Laura Waldock is a born competitor, horse-lover, and salesperson
You never know who you’ll bump – or crash – into.
So it was with 15-year-old Laura Waldock who, while rollerblading, crashed – literally – into a horse farm not more than a mile from her home in Sylvania, Ohio, just west of Toledo.
“I was legitimately horse crazy,” says Waldock, a territory manager for Henry Schein Animal Health, covering central and eastern Kentucky. “It is safe to say my desire for being around horses was pent up my entire adolescence.”
So, after the collision, Waldock skated home, got out the phone book and called up the person at the farm. “I asked her if she had any horses for sale, and she said, ‘Why don’t you come over here and we can chat?’ She took one look at me and could see I didn’t know what I was doing, so she asked me if I wanted to take a lesson.” That person – Margie Mason – turned out to be Waldock’s “fairy horse mother.”
“She took me under her wing when I crashed into her farm at 15, and she really helped facilitate my horse craziness.”
Horses run in the family. Waldock’s father, Tim, grew up on a farm in Sandusky, Ohio. He and his sister, Sue, each had their own pony until their property was rezoned. (That said, her mother, Mary Jo, grew up in a household of eight in the greater metropolitan area of Toledo. “I think my grandma would have completely lost her mind if animals had been added to the mix.”)
Something else runs in the family – sales. “My Grandpa Waldock was a wildly successful meat salesman in northwest Ohio, and is quite possibly where my drive for sales originated,” she says. “He knew no stranger, and I tend to take after him in that regard.”
Waldock started her college education at Michigan State, where she double-majored in animal science with an equine focus, and pre-veterinary studies. But she received some career-altering advice from her advisor. “He said, ‘You love Saddlebreds; go to Kentucky,” she recalls. “It was as simple as that.” So she resumed her college studies at the University of Kentucky’s Gatton School of Business. She arranged her schedule so she could work in the morning – breaking horses – and take classes in the afternoon and evening.
Always a fierce competitor in sports, Waldock ran the ski club at UK. “I truly believed I would end up in Wyoming or Colorado breaking babies or running a dude ranch and teaching snowboarding lessons in the winter,” she says. So, after graduation in 2008, she moved to Wyoming to try to make that dream work. Eight months later, the stock market crashed; so did her plans.
“With a little encouragement from my family, I landed back in Lexington and aimed at landing a sports marketing job.” Instead, she got a contract job with the American Saddlebred Horse Association selling ads for its stud book. “I was really good at it,” she says. “Every sale was like a win.” Not a surprising point of view, given her love of sports.
About a year after returning to Kentucky, Waldock visited with Mary Grace Rutland, ethical territory manager for Neogen Corp. “I believed there could not possibly be another career move more up my alley, so I had to go for it,” she says. Following a couple of years at Neogen, she took a job with PSPC, maker of Phycox supplements, for whom she helped launch the equine product. In October 2014, she joined Henry Schein Animal Health.
“I had a hunch that I would like distribution, but I had no idea just how fond of it I would become,” she says.
“My first job in manufacturing consisted of more or less establishing a new territory,” Waldock recalls. “Literally, ‘Here is your territory – figure it out.’” She loved the challenge, cold-calling and managing seven states in the Southwest from Lexington. “I really enjoyed the travel and meeting new faces. Some of my best friends in the industry were generated in those first few years, when I was just trying to figure out what I was doing in the first place.”
But working as a distributor rep opened up more possibilities, challenges … and relationships.
“Nowadays I visit with my customers anywhere from every two weeks to once a month,” she says. “I have an opportunity to truly get to know their likes and dislikes, their habits, and their shenanigans.”
Waldock says she has been fortunate to have wonderful coaches in sports throughout her childhood. But “my favorite coach has to be my ‘fairy horse mother,’ Margie Mason,” she says.
It was Mason who walked her through the grunt work of caring for and showing a horse. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” says Waldock, who credits Mason with helping her gain confidence around horses. Mason was a practical, common-sense coach, who taught her the importance of caring for her tack, among other things.
“Horses obviously have a different way of communicating, and if you don’t listen to the small talk, you can land yourself in trouble,” continues Waldock. “[Mason] taught me to be on my toes and how to be more proactive than reactive. She really found a way to drive that home.
“There are too many situations in my life that those principles have been applied that saved me from harm’s way. I strive to apply that to my work similarly to how she taught me about horses: Always be one step ahead, assess the situation, figure it out.
“It is hard to put into words just how large of an impact she has made on my life.”
The challenge of sales
Waldock is grateful for the opportunity to combine the competitive challenge of sales, the ability to form relationships with accounts and manufacturers, and, of course, horses.
“I get to work with the best sales team there is, and I can apply what I learn to my own fur family,” she says. (She and her boyfriend, Nick, care for two dogs and two horses – Belle and Ruby.) “I also feel fortunate that my customers and my colleagues feel like family. We are in an industry that is constantly evolving. My customers are always striving to practice best medicine, and I feel like the companies we work with genuinely care about bringing their best to the table.”
What keeps things interesting is the challenges she faces every day.
“It’s sales.” she says. “There’s always a new threat or new product you’re trying to learn about as fast as possible … or what seems like endless emails to read in your inbox every day. I just try to stay ahead of the game and do the best I can every day.
“Some days go better than others. If I fall short, I adapt and figure out how to be better prepared the next time I’m around.”
Over the past couple of years, Waldock has gotten active in sand volleyball. “We have an awesome volleyball family in Lexington that I’ve grown pretty fond of, and we get together most nights of the week,” she says. “I am still pretty passionate about snowboarding, so I make a point to head West every winter.
“Recently, we have become enthralled with the Canadian Rockies, so that’s our go-to mountain spot for the time being.”