Arnett leverages hard work, dedication to climb Wings Etc. ladder

For Wings Etc. Vice President of Administration Tiffany Arnett, March celebrates both Women’s History Month and the anniversary of her years with Fort Wayne-based Wings Etc., Inc.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (March 23, 2023)— March is Women’s History Month, but it also holds special meaning for Wings Etc. Vice President of Administration Tiffany Arnett: March 2023 marks Arnett’s 23rd year with the Fort Wayne-based franchise company and its affiliated restaurant group. During her tenure, Arnett has worked in various roles, starting as a server and working her way up to her current position as a Vice President. She explained that her progress was the result of hard work, persistence, and dedication.

“My advice to other women would be to work hard, learn what you can, get uncomfortable, speak your mind in an appropriate, professional way, and don’t be afraid to speak up when you need to help make the company better,” said Arnett. “I worked long hours and volunteered for many double shifts when I started out. But, in the right company, your hard work gets noticed and you become a person who is considered for higher levels of leadership.”

Today, as Vice President of Administration—a newly-created position that Arnett is building from the ground up—she can focus on working with team members to help improve Wings Etc., Inc. That title didn’t come overnight, however.

Twenty-three years ago, Arnett began at Wings Etc. waiting tables at the South Bend Ireland Road location. At the time, it was only the second Wings Etc. in existence, and the flexible hours worked well with her college schedule.

“I was going to Indiana University South Bend for elementary education in 2000 when I started as a server with Wings,” said Arnett. “I needed something that worked better with my school hours. So I did that for years. I worked with the same people, and I just loved it—we really felt like a family, and that atmosphere was great.”

When Arnett graduated in 2003, however, her career with Wings Etc. didn’t come to the end she thought it would. With an influx of newly graduated teachers, full-time work in education was hard to find.

“I did some subbing while still working at Wings, but it just never panned out to where I could get a full-time position,” she explained. “So, I started focusing more on Wings as a career.”

Arnett learned a variety of tasks over the next several years, from bartending and cooking to managing the restaurant. Eventually, she was asked to run the Wings Etc. Grape Road location in Mishawaka, where she found a passion for managing people.

In 2004, Wings Etc. began franchising and started to expand. Arnett was happy to help—going to new locations to train and assist as part of the new store opening team.

“For over a decade, I worked in the restaurants learning as much as possible on the operations side,” she noted. “But in 2011, I got engaged, and my then-fiancé (now husband) needed to move to Fort Wayne for his work. I didn’t want to leave Wings, but I had to move.”

Knowing about the move well in advance, Arnett approached current Wings Etc. CEO Rob Hensmann and asked if there was anything she could do in Fort Wayne to help the company. Fortunately, Arnett’s new home was also the home of the Wings Etc. corporate headquarters. Arnett joined the corporate team as part of the bookkeeping team, working on payroll processing, which was previously outsourced. Over time, Hensmann taught her various accounting tasks and offered continuing accounting education opportunities. Eventually, Arnett earned the position of head of in-house accounting.

In 2022, Arnett was promoted to her current position of Vice President of Administration and is the company’s first female VP.

“We’ve grown to a size where we need someone dedicated to an administrative leadership role,” she explained. “I’m still developing it, but I’m very excited. I love managing people, bringing people on, and taking care of needs that arise as we continue to grow.”

While Arnett has been able to climb the company ladder, she noted that it hasn’t always been easy, especially with children.

“As a working mother, one of the biggest things for me has been flexibility and the ability to balance work and life,” she said. “As a woman working in a man’s world, it’s easy to ask yourself, ‘Do they understand?’ and they do here—they really get it and put family first.”

“The reality is that a lot of childrearing still falls on women, so having the flexibility I have here has been essential in my role as both a mother and a career woman,” Arnett added. “But that flexibility comes with hard work and dedication, and you have to advocate for yourself.”

Now celebrating her 23rd year with the company that has grown to over 80 locations in 14 states, Arnett said she could have never imagined her life taking the course it took.

“When I told my mom I was going to wait tables in 2000, she said, ‘You are going to hate your job,’ and to this day, she tells me, ‘Who would have thought?’ and here I am 23 years later,” she said. “It’s been a great experience to grow with this company and create the close relationships I have.”