Networking Doesn’t Need to be a Dirty Word with Lori McGehee

In this episode of Rocky Mountain Marketing, Lori shares an incredible journey that led her from marketing potatoes to wool to sunflowers and what led her along the path to becoming an entrepreneur. She shares the insight she gained along the way and some of the best advice she received. Join us as we learn about Casa Bonita’s biggest recruiter and how if you put your mind to it, you can market anything – even potatoes!

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Katie Brinkley 0:02

Hey there. This is Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode.

Okay, welcome back to the podcast. My guest today is Lori McGee and we are going to dive right in. Now Laurie has spent the majority of her 20 plus year marketing career helping agricultural groups promote their products internationally. She has applied her marketing prowess to a variety of US agricultural products such as potatoes, honey, ginseng, and wool, just to name a few. In recent years, she has expanded her industry repertoire to serve a variety of companies, including a tax attorney firm, a management consulting agency, and a software company and eight national foundation, a born marketer with an unwavering flair for crafting a great story. Lori applies her talents to the business world by helping companies effectively and persuasively tell their story. With a glass that’s always more than half full. Lori’s optimism is infectious and has reaped immense success for her clients. Now, Lori, welcome to the show. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. So Laurie, I always like to start way back at the beginning. Where did you grow up? And what was your life growing up? I’m a native Denver, Colorado person. So another native? Yep.

Lori McGehee 1:29

And we went to Catholic schools. I’m the oldest of five kids. And

yeah, so native Colorado, and I, and I always dreamed of traveling as a child. We never went anywhere internationally. But anytime someone would go somewhere that I knew it was overseas, I would ask them to send me a postcard. So I used to collect little postcards. When I was a kid.

Katie Brinkley 1:54

My my dad, always make sure to send my daughter’s a couple postcards whenever he goes traveling somewhere. And they love getting those in the mail too. So I know how special it is to get those postcards from around the world. So I just want to follow up and say, you know, what, what was your life like growing up? How do you think that that kind of impacted your eventual career and

Lori McGehee 2:17

professional journey? Well, being the oldest of five kids, I was always the responsible one and the one that took care of the kids. But also, I was kind of the ambassador to the peacemaker. So that’s served me well as an adult in, you know, me with my job, I travel around the world, and I meet a variety of different people. And I kind of know how to navigate difficult situations. And it I think it really did help me with, you know, being the oldest being a leader, I guess. And I always take charge of I’m bossy, sort of, but um, you know, I think that’s a good thing. And so yeah, I think that that’s what it was. And I always loved school. And I always love to read and to write. And so that was part that’s a big part of my job as well, is reading and writing. And so I think that that was just a big part of it. Just being you know, in a chaos, because I have a very huge family. I have something like 50 Something first cousins, and being one of the oldest I was a lot of times the babysitter, and I would babysit like 10 kids, you know, and so I know how to handle groups of people, you know, I would whip them into shape right away. salutely

Katie Brinkley 3:38

Now, you know, you, you were saying you’re getting to travel the world. What? Give me your top three places that you’ve gotten to go for your work?

Lori McGehee 3:46

Well, Japan, I love Japan, I’ve got to go there quite a bit and traveled several areas around the country. And in November, I went to India. And I was very surprised that I loved it. It’s a place I’ve been avoiding going and I just absolutely love it. And and I also get to go to Spain and Mexico for work. And I really, really enjoy those countries as well. That’s great, though. Yeah, Mexico is a beautiful, I mean, I only had gone to Mexico just to the beaches and stuff but the people are really polite and kind. It’s beautiful country. There’s so many things culturally that surprised me. And they’re kind of like France, they love their bread. They have a lot of big crease on every corner in Mexico City and that just really surprised me. Yeah, and reminded me of France a bit and I love France so hard to pick just three

Katie Brinkley 4:46

Can you take us a bit through your career journey like when when you started out the the different professional stops along the way and how that led to where you are

Lori McGehee 4:54

today? Sure. So I started working part time as a bookkeeper. We’re for an agricultural group here in Denver based here in Denver. It’s the US Potato Board. And I worked there part time and my son was a little kid, he was baby. And so it was a perfect job for me. And when he got into B into kindergarten, the president of the company asked me if I wanted to work in the international marketing area, because they were hiring a new director, and they needed an administrative person for that. And at the time, I didn’t have my degree, I had had a couple years of college, but I got married very young and didn’t finish college. So. So I thought, well, that’d be a good time for me to do that. So I went ahead and went full time. And then my new boss came. And he really wanted someone somewhat more of a project manager, not an admin person. And so there was a bit of a learning curve there. But he really wanted me to take things over and to handle things. So he really gave me a lot of responsibility. So at the time, I thought, well, if I don’t go back to school and get a degree with this great experience I’m getting, I may not be able to go anywhere with it. So then I went back to school at University of Denver, and I went part time, they had a program called the Women’s College. And it was a Weekend College, which was perfect it was every other weekend, and it was only a business degree. So that was just super tough, because I’ve never been a great person at maths. And I have to take all the really hard math classes to get a business degree. You know, I ended up taking, you know, the algebra and the higher level, math classes, statistics, and all the things I never thought I could do, but I did it and I got help all the way through it, you know, went to get tutored, and so forth. And I had gone for three years. And my very last year, I thought, you know, I just this is just taking so long. So I mapped out my, my journey. And I said if I go for one solid year, and take 18 credit count credit hours as a quarter, I will be done next August. So so it was a little crazy, because I was working full time, I had a child in a first grade. And I did 18 credit hours that last year. And luckily my job because one of the classes I had to take during the day, they allowed me to miss a couple hours of work on those days, or to use vacation or whatever. So I ended up graduating in August of that year. And as soon as I graduated, I was promoted to be the manager over Asia. Oh, wow. Awesome. Yeah, yeah, Asia is the number one market for us potatoes, which is surprising, but they sell a lot to the quick serve restaurants and hotels and so forth. So the fast food places. And so I did that for about five years. And then in 2000, I thought I really need to learn how to market things besides potatoes. And so I left the Potato Board and started working right away with American World Council and the American mohair Council, and also worked with affordable housing groups. And I couldn’t decide if I wanted to, I if I wanted a full time job or if I wanted to consult and part of me I was leaning toward Okay, let’s just try to find something that’s full time. And I just kept getting more and more business and never missed a paycheck. So it just kind of morphed into itself. And it was a little scary at first, because at the time my son was getting ready to go into high school. And he had always wanted to go to Regis Jesuit High School. And, you know, that’s not cheap. So it was, it was very nerve wracking. But but you know, it all worked out. And I wasn’t I was I was a little nervous. But my dad is an entrepreneur, he’s had his own business for 40 years. He’s a contractor. So he would coach me along and say, Oh, come on, don’t worry, you’re not if you worry, you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur. Because if you worry all the time, it’s not going to happen. You just have to move forward and keep working at it. And so that’s, that’s been great advice. Yeah,

Katie Brinkley 9:16

I mean, as a fellow entrepreneur, I definitely have found, you know, it seems like oh my goodness, you know what, I lost that client, but it’s always kind of like, it kind of drives me to really go after finding another client and you know, you end up finding a client that’s even better.

Lori McGehee 9:34

So right, right. And then also I had a teacher in, well, I ended up going I finished my degree and then I also got an MBA. So I did that after I started my own company. And I thought well, it would be really good for me to have that for my company. And I had a professor say he was a consultant as well. You know, if you don’t if you find yourself not busy make if you call and go on your list and make up calls and I tell you that works every time people will respond. And it’s a great way to get work. And I’m really nervous because agriculture is a small world. And so I really, really protect my reputation as best I can. Because there’s about how I work with what we call co operators or agricultural co operators. And there’s about 80 co operators in the country, that their agricultural groups, and we get a grant through the USDA, to market overseas. And so I help my clients obtain that grant, make sure that they are in compliance with that grant. And then we develop, develop marketing strategies for them. And then I evaluate their programs as well. I help them I do a variety of things I, I would help them hire help overseas, like other agencies, so I’ve worked in Asia for you know, 30 years. So I’ve known these people that I’ve worked with in the past for a long time. So I travel there, I will interview companies for marketing work. And so I oversee these companies that are carrying out the marketing work on behalf of my clients. And, and then I develop ideas as well. So it’s, it’s really fun. It’s very busy. But it’s very fun. And it’s different because I work with them. Wisconsin ginseng board, America whole council, the Mohawk Council of America, and the National sunflower Association.

Katie Brinkley 11:32

That’s awesome. I mean, talk about a whole, you know, untapped kind of field that you don’t really even think about.

Lori McGehee 11:38

It’s definitely a niche. Yeah. That work in this area, don’t leave their jobs. Like I’ve known some of the same people for 30 years, we have a conference that we attend twice a year, it’s called the US agricultural export Development Council. And yeah, same people every year. So it’s, it’s a great, it’s a great job. It’s wonderful to get to travel overseas. And, you know, I have a lot of friends overseas. So yeah, it’s awesome.

Katie Brinkley 12:09

Now backpacking, backtracking just a little bit, you know, back to, you know, being an entrepreneur, you know, if someone out there who was listening to the podcast today, is an aspiring or a new business owner, what’s the single biggest piece of advice that you would give him or her as their journey starts?

Lori McGehee 12:27

Well, I would say that networking is very important. And I have to tell you that I hated that term, when I started out, because to me, that feels like you’re using people. And I just, I did not like it, I just hated it. And I have a very good friend who is also an entrepreneur, and she has her own PR firm, and she really helped me see that, it’s really not, if you’re genuine with people, and you really get to know them, you can help each other out. And so without trying to sell something, but really, genuinely get to know people reach out and ask for 20 minute coffee. Ask them what they do, I think that’s just super important. And just those relationships are important in every business. But that’s especially important is to maintain those relationships, to get new clients. And then I’ve gotten a lot of my business through referrals, because I reached out and I talked to people, and it’s just keeping networking, but in a genuine way.

Katie Brinkley 13:33

Absolutely, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more with, you know, the more I’ve been, you know, working as an entrepreneur, the more I’ve realized that it’s all about, you know, just establishing those relationships and keeping, you know, those connections. And there’s been times where I’ve, you know, it’s been great just to share a bit of advice and, you know, connected a client to another person in the social media industry that can help them build courses or, or anything. It’s, it’s great to have those kinds of relationships, for sure. Yeah, for sure. If, if you could go back and do anything differently along your journey to where you are now, what what would you change, if anything?

Lori McGehee 14:19

Oh, that’s a good question. Um, I just wish I were more organized. I struggle with that. And so, um, but as

Katie Brinkley 14:29

entrepreneur, it’s hard. Like, if when you’re by yourself, it’s hard keeping, you know, yeah, all the balls up in the air and making sure that not one of them drops. I totally,

Lori McGehee 14:38

I’m still working on it. And but, you know, I think I have really wonderful clients. I’ve had all my clients for most of them for 20 years. The newest one is the sunflower Association. I’ve had them for seven years. So I beat myself up for saying, Well, I’m not I’m not so organized. I needed to get better at that. But I guess You always have to be working for something better. Absolutely. And I just over the past 20 years have really just, you know, put my nose to the grindstone and just worked. And, and it’s been, you know, just hard work does pay off. And, you know, they say, Yeah, I got really lucky because I worked hard. You don’t get in, it’s not really luck. It’s just hard working, you have to be, you know, put the putting your nose to the grindstone and working

Katie Brinkley 15:31

it. Now, what do you think the biggest mistake many business owners make when they’re when they’re trying to just grow and be a successful

Lori McGehee 15:38

business? Um, I think that if they are not sincere, again, going back to that, you know, trustworthy and sincere, you have to, you have to gain that respect from your clients. And if you’re trying to grow, and you’re just trying to do it quick, too quickly. And in a sense, use people. That’s not, that’s not a good way to do it. Also, I always tell people that I’ve been divorced now for a long time. So I always say that being in business is like dating. If you’re desperate, nobody wants you. But if you are confident in what you do, and you work hard, you people come to you. So it’s kind of a funny.

Katie Brinkley 16:25

No, that’s, that’s a great analogy. Again, going back to the, you know, when you’re out there trying to get too many clients, or whatever, and scrambling as an idea appear desperate, yeah, look desperate, but it’s kind of like, you know, what, another clients going to come along, and they’re going to be even better than the last one. So yeah. So I know that you have a very niche business, you know, what do you what does your model look like for finding engaging and selling to your ideal clients and customers these days? Well, I like

Lori McGehee 16:56

to work with small companies, because they’re the companies that need help. And a lot of times when you are that marketing person in the office working for a company, you are reactive, rather than proactive. And so I come to them, offering them to be proactive, and saying, What can we do to get a jump on your marketing, rather than reacting to everything, let’s develop a plan and be proactive. So I’ve done that for several clients, one that comes to mind as a small management firm. And I really helped him develop a strategic plan and come up with some tactics that would give him exposure and help him to be you know, rather than waiting around for something to happen. He he took the bull by the horns who did it? And he was he was a great client. Yeah.

Katie Brinkley 17:48

What do you like best about living and working in Colorado?

Lori McGehee 17:52

The weather is awesome. And yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s just a beautiful place. And, you know, all the sunshine that we get, and we’re a fit state. So I love that because I love going to my gym, which I miss very much right now. And, but you know, going out and walking, and you just see people out running and walking and biking, and it’s just such an active place. And I love that.

Katie Brinkley 18:19

Yeah, I mean, I know you’re a Denver native, too. And it’s, it’s crazy. Just thinking about just over the past 10 years, how much it has changed and grown and how, you know, I drive by, you know, when I, where I grew up, I grew up in Littleton. And I remember I used to have to take take a dirt road to get through the neighborhood to get to the mall. So yeah, amazing. I’ll be like, Oh my gosh, and now it’s restaurant row over there. And it’s, it’s crazy. It’s grown and changed. But I just like you. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Lori McGehee 18:53

Yeah, you know, it’s funny as that when I was a teenager, I worked at Casa Bonita.

Katie Brinkley 18:59

I took my daughter that for the very first time, just a couple months ago now. And she was in awe.

Lori McGehee 19:06

Well, it was a it was a really fun place to work and talk about preparing me for a future as well. I mean, it was really, really hard work. And it was so much fun, because they would have like 400 kids they would hire in the summer. And so it was like a big high school. And I made so many friends. But one of the things they did is they had this contest, because they always had trouble hiring people. And the contest was whoever got the most people in hired when a $1,500 stereo. So I wanted that stuff. So hard and I went out and I got all these people jobs, and I did all this all this quote unquote, marketing stuff to attract people to Casa Bonita. And I won the stereo. And I laugh because the guy that was my manager at the time is now the head manager at Cosper data. Oh, wow. Still there and I went there last year, some time and I saw one of the managers and I just talked to him. I said, Oh, yeah, I worked here when I was a teenager was great fun. And then I said, Yeah, I in fact, I want a stereo. He goes, you’re the one that won the stereo. Mike still talks about you in the meeting. He always says, This gal had so much gumption, and she just went out and she really worked it, she won that. So it’s really funny that so many years later, I was always a marketing person.

Katie Brinkley 20:32

Do what do you like to do away from the office? What what’s a fun day for you? When we’re when we’re able to leave the house? Well, I’d

Lori McGehee 20:40

love children and I have lots of children in my life. So I have some adopted grandchildren, that I spend a lot of time with, and I enjoy them. And I have a lot of nieces and nephews and just spending time with family. Just good. Good fun.

Katie Brinkley 20:57

Um, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received? And how has it impacted your business or or your life?

Lori McGehee 21:05

Um, one thing is that I thought this was really wise. If you if someone wants to hire you, or you’re looking for a new job, always ask at the end. Is there anything? Any reason why you wouldn’t hire me? Because then that gives them the opportunity to tell you and you to answer the negatives, possibly. So I always thought that was a really good piece of advice. And then of the networking. Yeah,

Katie Brinkley 21:30

yeah, that’s a great piece of advice. That one you can use to, hopefully, turn turn the interviewer around to why they should hire you. Right into constructive criticism is always great to keep in your back pocket with valuable Oh, yeah, going into that next interview. So, ah, now so before we finish up, is there anything that I didn’t ask you about during today’s discussion that you think is important to share?

Lori McGehee 21:58

Um, well, I mean, I guess, a lot of entrepreneurs financially, I have never taken out a loan for my company. And so I think that, I mean, different people do it differently. But, and I’m a small business. So it’s just me. And I’ve always just gone, you know, paycheck to paycheck. However, I’m very blessed, because I have lots of insurance, like, I have disability insurance. You know, my pay for my own health insurance, I have my own Roth IRA, and I pay into my retirement and that kind of thing. So, but I think it’s important to keep your finances in order, for sure. Because that could get out of hand really

Katie Brinkley 22:39

fast. So um, well, I mean, that those that’s my full list of questions that I have for you, it has been a great conversation. Where, where can we find out more about you and your business online?

Lori McGehee 22:53

Well, LinkedIn is probably the best way. I’m the worst marketer of myself. I’m like the accountant that doesn’t do their own accounting. I have a website in process, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. So yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best.

Katie Brinkley 23:06

All right, great. Well, I will be sure to include a link to your LinkedIn account in in today’s description of the podcast. And thank you again, so much for being on the show today, of course, thank

Lori McGehee 23:19

you. And if there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.

Katie Brinkley 23:23

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at or connect with me on LinkedIn. Just look for Katie Brinkley. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.