Have Fun, Make Money

Alcorn McBride’s Loren Barrows on Creating a Fulfilling Workplace

Quick Bio

Name: Loren Barrows
Position: COO
Company: Alcorn McBride
Overtime: Barrows is an Eastern Division board member for the Themed Entertainment Association and a former board member of Thrive, a community non-profit organization with a mission to empowering teens to succeed. She and her husband and their two teenage children teens share the same hobby—they’re avid CrossFitters.

SCN: How did your early interest in marketing help to launch your career in the industry?

Loren Barrows: I grew up in Rhode Island, in a family of entrepreneurs, and I’ve always had that interest in marketing and that led to my interest in personal development. Marketing taps into the interests of people, moving them to make purchasing decisions if you can find the right buttons to motivate them. What I do is to tap into helping people and companies succeed.

I earned my degree in business and marketing at Babson College and started in the business world in customer service roles, then moved into sales. I enjoy solving problems, so this was natural path for me. I was a call center supervisor at Time Warner Cable in the Boston area and that job introduced me to the world of personal development and training. I attended as many classes as they offered, and that inspired me to want to become someone who helps others grow and be successful in their careers.

After we moved to the Washington, D.C., area, I received an opportunity to lead a customer service team in a technical field for TEXEL (now part of AVI-SPL), an integrator that designed and installed structured cable systems in commercial buildings. That allowed me to grow as a manager and to learn about technology. I would have never thought I’d dig into that as much as I did! This was the role that sparked my interest in the “behind-the-scenes technology that makes other things work.” I moved into a sales role and found it incredibly rewarding to establish customer relationships and deliver them solid solutions to their problems.

SCN: What was your most unusual path to Alcorn McBride?

LB: After Sept. 11, we decided to move from the D.C. area. I’ve always loved theme parks, so we chose Orlando as our new home.

In Florida, I stumbled across a chance to become a professional speaker/trainer in the Orlando market for Freedom Personal Development, and it transformed me. It took what I learned at Time Warner Cable to the next level and ignited in me the desire to learn about even more tools to help people and companies succeed.

Then I discovered an open account manager position at Alcorn McBride—an opportunity where I could help people, return to a technical field, and work with theme parks. Yes, please! Once I had read everything I could about the company I knew it was a perfect fit for me.

I followed the usual channels and sent my resume in, but it went unanswered. I remembered reading about Steve Alcorn’s hobby of collecting bottles of hot sauce so I sent him a bottle of hot sauce with a custom label with my picture and the tagline “Mostly sweet with the right amount of heat,” and included a personal note. Steve invited me in and offered me an opportunity. It’s been more than eight years and I am in the most fulfilling role of my career. I truly cherish everything about this company and the people who make it work.

SCN: What drives and motivates you?

LB: I like this quote by the author Simon Sinek, which is posted on my office wall: “It feels nice to be inspired. It feels amazing to be inspired by our work. This idea is core to the vision I imagine: to build a world in which the vast majority of us wake up every single morning inspired to go to work, feel safe when we’re there, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day. Building this world will not be easy, nor will it happen in a year or two. But if we commit to working together, to each do our part to help advance a shared vision, we can build this world we imagine.”

That’s why I get up every day: to create this for our team. I know that when we’re inspired by our work, we’ve tapped into our passion. It doesn’t need to be a “save the world” passion. To be inspired and fulfilled people need to find their “thing.”

SCN: Alcorn McBride holds such a special niche in the industry. What makes it tick?

LB: Steve’s mission statement for Alcorn McBride is “have fun, make money.” That short phrase is the essence of Steve and what has made us so successful. He empowers his team and squashes any notion of corporate. This leaves us free to act on ideas and learn from the success and failures of each other. His leadership style attracts people who are doers—those just needing direction, not directions—and we work together to get things done. His kindness and generosity to his employees naturally creates a warm and friendly environment and because of that we have become a family. And there isn’t a day that goes by without laughter over someone’s silliness. Our niche, developing audio, video, and control products for themed entertainment is in a market with unique demands, and our team is the only group special enough to meet them.

SCN: What do you see as the biggest challenge this year?

LB: Keeping up with demand! We are booming along with the other partners in our industry. From an operational standpoint, our biggest challenge is in meeting production demands. We’ve stepped everything up. I kick off every year with a mission for the team: this year’s is “dialing it in.” We do so much right now, and are working smarter and more efficiently than ever. Now is the time to make the most of this boom. We’re seeking additional partners who share the belief that nothing is more important than high quality and reliability.

The themed entertainment industry has a huge reach, but when you drill down to our world of AV and control systems, you see that the number of people handling all of this is surprisingly small. It’s the same core of talent doing such grand projects.