“In our company, having women in leadership is a natural fit.”

EMPLOYEE LOYALTY H-E-B has 76,000 employees it calls “partners,” and more than 1,000 of them have been there for 30+ years. “It’s amazing to see generations of partners and families that have contributed to H-E-B’s success,” Laura Gump says.Photos: Tommy Hultgren

After 23 years and many roles with H-E-B, Laura Gump has a depth of experience that allows her to relate to both partners and customers as the grocery company’s border region vice president of operations. Her start with H-E-B, one of the largest privately owned grocery companies in the United States, was a bit of a pioneer voyage, though. Prior to her current role, Gump spent 18 years in H-E-B stores with roles ranging from store-management trainee to department manager to district manager, which she counts as the cornerstone of her career at H-E-B. Here, she shares her steady rise to VP of operations and how her passion and upbringing only brought more to H-E-B’s table

Voces open quoteLeadership is a balance of results and caring for people. I came from a humble upbringing in which my father instilled in us a tireless drive to do more, and my mother showed us the power of caring for others. Over the years, I have realized how well these attributes have served me in both my professional and personal success. H-E-B truly embodies these values and makes it easy for me to bring these values to life in my work. One of the things that sets H-E-B apart is our company’s deep commitment to the communities we serve. One of my favorite community events is our annual “Feast of Sharing” community dinners. H-E-B serves more than 250,000 people through 32 free-of-charge holiday dinners throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

Through my experience at the Harvard Business School, I had the opportunity to look beyond short-term solutions and take a big-picture approach to problem solving. Harvard has a renowned executive-education program, and H-E-B allowed me to enroll in the two-month program as a professional growth opportunity. It goes back to H-E-B’s commitment to continuous improvement. It was an intense eight weeks, but it was very gratifying. Working alongside the more than 170 executives participating in the program from around the world allowed me to hone my analytical and strategic skills.

Photo 1 Laura Gump

Home and work life go hand in hand. First, it’s important to have a strong network of support around you, whether that be family, neighbors, or coworkers. In the same way we build teams at work, it’s important to build them at home. Second, we need to have a sense of purpose in both aspects of our lives. The responsibility and gratification of being a leader at H-E-B is one of my proudest accomplishments. I strive to stay true to my purpose during challenging times. Third, I make it my goal to maintain work/life balance and model this to our partners.

I often find strength in knowing H-E-B was founded by a woman, so in our company, having women in leadership is a natural fit. I think women have a unique capability to include people and bring teams together. Being raised in a traditional Mexican family and being a mother, I fully understand the shopping needs of the families we serve, because I experience them myself. I bring an insider’s perspective to my position as VP of operations.

People are the common denominator in everything we do at H-E-B. We recognize the value that each partner brings and stand by the belief that every partner counts. One of the sayings we hear a lot from our customers is, “I’m going to ‘my H-E-B.’” The key factor that has allowed us to develop that commitment and connection are our partners. We have 76,000 employees we call “partners,” and more than 1,000 of them 30+ years of service with H-E-B. It’s amazing to see generations of partners and their families that have contributed to H-E-B’s success. Our company places a strong emphasis on building relationships with our customers. We encourage our partners to connect with their customers. H-E-B embodies a unique spirit and commitment to excellence that is reflected in our partners and stores across the state.Voces close quote