Founders Interview: Real Business Techniques with Carla Williams Johnson

July 9, 2020

By: Richard Lau

Founders Interview: Real Business Techniques with Carla Williams Johnson

Tell us about yourself and how your journey brought you to where you are now.

I just always knew that I wanted to get into the field. I think I was the only person in the world who would get excited when commercials would come on during a program or rush to get the latest magazine to see all the creative ways print ads were displayed. Even at a young age, I was always in awe of creative executions and brilliantly convincing someone to purchase from just a few words and an image.

As time went on, my passion grew, and it landed me to work with some of the most prestigious advertising companies with global brands. I learned that there was so much that went into the final product, and I was finally part of the strategic process.

I realized that there were so much brainstorming and creativity that went into a single campaign. Working in media, I had the most critical job of getting that creativity out to the right people. Plus, I noticed that the more innovative the approach, the more impact the campaign made, which resulted in increased sales.

Now I have my own company where I help entrepreneurs and business owners increase their visibility through the creative and strategic uses of media.

In my years, the one thing I regularly saw that upset me was businessmen and women being ill-advised by greedy coaches and consultants looking to make a quick buck. These 'so-called' gurus would use the client's lack of knowledge against them to sell them a product or service that made no sense and gave absolutely no returns on investment. That's when my business was born.

I feel like a superhero sometimes, to be honest. Like I'm saving the day (and the dollar) of people who are in danger of wasting their money. On the surface, I help clients with promoting their business, but what I do is assist my people with finding the best and quickest ways to truly connect with their ideal clients so that they can serve them and, of course, make some money in the process.

Was there someone or something that inspired you?

I'm inspired by the men and women who choose to put themselves out there every single day; The ones who have and continue to get creative with their ideas and their executions because they're not afraid to stand out from the crowd; The ones who chose this roller coaster ride called entrepreneurship and as scary as the highs and lows might seem, it's the thrill and the excitement that keeps them wanting more.

As an entrepreneur myself, there were a few hurdles I had to cross to get me to where I am today (and honestly, I'm still learning), but seeing other people out there doing what they do inspires me to keep going.

How did you create your brand name and logo?

The name of my business is really in homage to my dad. I was close to him and the only girl; I was a bonafide 'daddy's girl.' 'Carli' was his name for me growing up. He passed away in 2010. As for my logo, I remember concluding that my online look didn't match my brand's personality. My website, my social media were all over the place and did not convey the message of who I was and what my brand was about. I decided to invest in a Brand Stylist, and that was the best thing that I could have done. She tied everything together, gave my brand credibility, and helped me be more attractive to my ideal clients.

How did you go about establishing your marketing?

What works well for me is that I logically observe what others do, especially the thought leaders in my industry. I study their strategies, how they interact with their customers and their execution techniques to understand why people purchase. I ask myself: Can I utilize what they're doing in my business? Are they leaving gaps in their service that I can now capitalize on? Can I improve a product or service I already have, or do I create something new? Maybe a collaboration in the future if we share the same clients? I pay attention to what they're doing and use that information to help me grow my business. I also firmly believe in a marketing mix of both online and offline to grow a brand. In addition to social media and online advertising, I've been utilizing public relations and sponsorship opportunities to build my brand, which has been working very well.

What is your work structure like, and what does the average workday look like for you?

Things have changed drastically since the pandemic. Although I am accustomed to working from home, now my children are home….. it's a lot. I have a 20-year-old daughter university student, and I have a two-year-old son so that things can be quite hectic. To cope, I've made it a ritual to meditate every morning before I do anything. I must take those few minutes before the sun is entirely up to breathe, collect my thoughts and set the tone for the day. Then I start my day with a designated time to work. I create a to-do list of the three most important things I have to do in order of priority. I limit social media for two reasons: 1) it's a distraction and 2) I cannot take the negative news, fake news and conspiracy theories....they drive me nuts and depletes my energy levels.

Then, as the evening wears on, I may just relax. If I feel super sad, depressed or angry, I'll reach out to a friend to chat. It's a work in progress but so far so good. What philosophies do you integrate into your workflow most often, and what view inspires you in your work? A colleague said to me: "I see everyone selling different things, but I always consider you to be a true marketer because you're the one who puts it all together." That pretty much sums it all up honestly. I like to look at marketing as a whole puzzle and advise persons what the specific pieces they need to build their brand right now based on what they'd like to accomplish and what's happening in the market right now and if that looks like me recommending them to someone else who can help them achieve those goals then so be it is. There are too many people out here looking to see how fast they can make a sale, driven by money instead of the desire to help others, and that's what sets me apart.....I always put the client first, no matter what.

What do you think you do that drives your success?

I silence all the negative....even the ones in my head. I think all as business owners have been put down or told that they wouldn't make it at some point in our journey. What sets apart the successful entrepreneurs like myself from the rest is what we do with that information. I mean I've been told I was dumb and that I should forget my 'stupid business venture,' I've been told that I'm in over my head because my industry is typically dominated by 'white males' I've even told myself that no one would also take me seriously being from a small Caribbean country. But I had to silence them all......even the voices in my head that kept me from my greatness, and thankfully I did.

How do you engage with your clients and build your following?

I treat everyone like family. My community and clients are all part of my extended family, so I make sure to be always there for them, especially now during this pandemic. I stand by my words that 'we're all in this together,' and when they succeed, I succeed.

How do you use social media, and what recommendations do you have?

For me, it's all about strategy and being intentional with posting. I would recommend that you decide what you are going to do and how long you will do it. Bear in mind you're testing to see what works for you and what resonates with your target. The more you know what DOES NOT work, the more confident you will be implementing what does. Give yourself a time-frame to see if what you've implemented is giving you the results you want, if not, change it! Nothing is set in stone, and plans can change and be modified, but the overall goal can remain the same.

What do you wish you knew before you started? What advice would you give to someone entering your field now?

Expect the Unexpected

That's the nature of the business……just look at the current global pandemic. As a marketer, your job is to alleviate your clients' fears by advising them on their specific next steps. To do so, you must be fully aware of emerging trends or things that can affect the current climate. So take the time to do a bit of research and guide clients to greatness by helping them understand what's happening in the market and how it can affect them. Then show them how they can use it to their advantage or give them specific ways to rise above it.

Is there an event or situation that you can point to that was life-changing for you that you can share with us?

I would say when I was recognized at one of the 99 Limit Breaking Female Founders as compiled by Huffington Post and Thrive Global. This is so significant that I had just stepped out on my own in business and was working so hard to build my brand….but with very little happening, I felt like I was working in vain. Then I got this email to be added to the list, and I felt like people are noticing. Since this honour, I've been featured in Buzzfeed, Forbes and many other prestigious online forums, but that was the starting point.

What are you looking forward to in the next week/month/quarter or year, and what are your aspirations?

Well, I plan on taking the world by storm. Seriously, with the current pandemic and everything else going on in the world, I am focusing on helping others be a bit more strategic with their marketing plans. Building brand awareness and standing out is the name of the game right now because it's the businesses that are seen and heard that'll be the ones that will undoubtedly be remembered. My goal is to show how to use the online space more effectively and encourage business owners to include publicity into their marketing mix to give their brand that extra edge. With everyone moving to the digital arena, getting featured will add credibility to their brand and put them in front of their customers and ahead of the competition. My vision is to help as many business owners promote themselves in the right way to the right people and make their lives better.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I almost had a career as a singer. I met with a producer who was impressed with me and asked me to make minor changes to my diet and invest in vocal training to strengthen my voice. I never did any of that and never went back to meet with him.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Home...I love my country of Trinidad & Tobago!! We have the best food, the best music and the best of everything. We have a mix of races and religion that makes our culture so unique. Our people are incredibly creative, talented, friendly, and love to socialize, the beaches are a paradise with crystal clear waters and are never more than a short drive away. Soca music is life, and the nation comes to life during the Carnival season. Maybe I'm biased, but there is no place in the world like Trinidad & Tobago.

Feeding the mind is essential! Any books to recommend?

Essentialism by Greg McKeown is a must-read for anyone who feels like there aren't enough hours in the day. The author walks you through his four-step framework on focusing only on what's essential to achieve success. Indeed a great book and it has helped me become much more focused and productive.

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