Builders Exchange of Michigan: How did you earn your first dollar?
Laura Hopson: EM Services was established back in 1993. I did not start EM Services, I bought the majority of the ownership of the business in November 2018. So, it is difficult to really pinpoint my first dollar as it relates to business, for I was fortunate to have an existing set of customers and suppliers, and a great team of employees to lead. I will say that I have spent a tremendous amount of time on strategy and brand transformation. One of my major strategic initiatives was to ‘Pivot’ and take our existing portfolio of products, Indirect Supplies, into new market segments. Traditionally, our company has been focused on the automotive industries. I was able to make that adjustment, and branch into Healthcare and Higher Education. This shift took about a year to develop and implement. I am so fortunate that is has paid off. During these challenging times of the global pandemic and economic recession, that expansion into different market segments has been critical to the success of our business.
BX: What drew you to the construction industry?
LH: My entire career has been spent in commercial interiors and architecture. I have touched these industries from many different angles; office furniture, architectural construction, and now basic construction. I am fascinated with architecture and structures. I am certain that my engineering analytical background has a lot to do with that.
BX: What does a typical day look like on the job for you?
LH: I am not quite sure that a typical day exists! I spend blocks of time each day on basically four key areas of the business – the process of running the business (accounting, invoicing, operations), marketing activities focused on creating awareness for our company and our products and services, sales activities working with existing and new clients on strategies to improve their business processes in a way to help them move towards their company goals, and on people; working to develop and lead our team.
BX: What’s an exciting project that you’ve completed recently?
LH: We recently teamed up with a General Contractor to help provide products for the construction of a new automotive plant in the Detroit area. This facility was one of the only automotive facilities being built this year. It is exciting to be part of progress, and to help the automotive industry move forward in this time of change and uncertainty.
BX: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever heard?
LH: It may sound a bit overused but be authentic. It is so important to be who you are, and to have a passion for what you are doing. Running a business can sometimes be a 24/7 responsibility. If you are going to spend such a significant amount of time and energy on the business it must be something that you enjoy.
BX: What makes EM Services LLC special?
LH: I think that our people really make our company special. Our team is customer service oriented, and really focused on working with each client differently. We focus a lot on developing custom procurement programs designed to reduce the cost and complexity of the procurement process. Each program is unique to each customer. We are special for our unique ability to access our large network of suppliers and customers, and the ability to aggregate pricing, allowing our clients to benefit from negotiated pricing across multiple end-users. We are special for focusing on leveraging a local supply network that has a team of technical resources to help work closely with our clients on their specific product and process requirements. We are special for our flexibility and industry knowledge.
BX: If you could master one new skill right now, what would it be?
LH: If I could master one new skill, it would be the ability to predict the future! I feel as though I am such a planner and I try to be prepared for everything that might come my way.
BX: What were your goals when you began your position at EM Services? How have you achieved them?
LH: My goals were first, to simply survive. I wanted to make sure that I was able to keep my business going and growing. I wanted to make sure that I was able to first and foremost be able to provide for my family. Secondly, I wanted to make sure to enjoy what I was doing. Being a business owner is all-consuming. If you don’t like and enjoy what you are doing life could be pretty tough. I am having a blast – even through the good times and challenging times. I truly would not wish for a different career. Lastly, I wanted to make sure that I was able to pass along everything that I have learned and accomplished. I want to make sure that I am impacting change for generations to come. If I can teach, guide, mentor, and sponsor young professionals and businesses and help them be successful I will feel as though I have made a difference.
BX: What challenges have you overcome and what experiences have you had to get to where you are today?
LH: I experience challenges each and every day. I think that the biggest challenge I have faced is the shutdowns resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. When the pandemic hit here in Michigan, almost ALL of my customers closed. We were lucky enough to be deemed an essential business, and I was fortunate enough to stay open. Staying open allowed me to quickly develop a pivot strategy and market to and sell to other industries that were desperately in need of the products and services we provided.
BX: What advice would you give to other women who would like to go into the same career field you’ve chosen?
LH: My advice to other women is to just stick with it and follow your dreams. The road to success may not always be easy. Remember that anything worthwhile is probably difficult, right? If not, everyone would do it.
I would also say to make sure to surround yourself with a network of mentors, business associates, and allies that have experience in the industry and can help support you along the way. No one knows everything and everyone. Partnering with others, learning, and sharing are always things to incorporate into your strategic plan.
BX: What can other members of the construction community do to encourage women to participate in the construction industry?
LH: I think that other members in the construction industry need to be open-minded as it relates to networking and collaboration. Partnering together only strengthens everyone’s ability to provide outstanding products and services.
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