For Laura Love of GroundFloor Media, transforming a business starts with strategic communication. She likes to think of her and her team as storytellers, and how they tell a company or an organization’s story depends on the audiences they want to reach and the tools that they have in their arsenal. They can tell that story through video, by talking to the media, or by putting that CEO on a panel and having them tell the rest of the world what they do. The point is to make the impact and create brand awareness for the company. On the flip side of that, a big part of their agency is focused on crisis and issues management, which means keeping a company out of the news, or minimizing the impact of something that could be perceived as something negative that they have to face. Laura shares her thoughts on how they handle everything, from media relations to thought leadership to crisis and issues management.
Thank you for having me.
Tell us a little bit about your business and who you serve.
GroundFloor Media is a strategic communications company that I started sixteen years ago in my basement in Boulder, Colorado. On that side of the agency, we handle everything from media relations to thought leadership to crisis and issues management. Our clients range from everyone from Children’s Hospital of Colorado to Noble Energy to Tennyson Center for Children. Our sister agency is an agency that we started about a year and a half ago, and the name of that agency is CenterTable. That’s the digital arm of what we do on the communications side.
I’m familiar little bit with some of the entities that you described. We have some level of common ground. Both of us have spent a little time back in Tennessee. You at Vandy and me as a wannabe Vandy yet at the time. Segueing a little bit and looking about what you do within your agency, and folks get confused when they hear about what you do. When you’re working with a client, what types of things do you bring to the table for your client that moves their needle or causes a transformation for their business?
It’s funny that I’ve been doing this for a long time now and my parents still don’t know what I do. What we like to say is that we’re storytellers. How we tell a company or an organization’s story depends on the audiences they want to reach and the tools that they have in their arsenal. If a company comes to us, they have a challenge. They want to launch a new product. We can tell that story through video; we can tell it by talking to the media, we can tell it by putting that CEO on a panel and having them tell the rest of the world what they do. The tools that we have to help shape that story and share it have grown since even I started the agency sixteen years ago. The point is to make the impact and create brand awareness for our company. On the flip side of that, a big part of our agency is focused on crisis and issues management. Sometimes, it’s keeping a company out of the news, or minimizing the impact of something that could be perceived as something negative that they have to face.
I think about a typical business owner, and most business owners are looking for more clients, more revenue. What’s the most common question, desire or misunderstanding that you hear from a new customer to your firm?
Our favorite one used to be, “How soon can you get us on Oprah?” That’s usually when we exit stage left. The misconception is that public relations equal sales and that isn’t always the case. It certainly can help, but public relations are about brand awareness and communicating with your key audiences. It doesn’t necessarily always result in sales.
I’ve heard brand awareness, and for a lot of the folks out there going brand awareness, Coca-Cola comes to mind. In a market like Denver, when you’re talking about brand awareness for a local company, what does that mean to you?
It doesn’t matter what it means to me, it matters what it means to that company. Every company has a different audience that they want to reach or a set of folks that they want to reach. We try to design custom programs that relate back to that particular audience. For some clients, it’s how do they impact the community. Bellco Credit Union has been a long-term client of ours, and one of their big goals is to give back to our community and they do that in a variety of ways. Our work with them is helping to develop and then amplify the programs they do, whether it’s with a marathon, a parade or an opening of a new branch and they want to give back in a non-profit in that community. It could depend on the company and how they want to reach out to the audience.
Starting from your basement in Boulder, take us back to that timeframe. As you’re busy starting your company and you’re looking out on the landscape and go, “I have to go look for customers and clients.” If you can, compare and contrast that to now.
It’s interesting because I never anticipated starting a company. It wasn’t a goal of mine. I’ve never had a business plan. What happened is I moved to Colorado to be the Director of Marketing for a technology company. It was a fabulous company and the CEO is one of my friends from Vanderbilt. The company couldn’t get Series B financing, and we ended up having to shut our doors. I had purchased my first house. I was getting married in six weeks, and I got laid off. I say that with a smile now. There were a few moments of tears when I first found out, but looking back, I’m grateful it happened that way.
It was in April of 2001, and I got married in June. Went away to our honeymoon and came back and thought I had jet lag. I didn’t have jet lag but I was pregnant. About four months later, my husband lost his job. It was right after 9/11, and as you well remember, people are laying off people left and right, and our daughter was born six weeks later. As they always say, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Truly, I look back and I didn’t get on the internet to search on how to build a business or start a company. I went with my gut instinct. I knew that I knew how to do communications and dove right in. If I compare that from 2001, seventeen years later, they’re still the same passion, same energy and same drive. There’s a little smoother cadence to the rhythm these days than there was back then.
You started and for a period of time you were the business. You’re knee deep in doing the business. For you now, what’s the difference? Are you in the business still or are you on the business?
I share that with a lot of entrepreneurs. It’s the moment when you shift from working in the business to working on the business. Probably, I’m 70% working on the business and about 30% in the business. I can only do that because I’ve hired such amazing people that quite frankly are much smarter than I am, and I learned to get out of their way. I come in and I think about the growth, the vision and the culture versus the day-to-day operations.
There was a time where you were in the business and you made a conscious decision, I presume, to go on the business. What was that decision process or thought process? Self-generated or did somebody push you that way?
I’d say there were two catalysts for that. The first was a group called the Entrepreneurs’ Organization that I joined about thirteen years ago, and it’s a peer-to-peer group that are all business owners, the nutty entrepreneurs. It’s a confidential group but they gave me feedback, where my strengths were and how I could best grow the business. If I truly wanted to scale it, I had to stop doing the work and I had to start hiring people who could do the work so I could go grow the business. The second piece of it was you start to figure out where your strengths are and where your weaknesses are. My weakness is on the operational side of doing the work that needs to get done. I can sit all day long and think about creative strategies and big ideas. I can go get involved in the community and help solve problems for them, but if you’re the client, you want to hire my team to get you the results. It was that awareness of knowing your own weaknesses and being able to hire for those weaknesses that was the shift for me.
The thing about owning a business is you have to put your ego aside.
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You look up in the mirror in the morning and you’re in charge and you go, “If it doesn’t get done, it’s my own fault,” and then when you start putting the team on board, then you’re responsible for their livelihood and their payroll. If you’re looking out and there is another creative person out there that’s thinking about going down the road of starting a business, is there a piece of advice you might offer?
Probably a lot of pieces of advice I would offer them. The thing about owning a business is you have to put your ego aside, and you have to realize that even though you’re in charge and even though ultimately, at the end of the day, it falls on you, you’ve got to have a lot of trust for your team. Let them do their job. If you can’t trust and you can’t let your ego go, it probably isn’t going to be a fun ride for you. It’s going to be a long ride.
With the current dialogue about women and workplace challenges and so on, do you think, looking back over your career, that being a woman running your business was a benefit or a challenge?
I had this discussion with one of my forum members the other day. It’s so funny I said, “I feel a little bit offended. I don’t think I was ever sexually harassed.” “Wait a minute,” and she looked at me, I was like, “I’m serious. I don’t think I was.” The funny thing is I never even considered gender in the equation. My dad’s an entrepreneur. My mom, I grew up with her telling me, “You can do whatever you want.” Never ever heard, “Because you’re a woman or because you’re a girl you can’t,” and so as I built this company, it was never about, “What can’t I do because I’m a woman?” it was more about, “How can I create a culture and an environment that other working moms, mostly moms, could thrive?” where they weren’t stifled by the workplace politics and the rules of a typical work environment, but we could create a new environment where you could be a mom, or be a dad, and you could still have a career that you loved. That’s what we set out to do.
You and I think about that and for the audience they’d go, “That sounds like what I want to do,” so what does that culture workflow, what does that look like?
It’s something that we take a lot of pride in. We’ve won Outside Magazine’s Best Place to Work in America for five years and twice at number one. That’s not a marketing program. It’s truly the things that we’ve put in place and it’s multidimensional, but it starts with our values, so we hire for values. When I say that, for us, it’s passionate collaboration, it’s integrity, and it’s mutual respect. When we’re hiring somebody, it is a peer environment, so we hire and if somebody has a red flag, we listen to that. Anybody in this organization, everyone has a chance to interview somebody, and if anybody has a problem, we’d listen to it. Everybody’s bought in, and we certainly look at the skill set but when I meet somebody and I go out and interview them, I look at a couple of things that have nothing to do with their resume.
I rarely look at their resume. We go out to lunch or to breakfast and I watch how they treat the wait staff. Do they write a thank you note? How do they treat a receptionist or a front desk? She is the heartbeat of this company. How do they treat her when she walks in? I try and look at the person, and I ask some questions like, “What do you do if you had six months and money wasn’t an issue?” I look at how they give back, what community involvement do they have, and how they spend their free time with their family, whether they have kids or not. When you’re hiring for values and you’re hiring for a human being versus the skill set, it does change the dynamic, and it starts creating and building out a culture that then we put programs in place to support that culture once they’re in.
The beginning hiring mindset when you were early on in the business and the mindset today, did you always hire this way or did you evolve to this thought?
I’ve always hired this way. A lot of our team members, and we’re almost 40 strong now, they had been referrals. I find that your best team members come from other people who know how you operate and know that somebody could fit into this environment. Our environment isn’t for everybody. We have a hard time attracting people that don’t see life as a work-life blend. We’re pretty strong on this idea, this concept of a blend not a balance. For some people, that doesn’t work.
Workaholics have a bit of a challenge with it.
Don’t get me wrong, we have people that work around the clock, but they also go out and have a life and they’re not afraid to be authentic about their lives. To us and to the clients, they’re not hiding. If they take a phone call from a chairlift, they’re telling you, “I’m going to pick up your call but I’m on a chairlift in Winter Park.” “Thanks for telling me.”
From my sense of that, a great deal of what I synthesize doesn’t come to me necessarily at work. There’s a great deal of value, for me it’s when chill time or getting away. The shower seems to be a favorite spot but hard to write stuff down in the shower.
Every year, we commit to an offsite. For the past probably seven years, we’ve utilized outward bound professional facilitators, and we get the team away and we spend the night overnight. We have invested in a program, many of your audience may know, called Emergenetics. It’s a program that looks at how you think and how you behave. We put our teams together based on this profiles, and when we go away for our offsite, we use those in team building and trying to figure out what’s working and then where could we still improve? Some interesting programs have come out of stopping and listening to the other team members talk about what could be improved and being open to the conversation.
As an aside for the outward-bound experience that you have, what’s the most challenging exercise?
I hate the high ropes course. My business partner, Ramonna, she loves these darn things. Makes me crazy, but we have to do those, and then the trust exercises, I’m like, “I love you guys, I’m not sure I trust you to catch me right now.”
I think about rappelling and heights. It’ll level the playing field.
We always walk away knowing that people have your backs. It’s good to get out of the office and work on things that are important. One of my favorite initiatives that came out of that was we sat around and talked about the things that were challenges. What kept us up at night? Several of our team members who are working moms said, “Sundays are hard for me. It brought back the college feeling of I have to start school tomorrow and got so much to do, and I’m overwhelmed,” and they said there’s that Sunday night blues where you’re, “I got to do some stuff,” and that feeling of walking into Monday, already feeling icky. We came up with a program called Zero Entry Monday, and our office doesn’t officially open until [11:00] AM on Monday. It doesn’t mean if the client needs you or you need to attend a meeting outside of the office, you certainly should, but it gives people permission, “Go to the grocery store, go work out, go do something on Mondays,” so when you walk in, you’re in a good place. I don’t know that we would have come up with that had we not taken the time away to think about what wasn’t working.
We’re going to shift gears a little bit. This is the quiz phase where I get to ask you all kinds of questions. For you, the most recent book or perhaps the most influential book that’s altered your perception on being a founder of your company or how you run your company.
I have this horrible habit of reading two books at the same time at all times, which I’m not sure I’d advice for anyone. I’m reading True North by Bill George. It’s a lot about following that internal compass to become this authentic leader, and until you become the authentic leader, you can’t truly become into your power. I love that one. The second one that I’m reading, and it’s interesting because they go hand in hand, is a book called Falling Upward, and it’s about spirituality for the two halves of your life and how you go through some hard times early on, but you wouldn’t appreciate your proverbial second half of your life unless you would hit rock bottom. They speak to me in that spiritual sense and from the business sense. I love them; I keep reading them so I must love them.
What failure at the time, what apparent failure, has served you or your company best or set you up for future achievement?
I say all my failures have, and I’ve had some big ones, and I’m grateful for them. I used to describe my life as a beautiful train wreck until somebody told me I couldn’t do that because it sounded terrible. I still like to describe it that way. I’m a single mom of three kids and my divorces have been some of the hardest components of my life, and yet looking back, I’m grateful that I went through it because other people, especially in this organization, go through hard times. What it’s allowed me to do is have a lot of empathy for them and a lot of grace which I know that had I not gone through it, I wouldn’t have that same level of compassion that I do now.
If could teach a course or share an insight with your very best friend or a colleague that was starting a business, what would it be and why?
As an entrepreneur, I would teach a course called The Art of the Blended Life. As entrepreneurs, especially when you’re young and you’re starting out and you’re trying to accomplish everything, there’s this fear. “I’ve got to do it all. I’ve got to be perfect. I’ve got to be a workaholic,” and what can happen, and I can say this because I was one, is that everything else becomes secondary and building your business becomes primary. If you can’t blend the two, your personal life, your friendships, your faith and your community with building the business, you’re going to run out of fuel. For so many entrepreneurs, this is a sprint, and it shouldn’t be because it’s a marathon.
It is a sprint that turns into marathon at the same pace. Thinking back, you’ve been doing this quite some time and there was probably a period, when you’re in business five, eight years, what advice would Laura today give to Laura eight years ago or ten years ago?
To listen more. There’s this fear especially in my early to mid-30s, is that because I have the title of president, I had to know all the answers. I missed some opportunities. You learn a lot when you can stop and listen.
I’ve heard it more than once from presidents and business owners and CEOs, when you run into something, there’s an expectation that you know everything. That would make you someone else. When you run into a thing that you can’t find an answer to, what do you do?
I do a couple of things. First is there are experts out there that are good at their job for a reason. You can find them, so go find them. I will also say, “Don’t give your power away.” Listen to the experts but if your gut tells you that something’s off about that recommendation, trust it, because they don’t know your business like you do. I’ve hired some of the most fabulous consultants, and I still use them to this day, and I love their advice. They’re very analytical and they keep me out of a jail. At the end of the day, I trust my own gut, and you have to have both.
Did you learn that by experience to make sure you stuck with your gut?
There’s this desire that I want to please and a lot of young executives want to do that. You want to do the right thing and you’ve heard that ten other companies have done it this way, so it must be the right way to do it. Every time you have that itch like, “This doesn’t feel right,” every time I refuse to listen to that, I failed. This advice was well-earned, trust me.
I hear that frequently. Somehow, I know that that accumulation of experience is your gut, and somebody comes in and definition of an expert is somebody from somewhere that knows something, usually from out of town.
When I started the company, I want to hire consultants, and then if I had full time, I want to give them the opportunity to work part time. My theory was, “I don’t care how they get paid or where they work, I want to hire the brightest people who will make our clients look the best.” To this day, we have part time, we have full time, and we have consultants. We have a 2% attrition rate. That’s unheard of in this business. It’s not because I’ve created the magic, it’s because we’ve given people a chance to do what they love and work in an environment that they also feel they’re part of their home and their family versus I have to act one way by going home, and I’m going to act a different way when I come to work. It’s an odd concept, but no one thought I could do it. Now, fifteen years later, people are like, “Maybe we’re on to something.”
Looking back, over the past few years, what do you think is the most recent initiative that you executed that’s helped your company the most?
That’s a hard one, but I would say that it was solidifying our commitment to the community. We’ve always been a big believer in giving back to the community. From inception, we’ve donated about 15% back to non-profits, either in reduced cost of our labor or pro bono hours or in-kind gifts or financial contributions. We formed the Get Grounded Foundation in 2015 and it’s a private 501(c)(3) that’s funded by profits from both CenterTable and GroundFloor Media. It is one of the ways that we give back to the community by doing grants twice a year. We’ve given about $80,000 in grant since inception and we’re very targeted in the types of programs that we support, but the goal is the same. We’re providing seed money to help get an entrepreneurial program off the ground. It’s an initiative that I love because it shows how a small company can make a big impact, and there is this fear or this resistance almost when you have a smaller company or an organization that you’re not going to make that kind of impact so why bother. What it says to our clients, our partners, and our team members is you can make a difference. It doesn’t matter how big your company is.
That’s not what you say; it’s what you do. Looking back, I’m sure other folks might tell you, what’s the most unusual habit or what others may consider is out of the ordinary that’s helped you or your company the most?
They like to laugh here that I go on walks. I say that and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s an important thing to get out of the office, to spend time with people, to go on walks, to hear from them. You’re not distracted. You can focus solely on that team member or your client, so we spend a lot of time on walks. I also try to go on walks when I’m on conference calls. It’s amazing when you’re moving and you’re active, how your mind keeps moving. That’s one of the most interesting things that we do here. The second thing that we still do is we try and we used to have stand-up meetings, like nineteen at nine. Nineteen minutes we’d have meetings, and then you had to get it all done in nineteen and we’re done, and to book meetings that aren’t an hour but 46 minutes. Looking at things that make people be more mindful of where they are and how present they can be.
I’ve heard similar but not quite like that. What brought you to that thought process?
Business books. It’s reading a lot. I’m a huge Verne Harnish fan, and he’s written a lot about that. Jim Collins, I love his books. Geoff Smart does a lot on hiring, so it’s taken the best of and where it fit with this organization and this culture and we’ve tried them on. Some haven’t always worked. Some things don’t work out but you got to try them.
I would imagine that the reaction to the short staff meetings is highly positive. Over the past few years, what belief or protocol have you established in your company that has most impacted you or your company’s success?
I wouldn’t say established for us because it’s always been a part of who we are, but I talked about hiring for culture. What a lot of leaders miss is the firing for culture, and it’s a hard thing to do, especially with the top performer. We have established, and we don’t let many people go. We’ve let six maybe in seventeen years. We’re not afraid to say goodbye to somebody even if they’re a high performer if they don’t fit into the culture. What that says to the rest of the team members is value-based living and value-based working matters.
It’s back to it’s not what you say, it is what you do. People watch what you do. In the advice space, if you are going to offer advice to a new CEO, a new Founder that was assuming the role of Founder/CEO for the first time, what advice might that be?
I’m terrible at giving one piece of advice, but authenticity. Team members are drawn to authentic leaders, and sometimes that means getting vulnerable. New CEOs, new leaders who are trying to make a name for themselves, and I can say this because I was one, it’s important to remember that people are drawn to you, they’re loyal, they’re going to fight for you if they know the real you. They’re also going to feel comfortable when things aren’t going right in their world to bring it to you because they understand you’re a human being and you’re not any different than they are.
Until you become the authentic leader, you can't truly become into your power.
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As the person who’s listening says, “I’m going to start tomorrow by being more authentic.” If you were to walk into an organization and go, how would you judge that the leader of the organization is authentic or not?
It’s back to that gut, you can feel. You can feel when somebody is on stage versus truly present with you and sharing a part of their soul, even if it’s that 5% that you wouldn’t expect from them. It’s walking into a room and being prepared to give 5% of yourself that people can feel. It’s usually when somebody shares something that people understand they make mistakes, that they’re not perfect. A leader may not have all the answers, but they’re going to try really hard to find them.
I’ve not heard that but I thought that was useful, insightful. For most common misconceptions about you or your role, if you were to ask some of the folks and the misconception that they had either of you initially or now.
This is the one that I learned during a leadership profile exercise, and there is this misconception that my life is perfect. You’re like, “Your life’s like you’ve got the great children,” which they are great. The white dog, the pretty house, you would serve them porridge, you have an amazing family, and all of that is true and I’m grateful for all of it. There are times that my life is that beautiful train wreck. My son’s home with shingles, my six-year-old went to school without his coat on so the school is calling me, and my teenage daughter is being a teenager. There’s always something and so to have this perception that someone’s life, the grass is greener looks better than yours, it’s such a great insight into reality. Nobody’s life is perfect.
You’re not the CEO when you come home.
How you act at home and how you act at work should pretty much be similar.
It’s hard to be someone else.
It takes a lot of energy to be someone else. How you act at home and how you act here, that’s back to that authentic person.
It’s funny, your children know. One of the things I always tell folks, “I never do anything I can’t explain to my kids,” and that’s a pretty good benchmark to stick around with. Looking back over the past few years, what should you have said no to and why?
I learned no is a complete sentence. It only took me about fifteen years to learn that and it’s true. I had a tendency to say yes. One, because I was passionate about getting involved in projects, and I wanted to try and make an impact, but the truth is we only have 24 hours in our day, and I was going wide and not deep. It wasn’t about one thing; it was saying yes to so many things that nothing was benefiting from my involvement. Two years ago, I sat down and said, “What can I move off my plate so the things that stay on my plate are important, impactful, and meaningful?” Every year I do a plan with all the pillars of my life; faith, family, personal health, and friends/community. I try and figure out where I’m going to focus my time. If I do get the requests to do something or to join something, I can look at that goal sheet and say, “Does it fit?” Sometimes, honestly, it’s not on there and I’ll have to say, “What has to come off?” so I can do that.
I think about the decision to no longer do is harder to do than say, “I’m going to start.”
Stopping is hard and I’m not good at the spaces in between. One of my goals for 2018 is to appreciate the space in between. I get hives, start itching, there’s five minutes of downtime. “What do I do?”
In the day-to-day operations of your company as the Founder, what is your personal habit or self-talk dialogue that keeps you and the company focused and why do you think that is?
My internal dialogue is that this business is a rollercoaster and you need to remember that when the cart goes to the bottom because you need to wait, it will go up again. I have that visual that I keep in front of my mind when things get rough. Externally when we’re dealing, whether it’s an HR challenge or a client communication issue that’s come up, there’s the story, it’s what’s wrong and what’s really wrong. If you can ask yourself that question when you’re sitting across from somebody who comes to you with a challenge, it’s interesting how it shifts the dialogue. What’s wrong and what’s really wrong.
If I was sitting across from you with a problem and you were looking at me, and so would you ask me what’s wrong or what’s really wrong?
No, it’s not about asking, it’s about trying to read between the lines. If somebody comes to you with a challenge, whether it’s an employee and they’re upset about a policy or a procedure, “Is it about that or is maybe something going on at home that this feels like one more thing?” that isn’t something I want to manage. If a client’s sitting across from you and they’re upset about the level of communication that is coming from the team members, is it that or is it something more than that? Truly sometimes it is just that, but oftentimes I find that there’s always another story playing in someone’s head. They could have gotten in a fight with their mother or their wife. Everybody has a story.
If folks were to say what your superpower, what you’re best at, what is your superpower?
Multitasking. I’m an expert multi-tasker. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, start with that, but I will say that I can juggle. If I had to put on a costume, I would be the juggler.
In that juggling space nowadays, what’s your favorite technology assistant that helps you do your juggling or multitasking?
I use an old-school notebook and my phone as my two primary modes of communication. I cannot go to sleep, even if it’s on a Saturday or a Sunday, until I take my notebook out. It can’t be a lined notebook; it has to be blank pages. On the right side, I have my to-do list of all things to do with the company, and on the left side of the page are all things that have to do with my family or my personal life. Anything that doesn’t happen that day gets crossed off and put on the next page. I can’t fall asleep until I do that. What it does, unless I write it down I can’t remember. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t have to stress. I don’t stay up all night worrying because I’ve put it on the paper.
There’s so much psychology behind that. That’s a good habit. The thing I did not ask and I should have asked is for the folks who are going, “I need to reach out to you and find you on social media,” how will they find you?
I love email, LLove@GroundFloorMedia.com. My problem is I need it all to come to one central source because if I have to juggle LinkedIn messages and Facebook messages, I will never answer. I will find things from a year ago. When I’ve spoken in an event, I feel terrible, but I need to write my email inbox.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking time out of your day and multitasking with me. The insights are extremely useful and the things that we heard in the podcast. There’s always somebody out there that’s going through perhaps a challenge or a struggle, and they could come in and listen to the mileage and go, ” I’ll try that. Maybe that will help me,” and so that’s the unintended consequence of this podcast.
I will tell you the one thing I didn’t share that I share with everyone who’s thinking about starting a new business and taking a leap of faith is don’t do too much research. It’s like getting a diagnosis and you jump online. You will never take the next step because there are so many pitfalls. Just do it. If you’re passionate, just do it.
Minimum viable product. Get something out the door. Laura, thanks very much.
Thanks for having me.
In 2001, Laura Love decided to take a leap of faith and create a public relations agency that was unlike any she had experienced before. Drawing from a background in journalism and extensive experience in media relations, she launched GroundFloor Media (GFM) out of her basement in Boulder, Colo., with a focus on hiring senior-level talent who both served as strategists and handled tactical execution for clients. Sixteen years later, the peer-to-peer model still stands, and GFM is now an award-winning communications firm focused on public relations and crisis & issues management and staffed by nearly 40 seasoned professionals. In 2016, Laura co-founded GFM’s sister agency, CenterTable, offering social media, digital advertising, website design and development, SEO, video production, creative campaigns and content development.
GFM has been recognized four times by OUTSIDE magazine as one of the top five “Best Places to Work” in America (including twice at No. 1). GFM was also named the Best Boutique Agency to Work For in the nation by The Holmes Report, an influential public relations industry newsletter. It was also recognized by the Denver Business Journal as one of the top small companies on its Best Places to Work list for seven years in a row. In 2016, GFM was named a Certified B Corporation® by the global nonprofit B Lab®, which recognizes companies meeting the highest global standards for corporate transparency, accountability and social and environmental performance.
In 2015, Laura created GFM’s primary charitable giving arm called The Get Grounded Foundation. The private 501(c)(3) foundation provides one-year community grants for new or expanded, innovative or entrepreneurial programs or projects within an existing, qualified nonprofit that directly support the healthy development of at-risk or neglected youth between the ages of 3 and 13 in the Denver Metro area.
Community involvement is not only a passion, but a way of life for Laura. Since she launched the agency, Laura has dedicated at least 15 percent of GFM’s work to nonprofit clients and pro bono accounts. She serves on numerous boards including Center for Women’s Health Research, Downtown Denver Inc., Early Milestones Colorado, Emmanuel Sanders Foundation, Havern School, Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center and Tennyson Center for Children. She is a member of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and she serves on the Denver Art Museum’s marketing & strategic alliance committee. She is also past president of the Colorado chapter of the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO).
Laura earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University. In her spare time, she likes to dabble in real estate investing, is a frustrated interior designer and can’t figure out why she is always last on the Peloton leader board. Her teenage daughter just got her driver’s permit (so she encourages you to please stay off of the road), and her two young sons may have given her a gray hair or two, but they also always keep her laughing.
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