It’s easy to see why Wes Ashworth can’t pinpoint exactly which parent he favors.

On one hand, there’s Dad.

A pastor. A licensed clinical therapist. A community man.

“Growing up, we often met with people with Dad going on house visits,” Wes said. “I saw modeled very early on how to be there for people, how to be a friend, how to care, how to listen.”

There wasn’t a grocery store line Wes’ dad could stand in without starting up a conversation.

“He never had a transactional relationship,” Wes said. “It didn’t matter where we went. People wanted to talk, and he wanted to listen.”

Then there’s Mom.

“As a kid I was stubborn, obstinate,” said Wes, a self-proclaimed Mama’s boy. “I didn’t want to listen to anybody.”

Except Mom.

“She is the kindest, sweetest woman,” Wes said. “She is also very direct and honest. She can tell you things you may not want to hear, but you need to hear, and she is never afraid of that confrontation.”

Combine the thoughtful, relationship-driven nature of his father with the kind, honest, candid core of his mother and you get the professional — Wes Ashworth, Lee Group Search’s Vice President of Executive Search.

As a nationwide executive recruiter (or headhunter, as some folks call it), Wes doesn’t just place any person into any job. He talks to people. Listens to their answers. Works to understand the company that’s hiring and then makes a match.

“You can’t do any of that without really getting to know someone,” Wes said.

Or without being honest with them.

“My parents were always present and always modeling excellence in their own unique ways,” Wes said.

Wes’ story begins in Pulaski, Virginia, in the western side of the state where he spent his childhood.

“It was a tiny, little country town where everybody knew each other,” Wes said. “Mom worked at the major employer in town, a furniture manufacturer, and Dad was a pastor.”

Early memories are of “lots of time spent outside. I was heavy into sports and from an early age, had a strong love affair with fishing and all things related to the water.”

By middle school, the family had moved to Newport News for his father’s new pastoral position.

Those early teenage years – growing up with two older brothers and a sister – shaped who he became.

“I was always the youngest, smallest and shortest in the family,” Wes said. “I had to learn to compete, to keep up. They never let me win just because I was younger and I’m thankful for it. I needed grit, a sense of competitiveness and an ability to figure out how to win even with the odds stacked against me.”

That mental tenacity helped when he went to high school, where he balanced playing competitive sports and excelling academically.

“Admittedly, though, I was a maverick,” Wes said. “I didn’t always follow the rules but would still get to the destination we were headed.”

That drove a lot of his teachers crazy, he said.

His mother often got their calls about Wes doing things the wrong way and she learned to ask about his grades.

They would always be A’s.

“I was like that with anything,” Wes said. “If someone wanted to show me something, I wanted to watch it and then do it my own way.”

Wes entered the workforce his own way, too.

Even though he had an academic scholarship to attend Christopher Newport University, and everything about today’s culture told him to get his degree, Wes chose to go full time at the retail store where he’d been working as a teenager.

“I thought long and hard about it and decided to bet on myself,” Wes said. “I took that leap, which was terrifying because my entire life plan was to go to college.”

He became the youngest store manager in the country of the Vitamin Shoppe and went on to work with T-Mobile and Lasik Vision Institute, where he led team members from all over the country.

He continued to foster relationships, speak truth and find success at every turn.

Especially at home.

“The day my daughter was born transformed me in a way unmatched by any other event in my life,” he said.

Suddenly, traveling the country for work was unappealing.

“I started looking around for that next opportunity. There was a lady named Barbara who was really influential in my teenage years, and she knew this guy who owned a recruitment firm,” Wes said.

That guy was Eric Kean, Principal at The Lee Group.

“I thought he was going to help me find a new job,” Wes said.

And he did. At Lee Group Search.

“It was another big leap of faith,” Wes said. “I left a job with a guaranteed income, benefits and stability to jump ship to a lower salary, plans to grow and no guarantee. All with a baby at home.”

Like other times, though, Wes knew, “If I’m going to bet on myself, I’m going to take that bet.”

Turns out, all the experiences leading up to Lee Group Search were for a reason.

Learning to talk to others from his preacher man father.

Seeing that truth is meant to help you grow, not hurt, from his mother.

Competing with older brothers and digging in with a determination to win.

Choosing to go against the grain and innovate.

Growing in retail and learning how to truly connect with a wide variety of people, consulting with colleagues all over the country and helping others become successful. 

“I needed to blaze my own trail, find my own path,” Wes said. “Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to other people.”

But that’s OK. This son of a preacher man sometimes just needs to go his own way. He’ll still arrive at the destination at just the right time.

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