16 Dec Diamond award winner: Lori Ross recalls career path, offers tips for success
by Sonja J. Keith
Growing up in Center Ridge, Lori Ross didn’t have a clear idea of her career path. She earned money babysitting and her first job was working at a bait shop.
Today, she is on the executive leadership team at Conway Regional Health System and was named the recipient of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce Diamond Achievement Award.
After graduating from Nemo Vista High School, Lori attended Capital City Business College but later had thoughts of attending the University of Central Arkansas. She was motivated by her close friend, Shelia Beck. “I thought if Sheila could go, I certainly could go.”
While Lori’s parents supported her decision to pursue a college education, they could not pay for it. “I paid my own way,” said Lori. One of her first “real” jobs was working at Nabholz Construction. “I made contacts and developed relationships that helped me throughout my career.” Lori earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and later a master’s degree in business administration at UCA.
Her interest in health care marketing was sparked by big ads that hospitals placed in newspapers, thinking they had to be generated by large marketing departments. Lori was hired as the office manager at St. Vincent Medical Center in Little Rock in 1993, only five years after the marketing department was created.
Lori said even though it was an entry level job, she wore a suit to work every day. Her thought was people are judged by their appearance and if you look smart and professional, you will be given more opportunities, and it worked. “I gained good experience there.”
In 1998, after a 10-month hiring process Lori joined Conway Regional Health System to create a marketing department. “It was a long process. I just kept thinking what a blessing that would be.” she said, adding that the job description fit her skill set and work experience, as if it was written just for her. “That’s when it hit me that God places us in places where you can use what you learn” in other situaitons.
Today, she is the chief development officer/corporate director of marketing and foundation for Conway Regional.
Lori is very appreciative and complimentary of the Conway Regional marketing department. She describes her leadership style as team-oriented. “I expect everyone to pitch in to make the project successful. I tend to think in a bigger picture way and can visualize the end result — but I’m not as strong at the detail, so I don’t tend to micro-manage.
“I pray before every major meeting, interview or presentation, that God will use me for his good, and that He will give me grace and clarity to recall what I’ve learned and studied to do a good job and to treat those who work alongside me fairly with compassion and understanding.”
No two days are the same for Lori, whose calendar is packed with meetings and commitments. She enjoys most her interaction with people and telling the Conway Regional story. “I tell people I don’t do blood, I do ink. I can’t help you if you get hurt, but I can tell you who can,” she said. “We have a good story to tell. This organization does good. I like the fact we are a not-for-profit organization.
“It’s an honor to speak on behalf of Conway Regional. I feel very privileged to do what I do.”
In addition to her work at Conway Regional, Lori is active in her church and community. She has served as a board member for many organizations, including Conway Corporation, the Arkansas Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, the MBA Advisory Board at the University of Central Arkansas, the St. Joseph School Board and the Faulkner County Editorial Board for 501 LIFE.
Family and friends are important to Lori. A daughter of the late Joseph and Geneva Paladino, she has three daughters – Taylor, Rachel and Natalie.
Among the challenges she has faced is finding balance between her personal and professional life. “I think it’s hard for every mom and dads too.” She has two approaches that she uses. “One is applying the 10/10/10 principal as described by writer Suzy Welch where you think about a decision on three different time frames: How will you feel about it 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? How about 10 years from now? That helps me pull back and think in a broader perspective.”
“Bottom line — I cannot say that I’m successful in the whole work and life balance, but I am deeply grateful and acutely aware of my many blessings and I hope God finds favor in the way I’ve spent my time.”
Lori’s advice to women is “don’t be afraid to start at an entry level” and never stop learning. “You learn from everybody around you, from books, from podcasts,” she said. “Think of ways you can improve what you’re doing.”
It’s important not to burn bridges, according to Lori, and to dress for success and in a way that honors that situation. “I feel honored and privileged to work in a professional position for this great organization and I want to look professional. It tells other people that I respect the position."