Since the spring semester of his freshman year, when he transferred to Pfeiffer University from UNC Charlotte, Reese Shelton ’20 has kept his eyes on a very big prize.

The prize – a leadership/officer position at H.W. Culp Lumber Co. in New London – is still several years away. But during his time at Pfeiffer, Shelton has certainly done his part to lay the groundwork for it:

Residing not on campus but at home in New London, he has pursued a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Leadership with a concentration in entrepreneurship, and he has worked in various maintenance and project-related capacities at Culp Lumber, where his mother Amy ’90 serves as its secretary/treasurer. She’s the daughter of Henry “Hank” W. Culp III ’70, the company’s president.

“I was raised to work, to work for what I’ve got,” Shelton said. “I couldn’t see myself sitting in a dorm room in Charlotte. I decided to come back home to commute to Pfeiffer and work at the same time to make money.”

Conceivably, Shelton could have followed in the footsteps of his father, Stan, who owns Shelton Insurance and Real Estate Center Inc. in Albemarle. He gravitated to Culp Lumber because he liked the hands-on, mechanical nature of working in a saw mill. What’s more, the arrangement of studying at Pfeiffer and working at Culp Lumber has meant that Shelton has begun mulling over ways he might apply his Pfeiffer knowledge at Culp Lumber in the future. Shelton views that knowledge as invaluable:

“I owe a lot to Pfeiffer’s business program and its teachers,” he said. “They’ve helped me in so many different ways. They’ve been very, very good at staying on top of what’s currently going on in business, so that they can make the best employees out of us when we go out into the workforce.”

Shelton’s “best” would include the importance that marketing, a great love, now plays in his thinking because of what he learned about it at Pfeiffer.

“If you can’t market to people, then you are not going to sell a product unless it’s essential,” he said. “Not so many people have an essential product for living. Marketing sets you above the competitors.”

Shelton has a much better idea of the kinds of questions to ask people who are interviewing for job openings; this skill, which will certainly come in handy at Culp Lumber, was developed during mock interviews with Dr. Raushan Gross, an assistant professor of business management and leadership. Shelton would consider hiring or consulting his fellow students, whom he now counts among his best friends.

For Shelton, Pfeiffer’s business program reinforced the importance of applying a SWOT analysis to new ideas, something that Culp Lumber is already doing. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It “makes you think of things you maybe haven’t thought of,” he said.

Ideally, SWOT should figure prominently in effective teamwork, which is “where the business world’s going today,” Shelton said. “At Pfeiffer, we learned that a really good team can take something and run with it. Also, if you value teamwork, your opinions will be challenged, and you can challenge others as well. That way, you can come up with the best possible plan of action that you need to move forward.”

Shelton lauded the team-oriented nature of a capstone class he took on business strategy. During the class – taught by Dr. Christopher Howard, an associate professor of business administration – each student joined a team that took on a project aimed at developing three strategies for where to take a company as part of a 10-year plan.

Research papers and class presentations resulted. During the presentations, students (in the audience) were required to ask questions, posing as a kind of panel; these questions, which were graded, forced presenters to “know their stuff like the back of their hand,” Shelton said.  

The class on business strategy is among the most important Pfeiffer experiences that Shelton will bring to full-time work at Culp Lumber.

“It’s encompassing everything you’ve learned, from accounting to management, and bringing it all together,” he said. “It’s all real numbers; it isn’t fake. Everyone’s coming together for a common goal. Everyone’s grade is riding on it. It teaches you to build a quality presentation. It molds you into a better student of the craft for business.”

The Culp Family

Three generations of Pfeiffer alumni: Reese Shelton ’20 (center) with his grandfather, Henry “Hank” W. Culp III ’70 and his mother, Amy Culp Shelton ’90.