Interview Date: August 16, 2023
Interviewer: Tracy Baumgartner
TRACY BAUMGARTNER: Hi, I’m Tracy Baumgartner, Vice President of Environmental Sustainability for Comcast Cable. I’m here at the Syndeo Institute at the Cable Center doing an oral history. Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2023, and I’m here with the fabulous Julie Laulis, who is President and CEO of Cable ONE.
JULIE LAULIS: Well, thank you, Tracy. Happy to be here with you.
BAUMGARTNER: All right. We’re going to have some fun for a little while. Talk a little bit about your career, the industry, your learnings, your advice as we think about where the industry is going, but let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start just with your education, Indiana University in Bloomington. Why there? What did you study, and how did that experience set you up for success?
LAULIS: Well, that is an interesting question for the folks that know me, because I was bound for UNC. But this is going to sound really silly, but the truth of the matter is, I saw the movie Breaking Away, which is filmed in Bloomington, Indiana, and I’m from the Midwest. I was born in Ohio, so I went and visited IU, and when I saw their campus, I fell in love. At that time, IU’s business school was ranked three in the country, so I thought, well, this is an okay exchange. I’m going to go to school in Indiana. After taking several courses in economics, I decided business was not for me, and so I had to declare a major. I went searching through all of them, and I was trying to figure out what sort of career would offer a young person, and even more so, a woman, half a chance to advance. There was this new thing called cable, and Indiana had a program in it in their telecom division, and so I decided to study cable TV, and I’ve been in it ever since.
BAUMGARTNER: Wow. I did not realize they had a dedicated program. They were really on the edge there to make sure that this industry was prepared for where it was going to go.
LAULIS: They were.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s terrific. So, you have this great education. How do you land your first gig, and where was it?
LAULIS: Well, my first gig was at a place called Arlington Cable Partners with John Evans. Gus Hauser subsequently bought it, and it was part of Hauser Communications. I got a job the way most people get a job. It’s who you know. My mother worked with a woman whose husband worked there, so he set up an interview for me. I came in, I interviewed, and they said, well, we have a customer service representative position open. I said, well, what does that person do? They’re like, well, you answer calls from our customers. You help them out. I’m like, I can do that. They said, okay, you’re hired. $4.25 is your hourly wage. I’m like, I have a degree in this industry, and they’re like, yes, that’s right, and you can be a CSR for $4.25 an hour, and I happily took the job.
BAUMGARTNER: What was that like? What was customer care like in those days?
LAULIS: Well, it was interesting. There were probably about six of us answering calls for customers in Arlington, Virginia. The same things people do today, really, helping customers with bills, with equipment. Gosh, back then, they wanted HBO. They wanted HBO, or they wanted their MTV. If we went downstairs and looked at the Cable Center museum, we’d see some of the equipment that they used that they would sometimes need help using. There were no remote controls then, by the way. That came later.
BAUMGARTNER: Wow. So, if you think about that early, early experience of customer service and interacting with the customer, how have you taken that early experience forward? Were there foundational lessons that you learned, or a point of view that you brought from the very beginning of your career?
LAULIS: Yeah, I think so. At Hauser, customer service was a department of marketing, so my job was to service and sell customers. To me, selling wasn’t a dirty word. It was simply helping people get the things that they need. And so, when I’m talking to folks around Cable ONE, or even my own kids, I say, you cannot go wrong getting a foundation in customer service and sales. Those are the two things that every business needs.
BAUMGARTNER: That makes a lot of sense. How do you get from that role to Jones? Jones Intercable.
LAULIS: So, I was with Hauser for five years. My goal was to get into marketing, which I did, but then we lost our customer service manager at Cable TV Montgomery. My boss begged me. He actually gave me flowers and said, please be the customer service manager. So, I went back to doing that again. I bring that up because it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I felt like I already had experience in customer service, and I really wanted to be in marketing, but the customer service department in Montgomery County versus Arlington was so much bigger, I really got to cut my teeth and make a lot of mistakes in people management in that role. But five years into Hauser, I made the switch over to Jones because they were looking for a marketing manager in their Alexandria, Virginia system. So after five years, I move over to Jones. I work in Alexandria, Virginia. It was maybe three or four years before I went to the corporate office in Denver to be a director of marketing for Jones. I worked for Jones for 10 years, and those people are still my best friends. I quote them all the time. I feel so fortunate. You and I were actually talking about what it was like to work for the genius that is Glenn Jones.
BAUMGARTNER: Can you share a little bit of those learning experiences that Glenn had you participate in early on and build that foundation because that was just so interesting that that was a path he wanted to ensure all of his teammates had.
LAULIS: Yeah. Glenn was so ahead of his time, and I was in my 20s. So at the time, I was like, what is this man having me do? But it really didn’t take too long before I realized how smart he was. I consider myself so, so lucky to have worked for founders like Gus Hauser, like John Evans, like Glenn Jones. But two examples: As a marketing manager, I was required to go through a week-long project management class. And as a 26-year-old, I’m like, why am I taking project management? Oh, well, because everything in your life depends on you being able to manage through a project, to be able to keep track of the past, the future, and where you are right now. So I think that was genius. The other thing that I thought was really weird at the time was we had to go through grief management course. And it turns out that the stages of grief are the same stages that people go through when there’s change. And you know Glenn was always saying, change is inevitable, growth is optional. He was big about interjecting change into our lives. We had divisional structures where divisions had certain subsets of systems that reported into them. And he was constantly changing the division vice president. So I’m working for Drew Sheckler, now I’m working for Neil Sullivan. He wanted you to be able to be resilient and adjust and persist. And those are gifts that I am just so fortunate to have had an opportunity to learn from.
BAUMGARTNER: I think that’s incredible. One of the things I get out of that, when you have different leaders, and Jones was a big place with this, is what are the best things you can take from each leader. And you really get an experience of, I can learn from Neil Sullivan, I can take this with me and that’s going to make me better. And then I can take this from Drew Sheckler and that’s going to make me better. And I think he was really good at giving everybody the opportunity to get a mix of the best and carry that forward. It made Jones Associates really, really strong.
LAULIS: I agree. And it gave me exposure to almost every system we had. So different geographies, different general manager leaders, different market dynamics. Very, very fortunate. And the other thing we were really lucky to have at Jones, and this is the early 90s, is female leaders. So I mean, I have goosebumps as I think about it because I didn’t know that it wasn’t like that everywhere else. I’m walking the halls, I’m talking to Ruth Warren because I was on the due diligence team when Jones doubled in size and Ruth headed that group. So I got the opportunity to get to know her and learn from her, or Jana Henthorn, or Jodi Reese. I mean, just so many great female leaders that I just thought that was normal.
BAUMGARTNER: I thought that was normal too. And it was really great to have women leaders that were comfortable with, I’m strong in my role, I’m strong in my relationships, I’m strong in my life with my family. And to have that role modeled early on, I think was a special gift to women that worked at Jones.
LAULIS: I agree.
BAUMGARTNER: We were both recipients of that. Alright, I want to talk specifically about your second stint in DC for Jones in marketing because at that time, Alexandria was the place. And that’s where the new products went. So let’s talk about the launch of Jones Internet Channel. So that is first high speed internet at home. So can you talk a little bit about what it was like to be on the ground floor?
LAULIS: Well, that was, wow, what a time. I moved from Denver back to DC. I was pregnant with my first child. I loved Denver and Colorado. But getting ready to have my first child being back home so I could be around family was really important. And Drew was moving back there and he was my general manager in Alexandria. So it made sense that we would go back to DC. And at that point in time, Bell Atlantic was going to overbuild Alexandria, Virginia. So the first thing we did was we built Alexandria with all fiber, all fiber, no passives, first of its kind. Then we launched switch telephony in Alexandria, later, bored underneath the Potomac River, launched it in PG County. We also had gone on a buying spree where we bought up about half a million customers in the DC region. And then next came the Internet Channel, which is so funny if you think about it today, like our perspective was video. That’s what we knew. So, of course we called it the Internet Channel.
BAUMGARTNER: Even though it was a whole new product!
LAULIS: As was phone to us. You know, doing pricing and packaging for phone versus video, I mean, mind blowing. Then there’s this thing called the internet. And of course we were doing dial up. Everyone was doing dial up and here comes the first broadband-enabled internet. This was a time where our team worked, and I’m not exaggerating, 12 hours a day, six days a week. We ate all of our meals at our office in Lanham, but we were all so dedicated and so excited. And as it turns out, Bell Atlantic never overbuilt Alexandria and it became the flagship for Jones. Somewhat short lived as Jones ceased to be an MSO relatively shortly after that.
BAUMGARTNER: But I think that I remember being at Jones at the time when Walt Mossberg’s Wall Street Journal piece came out on it. And I’m going to read a little bit and have you react, you know, looking back 1996. So he’s noting in his “Cable Technology May Make the Internet as Accessible as TV”, he’s talking about the 28.8 kilobits per second as “wicked fast.”
LAULIS: As it was.
BAUMGARTNER: It’s crazy. And here’s the first paragraph: “The internet will simply never become a mass medium until every user has access to high speed, no hassle connections that are always available without placing a call. There is one such technology in the works, which stands a chance of coming to a fair number of households over the next few years. It’s called the cable modem and it permits computers to receive the internet over the same common TV cable already in many homes and businesses without interrupting normal cable TV reception.”
LAULIS: Yeah. I don’t think we realized what we were doing at the time.
LAULIS: We weren’t trying to beat the competition. We were like, heck no, not in our backyard. And so, you know, Glenn being the genius, always out ahead. We had this flagship in what was called JCH One, if you were, if you recall. And we were just busting our buns to get it out there to customers. And we were so excited. I mean, it really was amazing times. I mean, I had two kids during that period and never slowed down because there was just so much going on. It was so exciting that quite honestly, they took the back seat because it’s like, do you know what we’re doing? We’re getting ready to do this. And it wasn’t like we’re getting ready to do this, this is going to be the future of the business. We’re getting to do this to stave off competition. But wow, again, what a learning opportunity. I loved every second of it. And it’s still, it makes me smile because I think about Jones is probably the only company, I mean, people should go search far and wide, that hasn’t been in existence for over 20 years where people still get together and have reunions.
LAULIS: Because they absolutely adore each other.
BAUMGARTNER: It was a unique moment in time, an incredible culture and camaraderie among people that worked there. And it lasts forever. You’ll find somebody, “Oh, you worked at Jones? Where? Back in…” And then all of a sudden, you’re family.
LAULIS: Exactly. I remember when I went to Cable ONE, Tom Might, then CEO, said, if you can recruit anyone else from this place that you came from, go do it. So I would go to the reunions and be like, you should know this place I’m at. Here’s what it’s called. The culture is very similar to Jones because it is, it’s very Jones-esque. And we probably have at least 10 ex-Jones folks there, which is kind of fun.
BAUMGARTNER: Talk about the culture. What’s similar at Cable ONE?
LAULIS: Some of the simple things like associates. So that was an easy transition where some people have a hard time. We purchased Hargray and they called everyone colleagues and we had to switch to associates and that’s a big change, so associates there. But the diversity of people, by the way, because there were a lot of female leaders at Cable ONE as well. The collaborative nature. They both were places where individual opinions were held in high regard and sought after, not just like, oh, it’s okay for you to say what you think, but we really want to hear what you think and what do you think, and what do you think, that goes to that collaborative nature as well. Very values-based, purpose-driven, a lot of alignment. If you think about Jones, people were all aligned into what we were trying to do. The same thing at Cable ONE. I think, you know, Cable ONE was a division of the Washington Post Company and they very much get their culture from the Graham family. So we’re talking Kay Graham, you know, Don Graham. And think about it, Kay Graham, she’s a pioneer, she’s a CEO, she’s probably the only female CEO of her time in the early 70s. Just a lot of similarities. Feels like home.
BAUMGARTNER: Feels like home. So I want to talk about how that became home, because as you alluded to, the ride at Jones came to an end when Comcast acquired in 1999. So it’s time for a change. How do you go from Jones to Cable ONE? What is that path like?
LAULIS: Well, I go into the office and I see the regional vice president for Comcast come in. I’m having a meeting with the marketing team and the HR person’s with him. And I said, that is not good. Everyone in our regional office was pulled into a meeting and told that we are no longer needed. That was two weeks after the sale was announced. So I packed up my things and went home and it wasn’t, it was one of those things looking back. It was traumatic in the time, but I think it’s, I mean, can you think of anyone that hasn’t been laid off? Like these days it is really hard to find someone. So it was a really good learning experience. And remind me to tell you about Betsy Magness and how that helped me through this time period. But I had just had my second child, my son. He was six weeks old when this happened. So it was an incredible gift because number one, Glenn had the foresight to say, look, if anything, we think these cultures are aligned, but if anything happens to anyone, I’m going to have a severance set up that was based on tenure. So I was fine and I got to spend time with my son and it was a great gift. Because I had just gone through Betsy Magness [Leadership Institute], I also had a circle of really strong women who helped me network throughout that period of time. So God bless WICT and Betsy Magness because that too was something that really helped during a time that would have been hard. But you know, that’s when we have our best learnings, right? When things are tough.
BAUMGARTNER: So what class? Betsy Magness?
BAUMGARTNER: Class Five. Okay.
LAULIS: I think they’re on like class 40 something now.
BAUMGARTNER: It’s crazy. I was lucky 13 and they just continue.
LAULIS: Class Five. And actually, I just helped out one of my Betsy sisters. There’s just two of us, Sarah at A&E that are still in the business because Class Five, most of them are retired. But it is an amazing organization, as you well know.
BAUMGARTNER: Absolutely. Well, while you’re talking about Betsy, let’s talk a little bit about that. What did you learn during that experience? What skills did you develop? What values did you touch on and strengthen and kind of bolster and say, I’m going to take from my career now is going to represent these pieces?
LAULIS: I think the rich diversity of the people that I was around in my class was so enlightening to me. It made me realize that my career wasn’t just sort of flopping out in front of me. It was something that I needed to be intentional about, and that it also isn’t a cutthroat kind of world where you have to crawl on top of people to get to where you want to go. You actually can lock arms with others around you and get there faster. So they also really are so great at being a mirror. When you can’t see yourself and the people around you look into you and reflect what they see, that helped me build my confidence to say, okay, I’m ready for the next step. I’m going to go find my next job. So for a while, I wasn’t. I was just laying out by the pool.
BAUMGARTNER: So we take some me time in a time of change, time with the baby. You’ve got this, you’re going to drive. What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What do I want my career to be? And Cable ONE comes into the picture. So talk a little bit about that. And were they the only suitor or were– ?
LAULIS: No, actually, I had accepted a job with Time Warner Cable to run their Roadrunner division in North Carolina. And so that was fairly close to home in D.C. And Roadrunner, I mean, I had some experience, obviously, with internet at Jones. And Cable ONE called me and said, we want you to interview with us. Honestly, I’d never heard of them. I looked them up. I did not know where their systems were. Like I literally was like, where is Ada, Oklahoma? I do not know. And so I called up and I said, you know what, I have an offer. Thank you very much. And they said, we really want you to come out and see us. Just come out for a day. Just for a day. We’ll fly you out. I said, OK, I’ll go out. And so I was like, OK, I’ll go out. I went out. I literally spent maybe 11 hours. And I called my husband from the hotel room that night and I said, this makes no sense. It’s really far from home. It’s a smaller scope because it was going to be a division marketing person. Because again, Cable ONE had divisions just like Jones did, set up the exact same way. So I’ll make less money and I’ll be further away from my family. You’ll be further away from your family because his family was in Baltimore. I said, but I love these people. And he said, ‘Well, Julie, I think you should go with your gut. But can I come out and see Arizona first?’ I said, that’s fair. Because I’ve never been, other than Denver, I’d never been west of the Mississippi. So he came out. We tooled around and said, why not? Let’s do it.
For me, the intentional part was that I had a two-year-old and a six-month-old. And I was going to do a job that I felt very confident in, director of marketing. Because I was going from Jones Senior Director of Marketing to a director of marketing. So that’s another learning. It’s OK to take a step backwards. And it was going to give me the chance to spend time with my kids. I wouldn’t be doing those 12-hour stints like I was doing in Alexandria. That was the goal. So moved to Arizona, division marketing director.
A year later, I became a division vice president of operations. And so that was a big surprise to me. Tom, the CEO, asked me to apply. And I said, well, I really shouldn’t apply. I’ve only been here a year. I don’t have a master’s degree. Most people do. And he’s like, I think you should apply. So I did. He’s like, can you come to my office? I have a couple more questions. I said, sure. I went to his office. And he’s like, so my only question is, do you want to be the Vice President of Operations for the Southwest Division? And I was like, I think you have the wrong person. And he’s like, no. I’ve talked to people who know you. You’re the person. And that blew me away. I mean, it literally blew me away. Because I thought there were, you look around you, and you observe, and you think you have to have this, this, and this to be this. But that’s another learning, which is, there aren’t hard and fast rules to anything. And sometimes when you put your head down and you do the work, you do get noticed. Again, you don’t have to be that bull in the China shop saying, look at me, look at me, look at me. And while I didn’t have a master’s degree, Tom sent me to Harvard Business School for 10 weeks to get an executive MBA. That is when my husband, John, very graciously quit his job with Qwest and decided to be a stay-at-home dad, because I wasn’t going to go. And he’s like, are you insane? Do you see the opportunity that’s before you to go and get this education? So he quit, and he took care of the kids from that moment on.
LAULIS: So again, I am very, very lucky. I’m a very fortunate person.
BAUMGARTNER: So there’s many ways to go with this, one with an amazing partnership at home. So let’s talk a little bit about that in the industry. Men and women both have that strong relationship at home. Keep the fires burning. Make sure that’s handled, but also build the confidence. You can do what you need to do. So can you talk a little bit about his contribution to your path? Because it’s your path together, collectively.
LAULIS: Absolutely. I could not do what I do if he didn’t do what he does, right? So him being at home gave me the freedom not only to go away and go to school, but to be able to travel as much as I needed to do once I was a vice president or chief operations officer or chief operating officer, those sorts of things. I knew that he would take care of the kids. And it was pretty funny, because at first we were trying to figure out the rules. I’d come home and start putting stuff away, and he’s like, hey, I don’t go to your office and rearrange it. Leave my stuff alone. So we learned. And now it’s not that unusual. I mean, I work with a lot of women where this is the case. But back then, it was a pretty big deal. It was hard for me at first with the whole, is my domain the home or not? And for him, too, he’d say, ‘you know, I drop the kids off at school, and none of the other moms will talk to me.’ And so discrimination comes in many forms, right? Again, now I don’t think it would be a big problem. Back then, it was. But it takes the partnership to make it happen. I could not have traveled to our rural systems in 24 states if I didn’t have peace of mind that the kids would be OK.
BAUMGARTNER: He’s a good partner. And he’s enabled so much. So you started marketing. You go to this operations job. And then just take me through the career path that you’ve had.
LAULIS: I always thought operations would be fun, because to me, operations meant you could play in anything you wanted to. You could dabble in customer service, or marketing, or technology. You could be with the customers. You could be with the associates. You could be with your peers in other systems. And that was a real learning opportunity, too. It’s one thing to be a peer to these people. It’s another to be their boss, right? And that was a little bit hard, coming into the company. And then all of a sudden being– I do remember certain men, to be quite honest, walking down the hall and not looking me in the eye, or saying good morning, or calling me by a name that wasn’t mine.
LAULIS: Yes. And so if that happens to you, my advice would be address it head on. Gee, Mr. So-and-so, have I done something to upset you? You didn’t meet my eye this morning. I just wanted to say good morning. And usually people, everything can be solved with a conversation. So conversations build relationships, and understanding, and connection. And things usually get better from there. But yeah, sometimes it can be tough, no matter who you are.
BAUMGARTNER: I bet.
LAULIS: But I loved operations. I went from operations to, well, to stay in operations, to tell you the truth. I got responsibility not just for my division, but for all the divisions. And then after that, for marketing and technology, too. And then came the very sad day for me, which Tom came to me and said, ‘I’m going to be retiring, and you’re going to be the next CEO.’ And I said, “Oh, like hell I am.” I said literally that. I said, I am not going to do it. That is not where my strengths lie, especially because we had become a public company. Internally, I love our people. I love our customers. That would have been, I think, something I could have done really well. But I was not convinced that I could do the whole external stakeholder piece of the role. So I went to see a professional. And I talked to a psychologist and said, here’s where I am. And she said, well, the first thing you have to do is figure out if you want to do it. And so I spent about two weeks and decided, you know what? I do want to do it, which I think is another learning. You don’t always have to know exactly how to do something before you jump in and do it. If you’re a person who has energy and curiosity, you’re going to figure it out. And that’s what I did. I read annual reports. And if I love the annual report, I reached out to that CEO. Cold called him and said, hi, I’m a new CEO. I’m wondering if you would mentor me. And eight out of 10 said yes.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s amazing.
LAULIS: And these weren’t all industry people. I reached out all over. But that’s how I got here. And I told the team at Cable ONE, I said, look, the only way I can do this is with you all. As Hillary says, it takes a village. And together, we will all do this. So let’s go get after it.
BAUMGARTNER: Wow. Great learnings in stepping up and trusting yourself that I will learn it. I can do it. I’ve got a good team with me. We’re all going to move forward together.
LAULIS: And I think it’s OK to have that moment of doubt as long as you deal with it. I, honest to God, did not see it coming. I mean, I just had my head down. I was doing the work, loving the teams, being busy. I just, I mean, I would’ve been happy with that going on forever. But, you know, as Glenn would say, change is inevitable. Growth is optional. And I choose to stick to growth.
BAUMGARTNER: And you chose to grow. So for the sake of folks watching who do not understand the scale and scope of Cable ONE, help us, at this point, talk a little bit about how big you are, how many customers, where you’re located, or where you serve.
LAULIS: So Cable ONE has a consumer-facing brand called Sparklight. We can get into that, why we changed the name. We operate in 24 states. We have a little over a million business and residential customers for HSD [high speed data]. I won’t talk about video for reasons I’ll probably talk about later.
BAUMGARTNER: Oh, I’m going to ask you about video.
LAULIS: So we consider ourselves a broadband company, not a cable company, per se. We have about 3,100 associates that work with us. We work in and build infrastructure in small cities, large towns. So mostly rural America. We have a couple of markets that have grown over time. So they’re a little bit bigger than that. Think about like a Boise would be an example. But by and large, if I started saying the names, most of our towns you probably haven’t heard of.
BAUMGARTNER: Fair. What is the appeal to you of taking care of customers in that kind of community-oriented setting?
LAULIS: So our purpose is to connect communities and customers to the things that matter most. Quite honestly, these small towns are towns that the big guys didn’t want to go into. And it made sense from a business standpoint, right? They were saying, hmm, low density, expensive to build. The ROI is not as good. That’s true. But these people need infrastructure more than cities like Denver or Phoenix. Because if you’re in a Cable ONE town, a Sparklight town, you may have to drive two or three hours to get to a shopping center in order to buy back-to-school clothes for your kids. So you need the internet. So you can just order what you need and have it come to you. You do not have, in many cases, world-class universities in your towns. You do not have, in many cases, world-class health care in your towns. But the internet brings all of that. We just hooked up these 10 schools and eight libraries in Gila County, Arizona. And it’s like 29 miles, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But it’s solid granite. It’s just granite mountains. And the schoolteacher was actually crying because they had nothing.
LAULIS: They had nothing. And now they have Chromebooks from Cable ONE. They have screaming fast fiber internet. And the kids are now on equal par to their peers throughout the state, right? So we attract people who things like that matter to. I mean, rarely will you hear our folks talking about our bottom line. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We have a philosophy where if you have happy associates, they will ensure you have satisfied customers. And what plops out of that, and literally it plops out of it like as if it’s magic, is a profitable business. And so they are talking about what they are doing in their communities. And in fact, we don’t have a call center in Guam or in Phoenix. What we have is people in our local markets all hooked together virtually by technology. So they’re in their town servicing their customers. Now, that doesn’t mean that every single call, for example, that they get is from their town. It might be from a shared town across the state or even across the country. But they are local. So how their communities do and that they have economic viability, because again, we’re selling business services in those towns as well, really makes a difference. That feels way more fun to me than counting dollars or even millions of dollars.
BAUMGARTNER: You clearly hear that purpose-driven in that kind of business philosophy. I mean, that meaning makes people work really, really hard.
LAULIS: It really does. I think something else that’s really special about the Cable ONE environment is over time, by and large, there have been no layoffs. So I did start up a care center in Phoenix. I later dismantled it because it was an experiment. And we thought it didn’t work as well as having it local.
BAUMGARTNER: So one of the things I’ve heard about Cable ONE is that this is kind of a no layoff culture. Can you talk a little bit about how is that possible?
LAULIS: Yes. Well, so what happens is we go back to that philosophy about happy associates and satisfied customers, profitable business. And if people feel secure in their positions, what that means is they are free to give you suggestions and advice on how to make the work more efficient and know that they’re not going to lose their job for it. So part of our DNA is continuous improvement. And in fact, we have a group of IEs that work throughout the organization to teach people those sorts of Six Sigma skills in how to get more efficient, not by leaps and bounds, but just to hair widths every day. And if I’m a CSR or a technician, I can give suggestions freely and know that I won’t be laid off. There was a period of time where we were carrying at least 200 people more than what we needed based on utilization. But what we did is we let them attrit out over time. And I am sure, and I remember this period very specifically, that people thought that we were incredibly naive, maybe even a bit Pollyannish in how we were approaching it. But I will tell you, Tracy, if I went to our people today, if I sent out, well, I talk to them by video usually, and said, folks, good CABO people is what I call them, here’s what I need you to do, they would walk over hot coals to do it. Because they’re like, you take care of us, we’ll take care of you. And it’s reinforced by that salt of the earth, small town mentality. So they’re known. Their families are known. I can’t imagine, honestly, working at a bigger place. Which is interesting, because of course, we’ve grown over time too. So it feels a little bit different even to me.
BAUMGARTNER: That is an incredible culture. And it sounds like it’s really pulling folks forward and helping them bring out their best and bring those ideas without fear of, I’m going to say this, and then things are going to change —
LAULIS: And I won’t have a job. Like, nope, you will have a job.
BAUMGARTNER: Change can bring growth.
LAULIS: And they get to stay in the towns that they were born and raised in, right? Our people come to Phoenix for training and for many of them, it’s their first airplane ride. Imagine that. I mean, they love their towns. Actually, that’s a little bit of a problem for us as we try to get people to move to other states and do work.
One other story about a culture, just because we’re on it and it’s fresh in my mind: In an email last night– We have an open door policy where if you have an idea or a grievance, you go to your supervisor. But if you don’t feel comfortable or you don’t feel like you’ve got a fair hearing, you can go anywhere in the organization that you want to. And a lot of people come to me. And people say, oh, you shouldn’t — I’m like, no, no, I want to hear what they have to say. And so this person was reaching out, a real HIPO [high-potential employee], and said, “You know, my associate just used the open door with you. And I just want you to know what it means to her. I think I romanticize the culture of Cable ONE, but I see it play out in spades. By the way, let me tell you about a conversation I had with someone who’s only been with the company for eight months. They love it because …” and he went on to describe this to me in an email. And I thought, this is cool. Culture does matter. And it takes shaping, right? Like it can’t, like I said, it came down from the Grahams, but it can’t stay stagnant. The world is so different now. And so we have to constantly be thinking about, what are the things that we want to keep? What are the things that matter that we will absolutely not give up on? And how are we willing to make some changes? So an example for us is to become more agile. I mean, we have a lot of long tenured people and that’s fantastic, but doing the work today in the same way that it was done even five years ago, will not cut it. And so we have to open our minds and imagine a world where certain things are possible. So we have to be willing to change. That’s just an example of how you have to shape the culture, I think, over time to keep it relevant. But people seek us out and either like, if you fit, you love it. And if you don’t, you’re going to go find something else because it’s pretty distinct.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s pretty distinct, but very effective. So let me shift from culture to, or maybe this is culture, operations, and you’ve described yourself as a broadband focus company. Craig Moffett has described Cable ONE as a post-video cable business. Talk a little bit about this unique path that, and maybe it’s not that unique, but it was unique at the time when you first started taking it. Talk about what was going on in the industry and that realization of we maybe need to pivot from video to broadband. Talk about that.
LAULIS: So that’s Tom Might’s strategic work. At the point in time, probably for him, looking at the numbers, very IE background, very analytical, looking at the profitability of the products that we offered. And it didn’t take that much for him to see that there wasn’t much on the bottom line of video. And at the same time, programmers were asking for double digit increases and retrans [retransmission consent] had come into the fold where before it wasn’t–
BAUMGARTNER: What timeframe is this?
LAULIS: So this is probably around 2012. And over the top is starting. And so customers are going to have another choice. So he’s saying, hmm, this doesn’t seem like a pony I want to hitch my wagon to. But this broadband thing, whoa, lots of room for growth. You don’t have someone extracting the rents, as they would say at Harvard, away from you. So the margin was really high. Same with business services. So he said, we’re going to make the pivot. And at that point in time, honestly, we didn’t know if it was the right move or not. So in 2013, we went out to our people and said, video is not important to us anymore and here’s why. Let us show you the math. And here’s where we see ourselves going. To this day, we will have associates still asking about, are we going to add the such and such channel? And we’re like, no, we aren’t focused on video. It’s hard to let go when that’s where you were raised up. But since ‘13 and ‘14, that was our path. And I would say right around 2017, we saw a tipping point because revenue dipped for a while because video subs were coming down. We weren’t spending money on marketing. We weren’t spending money on equipment, but we were filling up the bucket with HSD customers. And so slight dip in revenue while video came down because video does have revenue. It just doesn’t have a lot of profit. And we started going back up in revenue. We’re like, we think this is it. Now, I think you would talk to almost anyone and they’d say, yeah, we see the inevitable coming. Our video penetration, I don’t even look at it. I know it’s below 10%. That’s all I can tell you. Again, we don’t sell it.
BAUMGARTNER: I was going to say, I think you might’ve shared that on your most recent earnings call.
LAULIS: They’re like, oh, you’ve lost so many video subs. I’m like, well, if you’re not putting any in the bucket, yeah, we don’t put any in the bucket. I mean, if someone wants it, we will, but we will not actively sell it because we think they have other choices. Why don’t you sign up for a great, reliable, robust internet package? And we’ll give you a credit to use on a streaming service for a period of time. Because that’s the future.
BAUMGARTNER: That is a unique path that you have trailblazed at Cable ONE and continuing to grow. So it’s the right choice for-
LAULIS: Well, and that’s the interesting thing too. I mean, I think a lot of, particularly analysts, will try and get you into a place where you’re saying that your way is the way. And there are many paths to success. And it really depends on the assets the company has and the core competencies of their staff. So many different ways to get to a good place. We think this one’s ours.
BAUMGARTNER: I think that makes sense. Tell me, you teed up earlier about Sparklight. What were you trying to change with that rebrand?
LAULIS: Well, I have to tell you, I mean, every time I said Cable ONE, and especially when we pivoted to broadband, we were constantly reinforcing cable. So it was hard for our associates to wrap their head around that they were supposed to be doing something else, focusing on something else, and for our customers. And so, like many today, it also had this, we did research and it had a negative halo to it. Old technology is what it sounded like. And we were putting in fiber at that point in time, right? And we were using the latest in technology, but we had this sort of dinosaur halo. So we rebranded our consumer facing brand to Sparklight. And not easy to find a new name these days. As you know, many times you have to make up a name because so much is taken. But we liked Sparklight. We did do testing, conveys a little bit of that fiber spark. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, it plays better if you see it in video. There’s like a hashtag, Sparklight. And so think about the internet. You use a hashtag for almost anything up on your browser line. And for our internal associates, what we say is it’s not a hashtag, but it’s a baton. And we’re a team and we’re passing the baton to each other like we’re a relay race team. So it has good connotations internally and externally. So all of our field folks wear Sparklight. Their trucks say Sparklight. The billboards say Sparklight. But the parent company name is Cable ONE. Our ticker is CABO. We have contracts that are done that way. It’s just too much of a hassle to change.
BAUMGARTNER: No, that makes sense. Put the brand out there for the customers.
LAULIS: That is the goal.
BAUMGARTNER: I want to give you a moment to brag, congratulate your team about the incredible growth that you guys have had over time. 13 acquisitions, investments worth more than $5 billion over time. Talk a little bit about the growth and maybe a shout out to the team about what it took to get from here to there.
LAULIS: Yeah, you know, when you put it all together, it’s even surprising to me, to be quite honest, because we were just tackling things as they came. It’s sort of like, I feel like the positions that I have, you don’t go looking for them, but sometimes they come looking for you. And quite honestly, that is very, very true. A lot of these are family-owned businesses. The family owner came to us to do an exclusive deal because they cared about where their people ended up. And so that’s a very unique position for us to be in. Not all of them were that way. Part of them have been shaped by folks that have been at the helm of our CFO, Steven Cochran, for example. Very well connected within the industry, lots of relationships, continuing to grow organically while we brought other like-minded companies in. They needed to be rural. They needed to be best in class for broadband. So we weren’t going to go pick up somebody who was maybe doing 25 megs or something. They needed to be in the realm. Yes, we spend capital to bring them up usually to Cable ONE standards, but in the realm of being a major broadband player in their markets. And they needed to have a similar culture. Because if we were going to assimilate them, if we were going to merge them, culture was the one thing that we didn’t want breaking. And we had to learn on the fly. Had we done a lot of acquisitions? Well, we’d done some in the past, but we had to learn on the fly. We needed to ask for help. The team has done an amazing job. And our acquired companies are incredibly patient, too. Because we take sort of a long window. We say three years, we’re not doing this fast. We’re not looking for fast money. Again, we’re not laying off people from these other companies. They’re going to attrit over time. So we set the expectation that over the course of three years, we will bring whatever plant issues there may be up to parity. Same with pricing and packaging, platforms. And then the synergies will happen. And it has been a huge learning experience for the organization.
One of the things that come to mind is just the scaling so fast. I mean, we went from, we literally doubled in associates over a very short period of time. And so we had to take a pause and say, you know what? If we’re going to maintain the culture, we have to indoctrinate a ton of people to what’s important to us. And by the way, in that three year period, we are learning from them. We’re not saying we’re doing this the Cable ONE way. I can give you lots of examples. One that comes to mind immediately is what we call our Stronger Together Incentive. When we purchased New Wave, that was our first big one in 2017, they had an incentive for all their associates. So all their associates got a bonus. And we said, well, you know, our supervisors and up got a bonus, but not our frontline people. We’re like, why don’t we do this? Well, we do. And we learned that from New Wave. Fidelity had an app that they used with their installers. And we were like, oh, well, that’s interesting. Then COVID happened. And we’re like, oh my God, Fidelity has the app that we can use with the installers and we get to use it. So we’re learning from– Like Hargray. Another example is they have an amazing grassroots community management program, which we didn’t have before. So again, we’re learning from the folks that we pick up as we work to assimilate them and they’re patient, because I think they want to be like Sparklight. And we’ve got a bunch of different brands hanging out there right now.
BAUMGARTNER: I’m just listening to you taking the best from everyone, similar to that experience at Jones, taking the best and that learning of everybody’s bringing something to the table. Let’s look at it, let’s understand and not be so rigid in our way, but take the best from everything and go stronger forward.
LAULIS: Exactly. And we’ve found like-minded people, like I think about GTCR, where we have a great relationship with them. And so if they see something that they think fits in our portfolio, if we’re not ready to make an acquisition, it could be any reason. It could be capital allocation issues or capacity of the organization issues. We can become an investor and it can sort of sit on a shelf. Or sometimes people aren’t ready to sell, but they’re willing for us to be investors. That happened with Hargray, where we were small investors and then they were like, oh, well, we’re ready to sell. And if we hadn’t been an investor, would we have been the ones that they came to? I’m not quite so sure. So fast and furious activity, of course, none of that’s going on right now in the marketplace, but it will again.
BAUMGARTNER: It will again.
LAULIS: It will again.
BAUMGARTNER: So let me shift gears here out of the realm of specifically Cable ONE. Let’s focus broader industry. You’ve got a couple of pretty key industry organizations that you sit on the board of, between C-SPAN and CableLabs. So can you talk a little bit about how you see the view of the industry from those vantage points? And is any of it different? Is it similar? What are you seeing from that point of view?
LAULIS: Well, C-SPAN’s awesome. I remember when John Evans was working with Brian Lamb and others to bring, to birth this, right, to found it. And I love the idea that this is a place where all America can see our democracy in action. I mean, you don’t have to watch it all the time, but when there’s something big going on, you know where you can go to get an unbiased view to see for yourself what’s going on. So I love the organization. Supported completely by cable companies, right?
BAUMGARTNER: That’s true. Cable’s gift to America.
LAULIS: That’s right. No government dollars. Cable companies founded it and keep it running. So I love that organization. Susan [Swain] and Rob [Kennedy] do a fantastic job running it. CableLabs is interesting. I love talking to Phil [McKinney]. Like, wow, there’s another guy that’s pretty mind-blowingly brilliant, right? I’m not a technologist. Ask my CTO. I send him emails almost every day. Can you explain this in layman’s terms? Or can you draw a picture of this for me? Or what does this mean for us? So for me, sitting in that room is incredibly interesting. But what I think about is here is this huge R&D outfit with, I don’t know how many now, 26 PhDs working on things that have kept the cable industry ahead of pretty much anyone. I mean, the fact that, you know, DOCSIS 4.0, 10 Gig. I mean, it is amazing. People keep prognosticating that our infrastructure is old and has been. And our infrastructure is delivering more in most cases than any other. Or at least on parity with fiber. I mean, we can do multi-gig, symmetrical. We have lots of fiber. That’s what the F stands for in HFC [hybrid fiber-coax]. So it is pretty mind-blowing and gratifying to watch those people do their work and make sure that we stay ahead of consumers’ needs. I mean, when COVID happened, all the operators were having calls weekly to see how the plant was doing. And to see that our plant, even during COVID, never got above 20% utilization in peak periods was pretty amazing.
LAULIS: Pretty amazing. And we launched a gig service in our teeny tiny towns in 2015. We were ahead of everyone. We were like, this is where the future is. Again, we were broadband-centric. Why are we sort of piddling around down here? We’re going to put this out there. Now, if no one wants it, that’s okay, but we’re going to have it out there. Quite honestly, we thought it would defer against competition. And it probably did for a period of time.
BAUMGARTNER: If you build it, they will come.
LAULIS: Yeah, well, and now, exactly, over 40% of our people that sign up are taking it, right?
BAUMGARTNER: That makes sense. So WICT. We talked a little bit about Betsy Magness, but this is definitely an organization that is so important to so many women in the industry. And just last year, Cable ONE was the top employer based on PAR survey. So obviously, this is something that your business is focused on from inclusion and diversity and developing women leaders. Talk a little bit about your commitment to that and how you actually operationalize that and make it real.
LAULIS: So I joined WICT in the early 1980s. So, I mean, I have to be one of the longest standing members of the organization. I served in the chapter in Washington, DC when I worked there. I went to Betsy Magness. I have done like the Pearls of Wisdom, TED Talks for rising leaders, things like that. I try to get our women leaders to take positions within WICT. I feel like I get a chance to try on leadership every day. I want other people to do that, but big, big proponent of what WICT sets out to do with educating and supporting women in the industry. I don’t think of how we approach that at Cable ONE as something that is tied to this thing that now has a name, D, E, and I. First of all, at Cable ONE, we call it I and D because it’s about inclusion and diversity. We think inclusion comes first. And then if you’re inclusive, you will naturally get diversity. But I talked about when I came to Cable ONE, it felt very comfortable vis-a-vis Jones because I saw a lot of female general managers, for example. And I think it really came from those family values and Kay Graham, where she’s like, this is normal and this is what, it wasn’t like, oh, we have to find women to do this. It was just good people get good jobs and that’s the way it is. So for us, I honestly, it’s sort of like the broadband thing. I feel like other people are catching up to where we already were. We already were a place where it just didn’t matter who you were, what you believed, what color you were, what gender you were. If you did good work, you got a good job. And we put a little more focus on it these days, right? We have an I&D board where they do very specific programming to reach out to our entire staff to educate about things like, you know, biases and the value of diversity and how we’re really all the same, like literally all the same. But that isn’t a big reach for our organization because of where we’ve come from.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s amazing. So coming here towards the end, want to note-
LAULIS: Do I get to go, “Woo!”?
BAUMGARTNER: Yes, we get to be excited, but I want to do a little prognostication forward, what is to come and reflection looking back. So which direction would you like to go first? Would you like to look back or do you want to look forward?
LAULIS: Well, let’s look back and look forward at the end.
BAUMGARTNER: Okay, so looking back, start talking about legacy here. You were last year, CableFax 100 number one. That is an incredible—
LAULIS: That’s ridiculous.
BAUMGARTNER: — moment of recognition. And talk a little bit about what that means. And I get kind of the reaction, but the fact is you were chosen for a reason. And maybe it’s for all the things we’ve talked about since we started. But what do you chalk that up to if you’re kind of demurring on the recognition as number one?
LAULIS: Well, I mean, first of all, my daughter was working for S&D at the time, so she knew it and she thought it was really cool. But other than that, I was like, I measure myself by my own internal yardstick, not by any external factor. It is very humbling and I’m very honored. My guess is that it’s still fairly, it’s fairly unusual to see a female CEO of a cable company. And so when a company is growing and advancing, I mean, at one point our stock was $2,100. When we spun out, we were $360. We went up to $2,100. We’re back down with the rest of the folks around $700 right now. But doing a lot of acquisitions, winning some awards for having, whether it’s a board that’s 60% female or PAR Survey excellence, or Forbes midsize employers, those sorts of things that might’ve caught people’s attention. But that isn’t about me. That is about the entire team and what we accomplished and what went on before any of us even got there, right? Again, I have to give props to the Graham family values because it established the culture. And the work of Tom Might and his strategic foresight to take us down a broadband path. I mean, we build upon each other, right? So we don’t do it for the awards. I mean, we talk internally. We’re like, well, this is great. We can use this for recruiting. However, those aren’t our yardsticks. We have different yardsticks that we measure ourselves by.
BAUMGARTNER: Maybe it was just an opportunity to signal strong leadership that has maintained values and that has continued to build on those that came before. And that’s worth noting.
LAULIS: I think to the extent that it made Cable ONE people feel like they were on par, that’s fantastic because they are absolutely on par. We’re not a big guy. We’re a little guy. But because we’re public, we get scrutiny and attention like some of the big guys. So for our people to understand and not just get the scrutiny about results, but to get the props for the work that they’re doing is fantastic.
BAUMGARTNER: That’s great. You shared some influences there in Kay Graham and your former CEO. Who has influenced you along the way that you want to make sure that you take a moment and say, wow, this person made a big impact on me in my career?
LAULIS: I think the leaders of the MSOs that I’ve worked for. So Gus Hauser, along with John Evans and Glenn Jones and Tom Might for sure. But then again at Jones, I think of the Ruths, the Janas, Jodi were very clear role models to me as well. And if I’m honest, I learned, or at least I try to learn, I’m an incredibly curious person, from the people that are around me. I mean, there’s bits and pieces that we can pick up from everyone. But when I was at Cable ONE, Tom took me to breakfast every Wednesday from the time I was COO to CEO. So that was a goodly amount of time. That was a lot of breakfast. And I didn’t realize what he was doing, honestly. That’s, I was not being very observant, but we had breakfast and we would just be talking about things. We wouldn’t be, you know, it wouldn’t be like, okay, let’s go through this. I mean, we would just talk. And I learned so much from those breakfasts. And not everything I learned was about the business. Like he has three boys and a wife who had a career as well. And watching how he balanced his work with his family life was incredibly instructive to me. And quite honestly, I’ve never achieved what he was able to do with balance, but he set the example for me to follow. I just don’t always do what I know is right to do, but he was a very clear, strong figure as well.
My management team that I work closely with now, I would say likewise. Like I just, I watch how they stretch and they grow and the things they take on and how they react when things go well and how they react when things don’t. And I’m just incredibly proud of them. And I endeavor to learn. I mean, literally, if you went and talked to anyone in our building right now about what are some of the things that are in Cable ONE’s DNA, I guarantee you they would say continuous improvement. Like let’s make ourselves a little bit better every day. Like we’re not going to burden you. Like you have to make a giant moon jump, but just a hair’s width every day. And that’s, I mean, we whittle away at that efficiency. And I mean, it shows up in things like our margin. Part of it is product mix shift, but part of it is that industrial engineering, how can we make it a little bit better? And it’s not, literally it’s not about how we’re making it better for Cable ONE. We talk about customer goodness and associate goodness, which again, I think people probably think, oh, that sounds so naive. But it’s like, if we’re doing something that make things better for our people and for our customers, my bet is it’s going to be good for the company too. And so efficiency, it looks like it happens by magic, it’s planned by making things better for our associates and our customers. So I learn from them literally every day.
BAUMGARTNER: So last look back question. Just inducted in the Cable Hall of Fame.
LAULIS: It was a fun night.
BAUMGARTNER: I bet. Thinking about legacy, what do you hope people will think about your time in the industry, the legacy that you’ve left behind for others?
LAULIS: Maybe that being naive isn’t so bad. That a belief in people and a harnessing of people’s dreams, unleashing their personal power can really coexist with profits of a company, quite honestly. I haven’t thought about legacy, and it’s interesting that you asked that because I had another friend just asked me, write your retirement announcement and what accomplishments will be on there. And have you done all of them? And I thought, well, I’ve never approached the business like that. Again, I am the oldest of four children. I’m the only daughter. I mean, I had a lot of responsibility as a child, and I think I was just grown up to nurture and care for people. And quite honestly, a big part of that is my faith as well. I believe that I’m called to love God and love people, to serve people. And we all can win together, and the “we” is all-encompassing. It’s the people, it’s the associates, but it’s also the company’s profits and the investors as well. And I find it so fascinating that now with ESG, it’s like, here’s what we have to do. And I’m thinking, we’ve done it for decades. This is the way our business has been run. That is, it is possible. It does work. It does go hand in hand. It doesn’t have to be manufactured. It can happen organically if you create the right purpose and culture and values for the people to work. That’s what’s important to me, that we all win together, quite honestly. And it’s, again, I get it. It sounds like I should be wearing little pigtails and skipping down a lane, but that’s how I view the business, and that’s how business is fun to me.
BAUMGARTNER: And yet everything you just said is playing out the way you just said it. So maybe not so Pollyanna.
LAULIS: It really works. I mean, again, like that whole don’t lay off people. Now, I’m not saying we never, ever, like I remember when we did away with microwave, we did away with our microwave tech, but he had a year’s notice. It was very, very, very, never have you seen chunks of 200 people or even 20.
BAUMGARTNER: No RIFs.
LAULIS: Exactly. So we carry expense, but in the end, it actually is a force for positive and good and good bottom line.
BAUMGARTNER: It’s an investment.
LAULIS: It really is.
BAUMGARTNER: All right, let’s look forward.
LAULIS: Let’s look forward.
BAUMGARTNER: What does Cable ONE look like in 10 years?
LAULIS: Wow. Well, in 10 years, that’s really a long time. It’s interesting. I talk to my kids. I’m like, there’s going to be something that you’re going to be teaching me and you’re going to get really frustrated because I’m not going to understand it, because I’m going through it with my own parents, right? And so I’m trying to think, what is that thing going to be? Like, what is it going to be that I can’t even imagine that they’re going to have to teach me how to do? I think in the future, the assets that we have are incredibly valuable. The infrastructure that’s in the ground and in the air and our people are two wonderful pieces of secret sauce, right? And I believe in the future, I believe actually right now, there are geniuses in their garage that are inventing things that are going to travel down our pipe, right? And whether I’m going to have a chip implanted in my wrist that tells the doctor what my pulse is, my blood pressure, other indicators, I don’t know, but I think it’s all going to be tied back to that infrastructure, meaning the plant and the people that help maintain that plant. I think there’s going to be step functions in the amount of data that are going through our pipes that people are going to need. Like, I think our average right now is around 630 gigs, right? It’s going to, we have over 20% that are using a terabyte. Step functions higher. We’re going to, just like with COVID, something is going to happen, hopefully not a pandemic, hopefully this wonderful-
BAUMGARTNER: Something positive.
LAULIS: Exactly. Cures to cancer where you need these sorts of monitors or whatever, and it’s going to require data and we are going to have a hand in that. We both work for companies that do hard things. And there’s a bunch of people that are trying to get into the business and they’ve never done hard things and they may figure it out, they may not. But what our people are doing to maintain that plant so it’s there when customers need it, whether it’s for healthcare, whether it’s for a new way of doing education, who knows? But we’re going to be a part of it. I think Cable ONE could easily, I’ve said that I think we’re the natural aggregator of rural cable assets. I do believe that when all this shakes out, the economy, the high interest rates, the tougher access to capital, when that all shakes out, there’s going to be some stranded assets that need a home. And if they’re in rural markets, then that’s something that we can take a look at. I think we have a good sustainable path at being an independent public operator in markets like we’re in right now. I think we’re a good home for people. We’re a good employer. I think we are good to our customers. It’s funny because our people say, ‘do we want to be the biggest?’ And I’m like, no, we’re not shooting to be any certain size. We’re just looking to serve like communities. So if there’s a community that needs us, and we have stepped into markets where they do not have a robust and reliable internet provider and built those slightly outside of our footprint. So if the community needs us, we’ll go there. So, independent operator providing broadband, sometimes we tease around and say, we’re going to be your quick alcohol delivery too, because we’ve got a field full of techs. That’s a joke. What else will we do in the future? I’m not sure, but we are a vibrant part of our communities. And so we’re going to be there. We’re going to be providing them with the infrastructure that they need before they need it.
BAUMGARTNER: Okay, last question. You’re coming out of college right now. Why bring your innovation, talent, excitement to this industry?
LAULIS: Well, you know, it’s kind of apropos that we’re at the Syndeo Institute at the Cable Center, since they work on intrapreneurialism, being innovative and entrepreneurial. I listened to a bunch of podcasts about founders and entrepreneurialism. And this industry has reinvented itself. In February, I will have worked in this industry for 40 years, and it has not been the same for any five-year stretch of time. Like maybe two-year stretch of time, but not five-year stretch of time. Constantly changing and innovating. And again, I can remember times where my father called me up and said, I read this in the newspaper, and I’m really worried that you’re not going to have a job because there’s going to be DirecTV, or there’s going to be telcos overbuilding you, or whatever. Those prognostications have not come true, and I don’t think they will, because you’ve got organizations like CableLabs. You have organizations like the Syndeo Institute at the Cable Center. You’ve got organizations like WICT that are feeding into people that say billions have been invested in this infrastructure. Look at what we bring people. It’s so funny, like in the middle of the night, I walk by my Nest, and it lights up, and it’s like a nightlight. But I mean, it’s connected to the internet. Like when I’m in a different city, I can change it. Our lives revolve around this. “Alexa, what’s the weather like today?” My stove is connected to the internet, for God’s sake. I don’t know why, but it is. We are an innovative industry, and it’s really sort of upsetting to me when people use the word cable and think that it’s decrepit or old. And when I think about the history and the founders, and it’s still going on today, it’s still going on today. It is a place where anyone can come and grow and learn. And we were talking about this before we began, too. The cable industry has a family-like feel. I say it’s incestuous. It’s the same people in different places.
BAUMGARTNER: Different shirt, different hat.
LAULIS: And we share with each other. It doesn’t matter. I have quarterly calls with Johnson Elliott Metronet. Yeah, he’s a competitor, and he and I will talk. But it is an industry that has open arms. Come join us.
BAUMGARTNER: Amazing. Thank you for sharing your history with the Syndeo Institute at the Cable Center.
LAULIS: Thank you, Tracy. You’re very kind.
BAUMGARTNER: Thank you, Julie, for sharing your amazing oral history with us here at the Syndeo Institute at the Cable Center.
LAULIS: Thank you, Tracy. It was my pleasure.