The farm boy was intrigued by a team of sales people that came to the store. The men drove a nice vehicle, got to travel, wore high-end clothing and appeared to be making good money. Morris wanted nothing more than to be like them.
“I lived on a farm, and all of the jobs I had involved manual labor,” he said. “These guys weren’t sweating much. I didn’t want to haul hay, but I also didn’t want to sit at a desk. I decided then that I wanted to be in sales.”
That on-the-spot decision led Morris to a career that now has him serving as a division president of Fortune 100 Company Tyson Foods. He is also the recipient of this year’s North Arkansas College Distinguished Alumnus Award, which recognizes graduates for their outstanding accomplishments in their respective fields.
Morris’ desire to have a sales career took him to North Arkansas College in the 1980s and then on to the University of Arkansas where he received his bachelor’s degree in marketing.
Morris said he was the first person in his family to go to college. After his father lost his job, the family had to use Morris’ college fund to pay bills. It was up to him to figure out how to pay for college. Realizing he did not have the funds or the maturity to go to a four-year college, Morris turned to Northark.
“I didn’t do that well in high school,” he said. “I had to do remediation when I started at Northark. I didn’t even have 101 classes; I had to have two 91 level classes. If it had not been for Northark, and specifically (instructor) Cathy Brandt, who took me under her wing, I don’t know where I would be right now.”
Morris said after graduating from the University of Arkansas, he was offered a job at Tyson Foods, but he wanted to get out of Arkansas. He didn’t get far. Morris took a job in Springfield, Mo., as a sales leader for The Dial Corp. selling soap. He later moved to Des Moines, Iowa and took a position as an account executive.
In 1994, Morris moved to Kansas City to become a retail sales manager, and two years later became a senior business manager at Acosta, a food brokerage company in St. Louis, Mo.
Morris is now the President of Prepared Foods for Tyson Foods. Morris, who has been with Tyson since 1999, has served in multiple positions within the company including senior vice president of retail sales and operations, senior vice president of the wholesale club division and vice president of club store sales.
The Harrison native said attitude has played a huge role in his rise through the ranks at various companies.
“You need to have a can-do attitude and put in hard work,” he said. “Even when I was at Edwards, I had a can-do attitude. I may not have been able to do something, but I acted like I could. I always said I could do anything.
“You have to be passionate about what you do,” he continued. “I’m passionate about Harrison. I’m passionate about Northark. I’m passionate about Tyson. And I’m passionate about feeding the world.”
Morris said he advises high school and college students to take every opportunity to learn something new.
“When it scares the bejesus out of you, keep going,” he said with a laugh. “Just keep going.”
Morris will be presented the North Arkansas College Distinguished Alumnus Award at the 2014 Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges (AATYC) Conference Oct. 14 in Hot Springs.