Paige Honeycutt, the Associate General Counsel of Atlanta corporate institution Zep, has seen a lot of business changes over the years. When Paige joined King & Spalding as an M&A lawyer in 2001, things were done a bit differently. “We were all in the office together, documents were hand marked and reviewed and closings were done in person,” she says. “Now everything is online/ digital.”
She considers the training that she got at King & Spalding to be the foundation to her success as an inside counsel. “I was surrounded by great lawyers. They instilled an attention to detail and sense of urgency that I still carry today,” she says. Working on acquisitions and divestitures for large companies like Coca-Cola and UPS, as well as a number of private companies, Paige believes that she had the best possible start to a career as an inhouse lawyer.
After nearly four years at the firm, Paige was offered an inhouse counsel position by a former King & Spalding attorney then serving as the General Counsel of public company Witness Systems. “I decided to join the company because I would continue working on acquisitions, but could now be a part of integrating companies and driving growth.”
Two years in, Paige had become Associate General Counsel and Secretary of Witness Systems, supporting the company through its sale to Verint Systems in 2007. The call center and customer experience software company was headquartered in Long Island, New York but retained a substantial presence in Atlanta. Paige stayed with the company.
“I stayed with Verint because I had the opportunity to build up a public company compliance department, including a top-down revamp of the code of conduct, the anticorruption program, SEC regulatory compliance as well as the corporate wide training,” she says. “I learned a lot more about executive business process and procedures and how to achieve business and compliance goals in parallel.“
Paige was also involved in a lot of import-export compliance work – requiring familiarity with denied party screening and global sanctions. “Knowing who the company is doing business with and where its products/services are destined, is critical – and constantly changing. The penalties for noncompliance are quite steep,” she says.
Working extensively with the board of directors taught Paige a lot about business issues to watch out for and also how to earn trust from senior executives. She was also able to educate the board on how to spot compliance issues. “Any successful company will eventually reach the point where corporate governance becomes one of the most important issues to consider,” says Paige.
As Verint shifted to a remote working focus, Paige decided that she wanted to work with a company that was more closely connected to home. “I joined Zep in 2021 because I wanted to have a firmer connection to Atlanta and also an in person working relationship with company leadership.” 85 year old Zep, with its long history in Atlanta, fit the bill. “Although it wasn’t a family business anymore, it was (and is) still a top Atlanta brand” she says. It didn’t hurt that the chemical cleaning products company’s products were in high demand during the pandemic, with strong sales for new solutions and products especially geared toward making public places safer environments.
The company had traditionally sold cleaning products to industrial and commercial users – factories, garages, restaurants, commercial office buildings and the like – but was now expanding into retail products for consumers. “You can now buy Zep at grocery stores – bringing our professional cleaning capabilities directly to our consumers.” says Paige, “and legal definitely has a role to play in the company’s growth- I felt that I could make a difference. The people at Zep are passionate, which I like very much.”
Paige has spent much of her time getting to know everyone at the company, from the C-suite to sales, support functions and supply chain, and is doing everything she can to help drive business goals. “I’m a good listener,” she says. “I start with listening and then I ask questions. Sometimes they need to go find some answers, but then we regroup and come up with a solution. I usually try to come up with at least two potential solutions, and we discuss what the impact of each would be.”
Often, the problem is not a legal problem but a business problem. “Either way, I make sure all stakeholders know the risks involved so that we can drive the best outcome for the company,” she says.
Definitely an “open door” kind of person, Paige is available to speak with anyone in the company. “I encourage the business people to take advantage of it and it helps both me and the company,” she says. “You’d be surprised how often the people on the front line can see a problem brewing. With this kind of notice, I can frequently get ahead of problems.”
Being approachable has made Paige’s relationship with her colleagues very comfortable - to the point that they sometimes tell her that she doesn’t fit the “lawyer” stereotype. “They mean it as a positive,” she says.
As company in house counsel, Paige handles all of Zep’s legal issues. “With a company this large, you are going to see a little bit of everything,” she says. “I handle employment issues, health and safety, workers compensation, regulatory, commercial matters, corporate transactions and contracts. No day is the same.”
Paige is excited to be at Zep, helping the company to evolve into a new era. “It’s a new chapter in the company’s history. I really believe in executive management and we are all executing against our goals as a business,” she says.
Actually, it’s the type of people that she works with at Zep that most makes it a fit for Paige. “It’s very much a roll up your sleeves, all hands on deck, and let’s get the job done sort of place,” she says, “and that fits me to a T. I have yet to see anyone say, ‘that’s not my job.”
Making use of her excellent people skills has allowed her to get to know team members on a deeper level. “I always enjoy learning more about people, especially their past experience,” she says, “you gain perspective.” . Sometimes people just need someone to talk to, even if it’s not business related. And I’m always ready to listen.”