Employee Spotlight: Neuro-ID COO Courtney Laabs & Lessons from Broccoli Soup

Employee Spotlight: Neuro-ID COO Courtney Laabs & Lessons from Broccoli Soup

Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In honor of the day—which falls during Women’s History Month—we’ll be profiling some of the high-achieving women of Neuro-ID! First up is Courtney Laabs: COO, mother, triathlete, and entrepreneur extraordinaire.

Courtney Laabs, COO of Neuro-ID, learned an important business lesson from broccoli soup. “I’ll never forget that soup,” she says, talking about her first ever business venture as half of C-Squared, a catering start-up run by 13-year-old Courtney and her 15-year-old sister. “We burned the bottom of the pot. And anytime you burn the bottom of the pot, the whole soup burns, so we had to throw it all out.” The sisters pivoted to cream of mushroom, and the four-course meal they were catering for their mom’s surprise 40th birthday was a hit—but the lesson learned on the importance of balancing priorities extended far beyond her childhood kitchen. “Women especially have to prioritize, because it’s tempting to just try to be everything to everyone. Time is every human’s greatest asset and we all have to learn where to invest our attention wisely.”

Creating from the Ground Up

Time is a precious commodity—but timing sometimes is a comedian, especially in the start-up world. “I was 5 months pregnant with my first daughter and I had just told my husband ‘I think I’m going to take a little time off from my career to focus on being a mom,’ when Jack gave me a call,” says Courtney. “I was his first call because he needed an operator to help him build the Neuro-ID business from ground zero. I have always wanted to work with Jack and this was an opportunity and a technology that I could not say no to. Next thing I knew, I was building forecasts from my baby moon, putting together investor packages while on pregnancy bed rest in the hospital, and taking board meetings 6-days postpartum. When you’re in that early stage, there’s really no stopping!”

Non-stop is a familiar pace for Courtney. Growing up, she had been inspired by watching her father work as an entrepreneur, and now she was playing that same role for her growing family. By the time Neuro-ID came along she had already started two successful businesses of her own (three, if you count C-Squared) and consulted numerous others to success. “I love creating something from scratch,” says Courtney. “That’s always been my passion: the creation phase and building out an idea with a great team of people.”

Taking the “Great Team of People” Approach to Neuro-ID

Courtney—a 12-time-lettering athlete in high school, a Division I field hockey player in college, and a high-performing triathlete—knows first hand the importance of having a team mentality: “That passion to win together and lose together and leave it all on the field is in my blood.” Her first role at Neuro-ID was as both customer success manager and COO, so she looked through both sides of the business lens to see how internal operations were impacting customers and strove to use one knowledge-set to inform the other. “In running the operations at Neuro-ID, I’ve always focused on bringing together great people who want to create an impact while working really, really hard for a common goal. Stages of hyper-growth can go in all sorts of directions, and it’s very tempting to follow every path. I always want to make sure we’re working smarter, not just harder.”

Creating a Community of Supportive Women

Courtney’s first female role mentors modeled that importance of working hard while staying passionate and focused. “Beth Zapitello and Sue Levin were my first mentors at Lucy Activewear. They always had such vision, and their passion for creating and leading teams was so awesome.” While Courtney had women leaders to look up to, she also found inspiration from her peers. “Kyrsten Musich and Kim Hudson were two fellow MBAs in my program at Duke who I very much look up to,” she says. “They’re still my confidantes when I need to get the ship on the right course again.”

As Courtney continues to lead at Neuro-ID, she keeps the broccoli soup lesson of staying attentive to everything cooking. “It’s all about balance. Especially as women in the workforce, there’s an internal drive to do everything all at once. You have to truly find time for yourself and make sure your glass stays full so you can connect with your work, family, and friends without sacrificing yourself. And trust me, I am still very much a work in progress here.” But every soup tastes better when shared with good people, and that’s what Courtney says truly matters—in friendships, mentorships, and colleagues. “I always look up to women leaders, but I also think we as women need to have confidantes at every level. It’s important for people to celebrate and collaborate at every title and role, and to talk openly about the struggles of being a woman in the workforce. There’s so much we offer each other in the community,” she says. “Women shouldn’t be held back by anything, and supporting each other definitely shouldn’t be held back by title.”

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