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Heather L. Morgan: Take a Hike

Heather Morgan © 2018 TALIA KITE PHOTO, taliakitephoto.com

Heather L. Morgan is a national strategic account manager with Ritchie Bros. in Denver. In that role, she travels throughout the United States meeting with clients and referral sources, attending her company’s auctions, and participating in various conferences. Before joining Ritchie Bros., Morgan was with Wells Fargo in Southern California, where she was a business development officer in commercial lending. An active member of the TMA Rocky Mountain Chapter, Morgan is co-chair of the chapter’s TMA NOW group.

Q: How did you gravitate into the turnaround/restructuring world?

Morgan: It wasn’t even on my radar when the opportunity to join Ritchie Bros. presented itself. My present boss, Zac Dalton, was looking to fill a position on his team and reached out to a mutual contact of ours looking for references. Through our talks, I realized the culture was a good fit, and the industry appeared to be both stimulating from a growth standpoint and professional development, as well as intriguing. It wasn’t a field I was necessarily familiar with. So, even though I wasn’t necessarily looking for it, the venture has brought great fulfillment I didn’t even know I was missing in my previous job.

Q: You were with Wells Fargo before, correct?

Morgan: I was with Wells Fargo for almost 13 years.

Q: What have been some of the most important or gratifying deals that you’ve been involved with?

Morgan: For me, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint my favorite or most important engagement or event or activity with Ritchie Bros. All in all, I really enjoy the process of having a deal come together. There’s a lot involved from beginning to end to make that happen, from finding and winning an opportunity to working with my team and contacts throughout the process to finally selling the package.

I think the best part for me is that I’m not confined to my desk or office, and every day is different. I still get to put on my steel-toed boots and, going back to my roots, get dirty in the yard. It’s all really exciting.

What is equally gratifying is my recent role as co-chair for the TMA Network of Women for the Rocky Mountain Chapter. It’s been one of my proudest moments. I think women are keenly aware that they are outnumbered by men in this industry at every conference, every meeting, and every happy hour, and I have the privilege of growing the female membership and the ability to help facilitate interactions with powerhouse professionals who just so happen to be women.

For our March 2018 TMA NOW launch for the Rocky Mountain Chapter, we had 40 women in attendance. Great relationships were fostered, and there was a ton of excitement built up and leading up to our next event. My co-chair, Anne O’Donnell (r2 advisors llc), and I are really looking forward to it.

Q: How did you two end up in those roles?

Morgan: Anne and I met at a TMA event when we were both starting our careers at our respective companies. That became not just a professional relationship but also a personal relationship. She and I became really good friends, to the point where we get together a couple of times a week. She and I brainstorm a lot and talk a lot of business, and we’re each other’s sounding board. So the opportunity presented itself to relaunch the Network of Women in the Rocky Mountain Chapter, and we were ready to take that on. Anne and I wanted to emulate our relationship and lobbied to co-chair together.

On a global level, I think there’s been a lot of traction for TMA NOW in other chapters, such as Chicago and New York. I think they’re really trying to bring that full circle in every chapter across the U.S. It’s been successful in other areas, and we’re trying to make it grow here.

Q: Maybe it was just a little ahead of its time to begin with at the Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Morgan: At the time, it didn’t gain a lot of traction for whatever reason. The Rocky Mountain Chapter had successfully launched a strong TMA NextGen group and won the TMA Operational Excellence (Mid-Size) Award in 2017 for its great initiatives. It was time to relaunch TMA NOW.

Anne and I took very much a different approach to it. We met with a majority of the launch attendees before the event so we could learn more about them as individuals and as professionals, and discover who they’re looking to meet and offer any sort of introductions.

 

Heather Morgan © 2018 TALIA KITE PHOTO, taliakitephoto.com

 

I think what’s really great about it is the people who have been involved in the Rocky Mountain Chapter, both men and women, have been so incredibly supportive, rallying to help us with introductions for potential attendees, offering introductions for people who were coming from out of town to attend our launch to make it worth their travel. It’s been a great experience and very gratifying just to watch it all come together.

Q: When you joined TMA in 2016, you jumped in with both feet. You’ve been very active, attending events and now getting involved with TMA NOW. It sounds like you might have been pretty involved in TMA NextGen as well. Was that a strategy on your part, or is it just the nature of your personality to jump right in? Not everyone gets off to as fast a start when they join as you have.

Morgan: I think it’s for a variety of reasons. A lot of it is my personality. I like to jump in with both feet, to hit the ground running. Coming from a different industry, I wanted to learn and grow as fast as I possibly could. It’s my personality in that sense, but when I joined Ritchie Brothers in August 2016, TMA was the first association I was told I needed to get onboard with, so therefore I attended my first meeting here in the Rocky Mountain Chapter and started meeting people through that interaction. Part of that was getting my name out there, branding and introducing Ritchie Brothers to other people. We have a couple of members on my team who also are very much involved in TMA.

Q: Have you gotten the results out of your membership that you had hoped for?

Morgan: Absolutely. I have met some amazing people nationwide. The most remarkable thing about TMA that stood out to me when I first joined was that everybody in that room presents an opportunity, whether you can work with them directly or they can provide an introduction to somebody who maybe has an opportunity that you’re chasing after. Everybody’s an opportunity. In my previous career, I didn’t see that with organizations or associations that offered networking events.

I feel like TMA has a very specific focus, and it’s wonderful to be part of it. Some people have become friends of mine. Some people have become professional contacts. I like to make the most of every moment, and whatever that looks like, I’m onboard.

Q: What advice would you have for someone who was new to the industry or was looking to get involved in the industry?

Morgan: I would say that for anybody who’s new, meet people and use your resources. There’s no better way to get involved than jumping right in, introducing yourself to others, and finding people you can connect with.

Networking is my strong suit, as it is for many members of TMA. So jumping right in and sustaining a level of involvement will help build and sustain relationships that can have an influence on you professionally as well as personally. For anybody who is considering a career switch, then do it. If you’re hesitant or if you’re strongly considering getting into the industry, come to an event. Ask questions. There’s no better way to find whether that’s the right path for you than just doing it.

That’s one of the things I’ve heard before, that people are very open to telling others about the industry. They’re very open and helpful to somebody who’s just curious.

It’s funny, because I think a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the industry look at restructuring as potentially a gloom and doom space when actually it is not. There are a lot of opportunities to help businesses be right-sized and grow and gain traction again. There are a lot of positive things that come out of restructuring. I feel like if you’re coming in and asking questions, TMA members will give you that honest feedback.

Q: If you could start your career over, would you do anything differently?

Morgan: If you ask the people who have known me and my interests for quite some time, they might say I would have been a scientist or a CSI type. I’m kind of a science nerd. But in all seriousness, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m proud of the path I’ve taken. It’s led me to where I feel I’m meant to be now. I really enjoy my role in this community of professionals. It’s a very driven, intelligent, collaborative bunch. I could only wish that perhaps I would have gotten into it sooner.

Q: What are you passionate about when you’re away from the office?

Morgan: I absolutely love life. I’m a very enthusiastic person in general. I have a strong appreciation for adventure mixed with a natural curiosity for all things new. If I haven’t experienced or done it, I want to see what it looks like, I want to see how it works, and I want to be a part of it.

I love to experience life. I’m grateful for every breath I take, and if that breath is taken while hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, then so much the better, or while mushing on a glacier in Alaska. I’ve done that as well. My next adventure happens to be this week. I’m heading to Zion National Park in Utah for a hiking and camping trip.

Q: What have been some of your most unusual adventures?

Morgan: I have an unusual one coming up in August. I’m not sure “unusual” is the right word, but I can name a couple that stand out to me. One was a trip I took to the Grand Canyon last year, where we hiked down 10 miles to Havasupai Falls. It’s a tribal community. You hike through there and backpack in with all of your gear.

I’d never actually backpacked gear in before. I typically go to a campsite and set up a tent, and then we take hikes from there. So that was really different for me. We set up camp and then hiked down to waterfalls, and you’re scaling the wall, the cliff, to get to the waterfall. I’m terrified of heights, but it’s beautiful and amazing. It was an achievement of mine. Then you hike down further to another set of waterfalls, and the terrain that you’re going through is beautiful. It’s probably been one of my favorite trips.

If we’re looking specifically for unusual, the mushing in Alaska on a glacier was by far the most different, the most incredible, of the trips I’ve done. We were standing on a glacier with basically this whole camp of sled dogs and a musher who took us out on the dogsled. That was the coolest thing ever—such a great experience.

Q: What’s the adventure coming up in August?

Morgan: Canoeing down a river in the middle of a canyon in Utah. It’s a small group of us, about nine people. You canoe down this river for 12 to 14 miles and then pull up your canoe and camp on a sandbar. You spend the night and do it all over again the next day. It’s going to be really exciting. I’m really looking forward to it without knowing what to expect.

Q: How tame or not tame is the river you’ll be on?

Morgan: That’s a great question. I have no idea. I think it depends if there’s been rain. I’m sure that’s going to be a big variable as far as the river flow.

Q: What might people who only know you in your professional capacity be most surprised to learn about you?

Morgan: I had a very humble upbringing in a single-parent household where I had to rely on my own instincts and my own self-awareness. Growing up on a farm taught me independence and provided me with a strong work ethic, which has carried throughout my entire career and personal life.

I can still remember my first job. I made $6 a week at the age of 10, taking people on horseback rides through the back country of Julian, California, and looking after the horses. I can’t pinpoint it, but I think around that time is when I discovered a drive in myself. I really wanted the world.

I had a paper route in seventh grade, and I had 56 houses. I would time myself to see how fast I could complete the route. The paper had to land on the porch. I ended up getting my time down to just over four minutes by riding my bike with no hands and throwing newspapers in both directions. That was until I broke my arm doing that, and then I could only throw in one direction. That carried on into high school, where I worked two jobs to pay for all the sports that I played.

To this day, I’m always driving to beat my personal best and exceed expectations.

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