A retrospective by Laurie Andrews, President, Cotton & Company
35 years with one company is a milestone few achieve in any industry. I guess my Dad, Bill Mang, laid the groundwork, having reached 42 years with Grumman Aerospace before retiring over two decades ago. As one of four kids in The Mang Gang, we grew up as a part of the Grumman Family. Commitment and dedication to excellence were instilled in every aspect of our lives—certainly with family, but in work as well. To tell you the truth, it feels like an eternity and a “blink of an eye” at the same time. Although my journey has many more years ahead, I thought this was a great opportunity to reflect on the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met along this journey.
Starting Out Right
Carol Hogan at Martin County High School introduced me to the world of business. As a student in her Cooperative Business Education program, she lined me up for an interview with a local advertising agency, Southeastern Marketing. The owner, O. Franklin Wolfe introduced me to one of his top account executives, Stephann Cotton– I think I was in a cheerleading uniform when we first met. The rest was history as they say – I nailed the interview and got the job. Who could have ever imagined what the future would bring. We celebrated my 14th birthday together, and after many trips around the sun, we’ll soon be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Cotton & Company.
Ups and Downs
When you work exclusively in the real estate industry, the only thing constant is change. We’ve been through four recessions and crazy market booms. We’ve pulled ping pong balls from a glass cylinder to sell out communities in a single day for Kolter, and we were on a plane together heading to New York to meet with Lehman Brothers on the day they announced the bankruptcy. We survived a real estate meltdown of epic proportion, staying true to our roots and remaining focused on the real estate industry, traveling farther and farther from home to keep the work flowing. We navigated through a global pandemic witnessing a massive shift in lifestyle priorities that created new energy for our Florida and Caribbean communities. Through it all, every day has taught me something new and that’s what makes this journey so incredibly rewarding.
Anyone I’ve ever worked with knows that my family comes before all else – even the work! St. Julian, my husband, has supported me every step of the way, being on hand to ensure our kids never missed out on anything. He took on night shifts to take care of babies, played chauffer to get them where they needed to be, and has always done his best to eliminate the stress or home life so I can meet the challenge of a demanding career. I’m proud to say my kids are my greatest success in life. They are all achieving their dreams in very diverse careers — military, creative arts, and medicine – yet most importantly, they also place a priority on family. I am incredibly proud and grateful.
We’ve taken on some major challenges over the years. In 2010, we were hired to sell condos to a 55+ Asian market in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles during the downturn. I brushed up on my feng shui, and we sold out Teramachi! The Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas stole my heart when we were brought in to sell out 10 floors of condos above the Grand Hyatt. My role evolved to becoming the interior designer for 6 model homes, a monthly event planner, and I loved working with Dustin David to manage the frenzy we created to sellout the final 20 units. I’ll never forget being “in the room where it happens” as we knocked it out of the park.
Our six months in Poland created the greatest challenge of my career–anxiety that I had never dealt with before. Thank you to Anne Sullivan who took the reins when I just couldn’t bring myself to get on the trans-Atlantic flight with family so far way. And I’m grateful for Marissa Mastroianni who joined me when I returned to Warsaw on the next trip, and Lauren Anderson who would come into the office in the middle of the night so we could work together on Poland time. Through our interpreters, we taught the internal marketing team everything they needed to know about American marketing and we tripled the sales for JW Construction. I am now blessed to have friends in Poland and a more global perspective.
Photography has always been a passion, and I’ve had the opportunity to visit and capture amazing places around the world. Barry Kinsella, Steven Martine, Ken Roscoe, and Steve North have been along for the ride throughout the Caribbean and Mexico. I miss my dear friend Dan Refner who was a true creative talent. Oh yes, we fought like cats and dogs, but we were passionate about our work, family and friendship. On my 40th birthday, we were in Costa Rica together for a shoot. I send him out on a tree limb over a cliff to get a shot, and I told him if anything happened, make sure he tossed me the camera. I can still see that final sunset we shared together on the banks of Mobile Bay in Alabama.
We work hard, but I can’t say enough about how fortunate I am to be working with my son David who is the most talented videographer I know (sorry Steve). I am known to be demanding and shoots can be stressful, but every minute we spend together on a shoot is a gift and one of the best benefits of this crazy life. I can’t help but smile when I think about our photoshoot in Bay Harbor, Michigan when five of us squeezed into the upstairs bedroom of an Air BNB rental when we thought we had the entire house. Danielle Atwood and Erika Wigley – you were troopers on that trip! And anyone who has ever been on a “Laurie shoot” knows there is always room for “just one more thing.”
Coming Full Circle
Stephann Cotton has been an amazing mentor and life-long partner. We’ve seen each other through incredible ups and downs. He always knew Julian and I were a rock-solid team in every way, and he once asked me how we could achieve that same partnership. Through open communication and respect, we have accomplished so much and we have so much more to do. From very early on, he shared his wealth of knowledge with me and today, we practically finish each other’s sentences.
With new technology, new media, and generational changes, we’re constantly adapting and evolving. My primary focus now is one I learned from Stephann, to share our experience and knowledge with all of our Cotton staff members. There have been many who have passed through our doors over the past 40 years, and I think most will tell you they were better prepared for the next phase of their career for having worked at Cotton & Company.
Today’s success requires finding the right balance of taking what you’ve learned in the past, applying it to the data and metrics in live time, and taking advantage of new technologies in innovative ways. Together, we will continue to deliver results for our clients.
Laurie Andrews, Stephann Cotton
O. Franklin Wolfe has visited our office several times in the last year. The masterful marketer who began my career is now tapping into my experience for his project in middle Tennessee. As we work together on his new project, I’m transported back to where it all began. Thank you to each and every one of you who has played a role in my journey. The future is bright, and I am energized for the new adventures waiting just around the next corner.