

MORE ABOUT SALLY

HOMETOWN

Springfield

FAMILY

Married with two sons and a daughter-in-law

FAVORITE WAY TO DECOMPRESS

 Paddle boarding on the lake or fishing in a bass boat

CAREER BREAKTHROUGH

Being named the chairman of the board

ADVICE FOR HER YONGER SELF

“Being busy is kind of overrated. You won’t get extra credit if you’re busy. Take time to celebrate those milestones not only in your own life but in the lives of others around you. Also remember that things are never black and white, it’s always gray in terms of decision making. Explore every gray area before coming to a decision.”

PUMP-UP SONG

“I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing” by The New Seekers