Richard Connor: How the ‘Bella’ connection gave our team a rising star


When applying for a job it helps to own the right dog.

Lauren Vay, about to graduate from TCU in May 2014, had a Jack Russell Terrier. Luckily she mentioned the dog in her interview.

“Bella,” was her dog at home in Austin. Our hearts thumped when we heard about the little pooch.

Our interviewing process here is, well, let’s say it’s somewhat unique and rambling.

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But Lauren had hit the bull’s-eye for making an impression at the Business Press.

Many years before Lauren’s interview, I had bought a Jack Russell Terrier for my oldest daughter. But she lives in New York City and after careful deliberation decided the dog should stay in Texas.

My daughter and I shared a deep admiration for a renowned newspaper editor whose given name was Russell. We named the dog “Russell,” not in honor of the breed but as a tribute to the editor.

On a long list of family dogs, Russell, bred by the family of former Fort Worth veterinarian Dr. Sam Adams, is still at the top. Among his favorite pastimes was watching TV and smiling. He never met a big animal he could not subdue.

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Lauren Vay was hired at the Business Press and she can thank Russell and Bella for the job. Aside from passing the pet test, she also impressed us by saying she would have to discuss any job offer with her parents before accepting. That alone showed a level of respect and thoughtfulness we do not often see in young job seekers, or even older applicants.

When she came to work, her assignment was to help grow the newspaper’s readership and circulation. It was a big job and except for internships at Chesapeake Energy and Jacobs Engineering, she had virtually no experience,

Her major was marketing with a minor in energy and technology management. At one point during her early days at the Business Press, she found herself handling the redesign of our website and online products.

Her initial job was so big that within a short time we gave her another one. When an employee working on our events suddenly departed with a major event only days away, I informed Lauren that she would be taking on the daunting responsibility of coordinating one of our largest and most important events.

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She calmly jumped in and deftly handled more than 200 dinner guests and an intricate program with aplomb. She has held those two jobs and at least three or four more ever since.

This month, she was named vice president of marketing. She is 24 years old.

Paul Harral, editor of our CEO magazine, has been in the newspaper business since shortly after Gutenberg invented the printing press – or thereabouts. A long time, anyway. Harral, who has a habit of walking around our office looking puzzled, frequently takes note of Lauren’s professional demeanor and relentless efficiency and wonders why she is not running the whole place.

She is; we just haven’t told her yet.

We are small business at its best and often at its most challenging. There is a constant scramble. Deadlines define us and we love to push them to the limit. It’s just in our blood.

Lauren is diligent, organized, and always on time if not a step or two ahead of deadlines. Each night when she leaves the office her desktop has only the most elementary tools on it. Neat. Everything in its place. Straight lines. Collectively, as a group, our lines are blurred.

Business Press Editor Bob Francis sits behind a desk piled so high with old newspapers, photographs, magazines and once-urgent memos we can barely see the top of his head as he works.

Lauren tolerates us and makes us better.

She laughs at virtually everything I say and convulses when I ask for my missing car and office keys on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis.

I try not to take it personally.

Many times, Lauren is just about the only adult in the place. She brings a sense of calm, keeping her head when the rest of us are losing ours. She asks thoughtful, insightful questions that help us solve problems in a reasonable manner.

At a time when older generations are prone to mocking millennials and fearing for the future of the world they will soon inherit, Lauren Vay is a millennial who commands respect and offers hope.

We can thank Bella for that.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at

(Lauren Vay has been named the Fort Worth Business Press’ vice president of marketing. Read the story here.)