Kristin Jaworski of The Fort Worth Herd: “Accommodating more visitors is on our horizon”

Accommodating more visitors is on our horizon. I’m always thinking about how we can reach a larger audience. If people are traveling, how can we reach more people and create more memories as a premier travel destination? We have tangible limitations, as in real estate and how long visitors stay in the city, so we’re […]

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Accommodating more visitors is on our horizon. I’m always thinking about how we can reach a larger audience. If people are traveling, how can we reach more people and create more memories as a premier travel destination? We have tangible limitations, as in real estate and how long visitors stay in the city, so we’re looking at how to enhance our visitors’ experience within those limits. And that’s a big question!

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin Jaworski.

For nearly two decades, Kristin has led the Fort Worth Herd, the city’s herd of 17 Texas Longhorns dedicated to preserving Fort Worth’s Western heritage. Not only is she responsible for the day-to-day management of the robust program, which includes the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive in the Stockyards District, she also leads educational programs about the often-misunderstood history of the Cattle Drive Era. Under Kristin’s leadership, the Fort Worth Herd is committed to accurately portraying the diversity of the cowboy, with Black, Mexican, Indigenous, and female drovers redefining the traditional, misrepresented image of the cowboy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was raised around tourism, as well as horses, mules, and livestock, my whole life. Tourism was really my passion, so this particular career was really appealing to me because it is a marketing tool to promote and generate publicity for the city by utilizing tourism, livestock, and most importantly, horses and steers.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I would call my work unique more so than disruptive. The work that we’re doing differentiates our city because I don’t believe there’s anywhere else in the world where you can see Texas Longhorn cattle being driven down the street not just once, but twice a day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., 7 days a week. I think that’s what is so amazing about the work we do here at the herding program.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I think life is full of funny mistakes and they never stop, though you continue to learn from each mistake as a growing opportunity. I learned to know my audience and educate my team on the dignitaries and politicians who have helped create our program through an embarrassing mistake.

Once I was speaking to City Council members with my team, and my team did not realize who they were. We began educating the council members about the city, how it was structured and how the Fort Worth Herd is funded, the entire welcome to Fort Worth spiel when they were the individual people that approved our budget! Very quickly, I printed out their photos and names and taught our team how our program was created. Its small things like this you don’t realize are important that are easy to take for granted, but it can be awfully embarrassing and insulting when you make that mistake.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Dr. Temple Grandin and I call her out by name specifically so more people will look her up and learn about her incredible story, is one of the most iconic people in our industry. She’s been an influential mentor to me because not only has she overcome challenges in the livestock industry but as a professor, she has taught people how to read animals, how to handle livestock, how to create better beef, and she’s also helped children, family members, and loved ones overcome autism.

When I first met her, the very first thing she said to me was, “The cattle are all okay.” It was the best compliment I could ever receive. Her answers are always honest and straightforward, filled with wonderful advice. Everything that she’s ever said to me has had a huge impact on how I do business. At one of her most recent lectures, she said, “We as people should always make an animal’s life worth living,” and you can use that towards your dog, your cat, your horse. It’s so simple to remember and it could apply to anyone.

There’s a wonderful HBO biopic made about her where she is played by Claire Danes if people are interested in learning more about her. She’s also written several books — one of my favorites is called Animals in Translation, which unpacks the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior. She has so many skills and talents that she’s willing to share with other people.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think we can easily describe the Fort Worth Herd program as a structure that has withstood the test of time. On June 12, 1999, when the cattle drive was first launched, nobody knew how long the program would survive or what impact it would have on the city, and it continues to be one of the top tourist attractions. Over the years, its purpose and mission have changed slightly, but the foundation remains the same. The Stockyards District is currently undergoing a major $500 million redevelopment, and the city of Fort Worth probably would not have realized that the district needed a change without seeing the cattle drive’s profound impact on the city’s tourism.

Disrupting an industry can have not so positive consequences when we are not willing to adapt to overcome challenges. The best example to illustrate this is that throughout the wonderful redevelopment in the Stockyards, we have continued to drive the Longhorns every day at 11:30 and 4 o’clock. We have not missed a single cattle drive through the construction, renovations, demolition, and even the reconstruction of the bricked sidewalks. We’ve still been there. If we weren’t willing to overcome and adjust to these changes, I think that would have negative effects. It is important for us to figure out the direction that the tourism industry and the Stockyards have taken, and to align with that. None of that is easy to maintain; you have to be willing to go through those challenges and grow with it.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Never outgrow your hat. For me that means that you have to manage your ego and remember that it takes a team to accomplish anything. I love this saying — it’s also very cowgirl!
  2. Have self-control and a sense of discipline.
  3. Be ready for opportunities, so when opportunities come, you are prepared.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Accommodating more visitors is on our horizon. I’m always thinking about how we can reach a larger audience. If people are traveling, how can we reach more people and create more memories as a premier travel destination? We have tangible limitations, as in real estate and how long visitors stay in the city, so we’re looking at how to enhance our visitors’ experience within those limits. And that’s a big question!

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Everybody always likes to ask me about what it’s like to be a woman in my role, but I always like to think of myself as part of a team. I’m a very strong leader and proud to be a leader, so I try not to focus on myself. I know there are challenges as a woman in male-dominated industries, but the cattle and steers don’t know the difference if I’m a woman or a man. I lead my team that way, so it’s hard for me to look at situations through that lens.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

You’re going to laugh — one of the first books that made an impact on my principles of leadership and customer service is called Give‘Em the Pickle by Bob Farrell. He opened an ice cream parlor and learned that if you give a customer a pickle when they want an extra on their burger, they will come back. I know that we’re not driving anything close to pickles in tourism, but I brought an excerpt of this book back to my team. Because of his story, we walk up and down East Exchange Ave. talking to visitors and stop on our horse just to take an extra photo with the visitor. My team will look at me and say, “We just gave them an extra pickle.” That’s become our motto here, and it doesn’t take much to give someone an extra pickle.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I always like to give people more experiences than I’m willing to give. If I could inspire a movement where more people can experience what it truly feels like to ride a horse safely, I think it could open up so many educational opportunities for people to understand the history of our cowboy heritage and why we utilize horses. I think it’s important to bring more horsemanship and equestrian knowledge to those who wish they could ride a horse. People often think that it’s out of reach or costly, and I would love to be able to provide people with the access and opportunity to ride a horse safely and educate them that a horse is far more than a pet.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I try to think of life lessons as teachable moments and experiences. I think it’s important not to be disappointed when an experience is over, but happy that it happened. It’s like the Dr. Suess quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, but smile because it happened.”

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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