Thursday, April 8- “Do you love what you do?” Laura Morrow will tell you she does and it has everything to do with the people in this industry.
Jim Schauer: [0:21] Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this week’s episode of “Coffee with Jim & James.”
[0:26] James, before we get started, Laura and I really haven’t met, but we have met. She may not remember it. Let me tell you a quick story. Do I have a minute, James?
James Cross: [0:36] [laughs] Always. You have a microphone.
Jim: [0:38] I was sailing or piloting my schooner down the Florida Keys, on my way to Key West, when all of a sudden disaster struck. My prop stopped working. This can be a problem on the high seas, right?
James: [0:55] Sure.
Jim: [0:56] So I looked back there, and what’s caught my propeller? Cornstalks. I’m like, “Cornstalks. I’m in trouble.” I’m looking around and I noticed the beach 50, 60 feet away. I yelled to the beach, “I have corn stalks in my prop. Is anybody from the Midwest?”
[1:15] Nobody said anything, except this lady raised her hand. She had children and her husband were there. She’s like, “We’re from Indiana.” I’m like, “OK, prove it.” She’s like, “My husband’s a Hoosier.” I’m like, “That’s the corn capital of the world.”
James: [1:30] Checks out.
Jim: [1:31] I said, “Can he come help me?” I said, “I’m about ready to be taken away to Antarctica.” They look at each other and they’re talking. All of a sudden I see him doing this.
[1:42] All of a sudden the husband’s like, “Grr.” He goes up and gets his corn sickle. They must carry that on vacation.
James: [1:48] They do.
Jim: [1:48] [inaudible] essential one.
James: [1:50] All the time, just the essentials.
Jim: [1:52] He walks out. It wasn’t too deep, I guess. He walks out to the schooner and hacks it away.
[1:59] I get on my way, and I’m like, “Thank you so much. Who are you?” She’s like, “My name is Laura.” I said, “Thank you so much.” She’s like, “Whether it’s personally or professionally, we like to take care of people and make sure people are safe.”
James: [2:11] Wow.
Jim: [2:12] I’m like, “What company do you work for?” She’s like, “Don’t forget the name Artera.” It stuck with me ever since. I almost renamed the ship Artera because of that incident.
James: [2:24] Never happened. None of it happened.
Jim: [2:26] [laughs]
Laura Morrow: [2:27] You don’t know that. [laughs]
James: [2:28] It’s possible. He’s quite the storyteller. Laura, welcome to the show.
Jim: [2:33] Welcome.
Laura: [2:35] Thank you.
James: [2:35] [laughs] You’re officially part of the club now, once Jim makes a intro about you, I guess.
Laura: [2:41] I’m honored, Jim. Thank you.
James: [2:45] Laura’s joining us today. Laura, we’re going to try something a little bit different today. You are the guinea pig. We’ll see how it works. We haven’t been canceled in almost a year. In a year?
Jim: [2:58] Over a year.
James: [2:58] We’re really close, Jim. This may be our year episode. We should’ve wore hats.
Laura: [3:05] Yeah.
Jim: [3:06] You are.
James: [3:08] Laura, I’m going to rattle off some questions. When we give our elevator pitch, “Come on, Laura. Tell us about yourself and the industry,” we all have that robotic pitch, which I’ll let you do in a little bit.
Laura: [3:22] [laughs]
James: [3:23] I don’t think that paints a perfect picture for our audience on just who Laura is. You down?
Laura: [3:31] Sure. Ready.
James: [3:32] I like it. Jim, are you ready for this?
Jim: [3:34] I’m waiting with bated breath.
Laura: [3:36] [laughs]
James: [3:36] You just made it up, like your intro. Laura, are you a breakfast or dinner person?
Laura: [3:44] Dinner.
James: [3:46] If it’s dinner, perfect meal, what would your last supper be?
Laura: [3:51] Spaghetti. I’m a carb girl.
James: [3:53] Oh, pasta.
Laura: [3:54] [laughs]
James: [3:55] She runs a lot. I’m sure it’s fine. Laura, what about, let’s say, there’s always Star Trek people and Star Wars people.
Laura: [4:03] Neither.
James: [4:05] Same. [inaudible]. I feel like people’s hearts are hurt.
Laura: [4:09] I know. I’m sorry. I know they’re such a fan, but I’m not. [laughs]
James: [4:15] Not her cup of tea. Tea or coffee?
Laura: [4:18] My coffee?
James: [4:20] Tea or coffee?
Laura: [4:21] Oh, coffee.
James: [4:22] Amen.
Laura: [4:23] Three cups a day.
James: [4:26] At least, at least. Four today because you’ve got to work with Jim.
Laura: [4:32] Sure. [laughs]
James: [4:32] Let’s see. What about family, family at home? What does that look like for you?
Laura: [4:38] I have my husband, who’s a true Hoosier, and then I have two little girls, a three‑year‑old and two‑year‑old. They’re actually two girls with boy names, Blake and Regan.
James: [4:48] Awesome. I have a four‑year‑old girl at home teaching me everything I don’t know.
Laura: [4:54] Oh, yes, every day. [laughs]
James: [4:56] Every day. Awesome. I think that says a lot about who we’re talking with today. Laura, let’s talk about you and the industry. Let’s talk about your journey. You are the VP of communications at Artera. Is that correct?
Laura: [5:11] Mm‑hmm.
James: [5:13] Tell us a little bit about your journey in this brand communication, marketing world, how you got to where you are. Then now, switching gears over this past year with Artera, how’s that looked with that group as well?
Laura: [5:31] I would say that my path started by a connection that I had about eight years ago to land an interview with Miller Pipeline for their Communications department.
[5:43] I remember sending the website link to my dad because growing up he was a welder in a local union. In Vermont, he worked on nuclear plants.
[5:51] I asked him to vet the company for me and explained honestly exactly what they did, because I had no idea. He strongly suggested that I apply. Honestly, the rest is history.
[6:04] I was there for practically eight years. I grew professionally in parallel with the growth of that company.
[6:14] The largest pivot was last year when MVerge, which was collectively Miller Pipeline and Minnesota Limited, they combined with PowerTeam Services, which is now Artera Services. That was in April of last year.
[6:29] That combination offered a lot of opportunities for employees. Luckily, I was one of them. When I jumped into my new role at Artera, there was a branding project already underway with a talented team.
[6:42] They rebranded August of last year, which is Artera Services. That’s how that company was created.
[6:49] Hopefully when you go on the website and social networks and everything, you can see that the brand is professional. It’s bold. It’s sophisticated. It’s built on the cultures of the operating businesses that they own and our four core values and, most importantly, our people.
[7:08] All the photography on the websites, the social networks, everything like that, it’s our actual people doing the work. I think, and you probably feel the same, James, that’s imperative to any brand narrative and story.
James: [7:21] In full disclosure, Laura, and you probably already know this, but I’ve worked with your teams for a while. I’m trying to access all those images because they’re so great.
[7:34] Especially those of us in this side of the industry that have to see it, you can’t tell the story quite the same with the stock images out there.
Laura: [7:46] Oh gosh, no.
James: [7:47] Just in our industry, if I have to see that same guy again in that same stock photo, it doesn’t tell my story.
Laura: [7:55] Exactly.
James: [7:55] You have always impressed me with that part.
Laura: [8:01] Great.
James: [8:01] [?] What you’ve been doing is fantastic.
Laura: [8:01] Great. Thank you. Yeah, we take pride. We probably do photo shoots every other year just to get new content. Especially every year, it ties into our new narrative we want that year.
[8:13] You’ll always see, no matter what, a face of somebody in any of our ads or anything like that.
James: [8:18] A smiling face. Laura and I, actually, I think when we met the first time we were at a DCA Summit, the Workforce Summit.
[8:28] Jason Dorsey was speaking and told us, “You need to be showing your people out there in the industry. Grit and tough and working on pipelines, but they need to be smiling. Why aren’t your people smiling?” [laughs] Now we put smiling people everywhere.
[8:46] That’s our job, basically. We make logos bigger and smiling people in stock photos.
Jim: [8:52] It shows the happiness, though, too. When people are having fun every day, that’s the most important thing.
[8:58] Laura, you hit on a few things that struck a chord with me. Again, in my world, I’m about relationships and network. I’ve been in the energy business for 20 years in a variety of roles. I have 8,000 followers, and each one is unique and different.
[9:14] I preach this, and James knows this. I say, “Relationships drive our business.” Who we know, how we interact with them, our relationship with them, and such is key.
[9:27] Can you expound on that a little bit with Artera and what your folks’s thoughts are in regards to relationships?
Laura: [9:35] Sure. I would say that it’s probably the same as any business. Your network and your connections are key to success.
[9:42] In our industry, we’re so lucky because we have so many organizations and people that want to be successful and profitable. We all work together to make that happen.
[9:51] Artera, we have so many operating businesses that started as family‑owned businesses. They have years of long‑term relationships. We get to use those relationships to drive business and growth and opportunities for more work.
[10:09] Unfortunately with COVID, of course, those relationships are being tested without having trade shows, conferences, fishing trips, golf outings, you name it.
James: [10:19] All the…
Jim: [10:19] This has helped those, Zoom, right?
Laura: [10:22] Exactly.
James: [10:23] My golf game, it hasn’t helped my golf game in all these Zoom meeting.
Laura: [10:29] [laughs]
James: [10:29] I miss all the fun stuff. You forget about it. I’d love to complain about the little shampoo that wasn’t in the right spot or [laughs] the little bitty tiny beers I have to drink at the Embassy Suites.
Laura: [10:42] [laughs]
James: [10:43] Anything, give me all that back. I’ll take it in a heartbeat.
Jim: [10:46] [laughs]
Laura: [10:48] I know, but I think the future of work is going to look a lot different. I don’t know what it’s gonna look like the next couple years. It won’t ever be the same.
James: [10:55] Never be the same. Laura, let’s talk about when we talk about brand and going through that. We just went through a rebrand this past year, and so something that’s fresh with us as well. We touched around it, but let’s talk about reputation.
[11:18] I’ll tell you, something we’re realizing more and more every day is how important a reputation is inside of our own walls. Sometimes we always think about what the clients think.
[11:30] If your people aren’t believing in the brand and not living the brand, then it’s going to show in the work and it’s going to show the relationships and it’s going to trickle out. It’s going to land years later, even.
[11:44] You want to talk on that a little bit, how important reputation is both internal and external?
Laura: [11:50] Honestly, you nailed it, James. I think reputation is about…
James: [11:55] Asked my own question and answered it.
Laura: [11:56] [laughs] I truly believe reputation is all about your people. If your people feel valued and recognized and part of your end goal, they’re going to tell your own story. You don’t even have to do it. They’re going to do it for you.
[12:14] It’s understanding who you’re hiring, who you have on your team, and how you lead them will help with that reputation, too. We all know there’s multiple generations now, the Gen Z and millennials, and I’m a millennial.
[12:28] We want different feedback and affirmation and recognition in different ways. You just have to realize that and kind of cater to who you’re talking to and who you can cultivate a culture for them and recognize them.
James: [12:42] They want to be heard.
Jim: [12:43] I was waiting on that word culture.
James: [12:49] Culture’s big. I hate it because it’s almost turning into a buzzword a little bit. Laura, I’m sure you read enough and see enough in the industry. Our respective career paths put a lot of information in front of us.
[13:04] It’s almost been beat so much, like, “Oh, culture, culture, culture,” but culture’s everything. It’s so hard to throw a blanket over culture because, man, it’s every piece of communication to everything in between.
[13:22] We’ve got a lot of job security, Laura. There’s a lot of things in brand.
Laura: [13:29] There is, but I feel like companies, though, you can see right through the ones that state they have a culture and they don’t. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. You can realize which companies are doing that with culture.
Jim: [13:42] I agree with you. We talk a lot about it in the industry. We may not use the term culture, but sometimes we use the term good people or whatever the term may be.
[13:53] When I think about that, it really does go down to culture, like, “That group over there, they’re good people,” and somebody on the other side that might say, “OK our culture is one, two, and three. Everybody learn it and abide by it.” That’s not really culture.
James: [14:11] That’s how I like to do it, abide by it, dang it.
Jim: [14:18] It was a big word for me.
Laura: [14:19] [laughs]
Jim: [14:21] Laura, this conversation has brought me to a place. James, it’s brought me to a place where I have a very important question to ask Laura.
James: [14:32] Laura already knows it because I think she is a lurker, listener, watcher.
Laura: [14:38] [laughs]
James: [14:39] Every once in a while she watches them. She does. She already knows.
Jim: [14:43] You think so?
James: [14:44] She’s been talking to…
Jim: [14:45] This is a hard question. This is a hard one.
James: [14:46] Repeat of communications. She’s practiced.
Jim: [14:50] Laura?
Laura: [14:51] Yeah?
Jim: [14:52] Let me ask you a very important question. Do you love what you do?
Laura: [14:57] I sure do.
James: [15:00] You’ve got to hit her with the why.
Laura: [15:05] There you go.
Jim: [15:05] Normally James does this.
Laura: [15:06] [laughs]
Jim: [15:06] Why do you love what you do, Laura?
Laura: [15:10] We’ve been talking about the people. I’ve just been so fortunate to work with so many intelligent, encouraging leaders, and turned into mentors that have helped me in my career and also are friends.
[15:24] It’s the people. I never thought driving by a job site I would be so excited and drive extra slow and look and say, “I know what they’re doing.” I find it so gratifying.
[15:36] My daughter was in the car with me once. She goes, “Mom, that’s an excavator.” I’m like, “You’re right, honey.”
James: [15:43] That’s what my daughter says.
Laura: [15:44] [laughs] I’m like that is such a win.
James: [15:47] She looks over my shoulder and sees me working. She goes, “I know what that is.”
Laura: [15:52] I think that’s so cool. I never thought I’d be in this industry, but I would never choose another one. I’m set. I love what I do.
James: [16:00] Laura, the other day I was speaking on a damage prevention event. That morning, I had locators out on a one‑call ticket at my house for a fence.
[16:17] The contractor was like, “It’s probably fine.” I was like, “No, it’s probably not.” They didn’t know I was speaking on it, on the other side, and I had to wait my time.
[16:30] When your worlds collide, that’s the whole point of that. It’s fantastic to be educated enough to know there’s good people working on it.
Laura: [16:43] Especially if I don’t know what I’m talking about. There are so many people that will help me. I don’t feel stupid to ask the questions of what exactly does that do? Or what’s the end goal of this new line? Or why steel versus this?
[16:56] There are so many people that are willing to help because they’re so passionate that it’s one big family. It’s great.
James: [17:04] That’s why we’re here today. That’s family right there.
Jim: [17:08] She summed it up so great in that. First of all, one thing, that was the shortest do you love what you do answer. You even beat Brian Dresel, ex‑PHMSa, now with Black Hills Energy, with your answer. I’m glad we dragged it out of you.
[17:22] You’re absolutely right. The culture of our industry is such a helping industry. They want to help.
James: [17:31] It’s a community, right?
Jim: [17:32] Yeah, just like my wacky story at the beginning. People are on vacation, they want to help somebody that might be in need. Whatever the case is, they do that. It’s really great.
[17:44] We didn’t have to ask that question because it shines through you in the way you talk about your company and the industry. It really does.
Laura: [17:54] Thank you.
Jim: [17:54] Laura, on behalf of James and I, we want to thank you so much for spending the time with us today. It was an absolute pleasure. It was fun.
Laura: [18:01] It was.
James: [18:02] It was.
Jim: [18:02] Thank you for letting me do a little wacky story at the beginning. We really did learn a lot, learned a lot about you, about Artera, and the good things that you folks are doing.
[18:12] Please, for our audience, follow Laura, connect with her, ask questions. Follow Artera, get involved, see some things that they’re doing, learn a little bit.
[18:24] If you like what you’re seeing, hit the Like button down below. If you want to follow us, please do. The more the merrier. We hope we are giving value each and every week to you folks, and we’re honored and blessed to do so.
[18:37] Until next time on “Coffee with Jim & James,” it is our pleasure to say stay safe, everybody. Take care.
Laura: [18:45] Bye.
James: [18:45] Thanks, Laura.
Jim: [18:49] Thanks, Laura.