Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Laurel: I think people would be surprised to know that I’m dyslexic. Words and numbers often get jumbled for me. I’ve fought hard to work with it especially in law school where reading 1,000 words a night was not uncommon. I think most people see my articulate side and would think it’s ironic that I’m in the communications world.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Laurel: I actually don’t believe in failure I believe in lessons. Nothing is a failure as long as you take something away from the experience and learn and grow from it. That’s life! That said, I’ve definitely had my share of bumps along the way. I’d say the most instrumental one was when my dad got sick (happy ending he’s healthy now) and I had to step in to take over his business. I thought that it had derailed my very linear path towards being a partner at a large law firm. But what it actually taught me was that I was an entrepreneur. I ran his interest in a very large retail chain called Bassett Furniture for about 3 years, and when he was healthy and able to step back in, I went after those big law firm jobs and was getting those great offers I thought I wanted, but I was having these crazy negative visceral reactions to the offers. It was clear at that point that I had to find a new path and Elevate was born about a year after. The lesson for me was that everything happens for a reason even when you think you’re at your lowest it’s just a jumping off point for where you’re supposed to go. Had that never happened with my dad EMB probably wouldn’t exist so I’m forever grateful.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Laurel: An effective leader is constantly learning and listening. I am always open to feedback from my team, my partner, my family. I also think a good leader knows how to delegate effectively and hire the right team to fill in their areas of weakness so they can focus on their strengths. To take leadership to the next level, aspiring leaders should take on both mentors and mentees so they can understand both sides of the conversation. They should also be aggressively attending learning and networking events, so they are surrounding themselves with brilliance.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders
Laurel: 1. The Nike approach of just do it is absolutely right. Just like having a baby there will never be a right time to start a business, go after that dream job or take that leap of faith so just start now. 2. Make sure you have an amazing board of advisors and formalize it. There should be 3-5 people each with a different skill set to yours and who are willing to make themselves available to you. They should hold you accountable to the goals you set. 3. Perfection is a myth. What people really connect to is who you are and what you offer authentically. The faster you can stand in that power, the quicker you will attract your tribe.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Laurel: I’m a bit of a control freak so the best piece of advice that I’ve received is, “If you can control something, don’t worry about it, and if you can’t control something, don’t worry about it.” In the end as much as we want to plan and perfect, it’s not realistic so working on releasing that need has been really important to me and my happiness.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Laurel: Aside from volunteering in the non-profit world, I think leaders should make space for anyone who is genuine in asking for support and guidance. I speak a ton and I always offer my time to anyone who wants it.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Laurel: Fitness is definitely #1. I work out 5-6 days a week always in the morning. To be a great leader requires discipline and there’s nothing like getting a good sweat on first thing before you have to tackle your inbox, meetings and inevitable daily fires. I also love to cook, hence why I need to work out! I find food to be an extremely creative expression and I love serving people and seeing them enjoy what I create.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Laurel: I think a lot of entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs have terrible habits. While the hustle is of course important, putting yourself first is a must. The adage, “put your mask on before helping others” applies to the business world tenfold. You can be a leader without taking care of your body and mind first.