Imagine a leader with a vision when she was very young to build a sign company. Could she have predicted its growth, its eventual success? She would say, “No.” But through the years (24 years to be precise), the company grew, re-branded, and relocated. Now you can find that sign company looking out at 2862 W. Walnut in Rogers, AR, serving numerous clients (from individuals to companies) and employing 14 individuals.

When you tell the story of a leader, you can either tell cautionary tales, or you can focus on what distinguishes that leader as unique and visionary. Where Laura is concerned, we focus on the visionary. Most companies have a standard hiring procedure, which is to hire based on need or demand. For Laura, that is one fundamental drive, but another that trumps it and which she seems to consider more important.

“Let’s chat,” she said to this author. “Would you be willing to come in and talk for a while, just to get to know one another?” “Sounds great,” I answered. I couldn’t have known that she would hire me, but I was open to talking with her. With me was the fear of going into an interview-ish meeting, but it was instantly dispelled when she shook my hand and welcomed me in to simply “chat.” And chat we did. Very openly, very transparently. I was intimidated a bit at her fortitude to hold a steady gaze, to seem absolutely confident and comfortable in her surroundings, and perhaps more so because of her extreme interest in learning about me. Most interviews go something like, “What can you do for me? Why do you think you should work for this company? What’s your skill set? Strengths, weaknesses, work history, qualifications, etc. But Laura is interested in the person behind the skills, behind the history, behind the eyes.

Hours later, I exited the interview. Weeks later, I was working among some of the finest folks I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, all because of Laura.

What I quickly discovered was how interested she was in growing a business while growing people. It’s hard to do both in this world. Focus too much on the business, the people become cogs. Focus too much on the people, the business suffers. There has to be a balance, and Laura has worked hard to maintain that balance. She leans into the philosophy of hiring folks that are smarter to fill the gaps she can’t. “Match the talent to the project,” she says. She is keenly aware of what she can do, and what she can’t. So she works toward a complementary system, cultivating a team that is well-rounded and dynamic, which has a penultimate benefit: business success. Yet one things remains among her highest priority – investing personally in the people.

Well, you might say, how is that going to help business? Invest in their skills, training, knowledge, you might say. That will obviously yield the highest profits. Okay, sure. That’s logical.

I believe what Laura sees is this – if the employees are growing personally, if they’re fulfilled and feel loved and valued and appreciated, then maybe – just maybe – when one of them walks in and has had a bad morning, the others will build them up and encourage them for the day to come. When one of them loses a loved one, then we’ll gather around them, grieve with them, and become an uncommon source of comfort. When one of them makes a mistake in the work, the others can rally, help them learn from it, and encourage them in better approaches. Funny, but that sounds an awful lot like an actual, genuine team.

Laura Tucker is undoubtedly among the rarest of leaders I’ve ever known. She is genuine and she is all about how to make the people in this company better. She has been an instrument of building Best Sign Group into a sign company with a good reputation, a company that does right by its customers. She loves the times we get together to eat lunch, to celebrate the anniversaries and the birthdays of our people, and to learn and grow together. Laura knows she has hired people, and not machines, and she remembers that they grow tired, that they are prone to error, and she knows how to inspire them to do great work. She is charismatic and energetic. She knows her business and she knows how to conduct herself. She is kind and forthright, a hard combination to balance, and she strives to not only hear, but to listen.

Does her visionary passion stop with her? No. She wants to enliven that tendency in her staff, and that could be among one of her best qualities. It’s certainly odd, but very comforting to hear the owner of your business come to you and say, “Let’s dream together.”

The spotlight on her today is one that both reveals and aims to express all manner of gratitude to her for persisting in building this amazing company. We honor her now, and as this is a month for being thankful, we say, “Thank you, Laura, for who you are and what you do.”