Trust your gut. I’ll say every time…. I cannot tell you how many times I went against my own intuition and got myself in hot water. Listen to your instincts and allow that to lead you. Having the confidence and the desire to follow through will be much easier once you feel aligned and at peace with the decision you’ve made.
Asa part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Williams Johnson, CEO of Carli Communications LLC.
Known simply as Carli, she is extremely passionate about helping others and giving back, volunteering her time and skills wherever she can. When she’s not working, she can usually be found in the company of her adult daughter and infant son in the beautiful Caribbean twin island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
Ijust 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 how absolutely brilliant one must be to convince 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. It was there 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 was so much brainstorming and creativity that went into a single campaign and, working in media, I had the single most important job of getting that creativity out to the right people. Plus I noticed that the more innovative the approach, the more of an impact the campaign made, which resulted in increased sales.
Fast forward, 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 saw regularly that really 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.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Well I plan on taking the world by storm.
Seriously, with the current pandemic and literally everything else going on in the world, I am really 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 who 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 as well as 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 definitely 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 as possible promote themselves in the right way to the right people and to make their lives better.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
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 see people selling all different aspects of marketing, whether it be Instagram tips, LinkedIn selling, copywriting, branding whatever……and all these things are great but what is the benefit to the recipient if they have no idea how to use it effectively or do not need it right now in their business. I like to look at marketing as a whole puzzle and advise persons what are 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.
There are too many people out here looking to see how fast they can make a sale; driven by money instead of the desire of helping others. What sets me and my company apart is that I am the exact opposite. I believe the sale will come if my focus is giving value and helping others succeed.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
I think we all as business owners have been put down or told that we wouldn’t make it at some point in our journey. What sets apart the successful entrepreneurs from the rest is what we do with that information.
When I first started on my journey, I was outright old my numerous people that I should
- Forget my ‘stupid business venture’ because no one would take me seriously anyway
- Why even bother, the industry is dominated by a certain type (aka white males)
- Get someone ‘lighter skinned’ to be the face of my company if I’m ever going to succeed.
To get specific, I remember this one time that I was working with a group of entrepreneurs to produce what was supposed to be an event that would take all our businesses ‘to the next level’. The speaker of the event who happened to be a business coach started making demands of us which initially were fine but when she insisted that she AND HER HUSBAND (who was not a speaker but his expenses to attend the event needed to be paid as well) needed to be featured prominently to the top of the landing page, I pushed back. I stated that firstly, we compromised to place her at the top of the page granted she was not as well known to our target, and it was not her event but that she was a guest but I was totally against her husband being up there when he’s not even a featured speaker. Her response was a condescending “Well if you want to have a sold out event, you’ll need to have someone white featured………it’s just how things are……if you want to make it and be successful.” Then she added “I’m just telling you what worked for me…you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to…but this is what made me successful so if you want to sell tickets you should do it. ”
So basically, the color of my skin was directly related to my success or failure rather? What’s worse there were others who agreed with her……like this is some kind of unspoken rule that just needed to be accepted.
Well I washed my hands of that event, needless to say it never materialized, but I was determined to prove that the very thing people said would cause me to fail would be the very thing that will make me succeed!
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂
Well…. as I say to all my clients when they’re feeling anxious and nervous…….I channeled my inner Carli!
I got to work making connections, being brave and putting myself out there.
No more being timid or nervous about it.
I showed up anyway…. and the most amazing thing happened….the very thing that was supposed to support my failure as a business owner was the very things that propelled me forward. People loved my Trinidadian accent, my Caribbean life and did not see my skin color as negative. As a matter of fact, they wanted to know more about me, my business and my exotic life. Some people even commented on how smooth my skin looked.
Business began to soar and before long I was making regional and international connections, being mentioned in Forbes, BuzzFeed Huffington Post & Thrive Global, and of course, making money helping my clients. I’ve been asked to appear on television, featured on radio and in the press.
I’ve even been named one of the 99 Limit Breaking Female Founders, one of the top Marketers to follow for 2020 and recently nominated for the Media Innovator Awards 2020.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t supposed to make it.
Sometimes I think about what if I had listened…..what if I allowed these people and this one ‘so called’ business coach to derail my greatness?
I would have missed out on sooooo much but I want anyone who’s reading to know that you must silence these people and dare to dream and achieve those dreams in spite of what anyone says. There are people out there who need you.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people who have helped me in so many ways, but I would have to say my best friend who has been cheering me on from day one! Odessa Laulys has been by my side and is literally my rock and really, she’s more than a friend, she’s my big sister. She’s been there for everything in business and in life and I have no idea what I would do without her.
Another person I must shout out is my good friend Marlena Cole. She’s a Relationship Coach and she actually reached out to me because she knew I could help her build her business. Little did we know at the time that such a close friendship would emerge. She saw in me what I was so afraid to see in myself and truly gave me the confidence to step out and do what I’m good at.
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
I’ve been pretty lucky to have a family and friends that believed in me from a young age. I think my earliest memory of resilience would have been when I started in corporate. The story that stands out to me is I was working an 8–4 job and was unhappy with where I was to the point of being physically ill, and under-appreciated at my job. I had since graduated to managerial position but I was just so miserable, particularly by the way I was treated.
One morning I was called in by the Human Resources Manager who informed me that my job was now redundant. So here I am after sacrificing to stay in a job I hated only to be told that I was no longer needed. But you know what…….it was the BEST news ever!! I felt as if a weight was lifted off my shoulders and was happier than I had ever been in a long time.
When I arrived at my next phase in life, I was a young single mother, with no job, no plan of action, no money, and no clue what to do. I was a bit scared, but a lot determined that I needed to get focused. I fell back on what I was good at and what had always made the companies I worked for successful. I started to meet people, expand my horizons, and make valuable connections.
Sometimes I made no money at all, sometimes I made just enough to cover my bills and there were days I cried long tears and almost lost it because I knew I was working hard.
This was the turning point for me, after all a marketer should be able to market her own business, right? I dusted myself off and took the rest of the year to plan my strategy and fall back into my marketing roots. I had to remember that people paid me to get them out of the rut I seemed to be in.
I revisited my strategy and in six weeks I was able to land a client who, without hesitation, paid me five figures.
Not only that, I was getting numerous calls for interviews and to be featured in local and international publications. Clients were calling, I was getting referred left, right and center and I created and sold my first online program.
I let go of all the fear, self-doubt, and less-than-stellar results of my first year as an entrepreneur, rose to the occasion and trusted in the Universe’s plan; but even deeper still; I wanted to prove others that I could do it!!…….AND I DID 🙂
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Ignore aka press the mute button. Seems hard at first but after a while it becomes much easier because you can spot the BS a mile away. There will be the ones who say you can’t do it to your face; there are are the ones who will wish you bad behind your back and still there will the ones who you thought would be there for you that will just disappear……..in spite of it all you just have to keep going, keep moving and understand that they are the problem. They are wishing that they could do what you are doing and that’s their burden, not yours. Silence them in your mind and keep moving forward.
- Community is key. Find a community of like-minded and ambitious persons to lean on when it all gets too much. Persons you can bounce ideas off of or can just give you that motivation to push through. Sometimes when I’m feeling stuck or depressed, I hop on a call with one of my business besties and I feel fully recharged. Having a community of people who have your back will ensure that none of that negativity even gets a chance to affect you….your people will keep you going.
- Believe in yourself and forget what others may or may not say. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t know what you were talking about so think of yourself as the master of your industry and run with that feeling. You have what it takes to succeed; you absolutely have to believe that.
- Trust your gut. I’ll say every time…. I cannot tell you how many times I went against my own intuition and got myself in hot water. Listen to your instincts and allow that to lead you. Having the confidence and the desire to follow through will be much easier once you feel aligned and at peace with the decision you’ve made.
- Protect the asset. Negativity multiplies and you are the most powerful ingredient in your business and in your life and you’ve got to protect your mind. It will be harder for negative views to penetrate if you keep a positive space. Consider reducing contact with persons who are negative in general. That can look like unfriending and unfollowing persons on social media who spread negativity or generally makes you feel down or depressed; unsubscribing from mailing lists and reducing verbal conversations. Also consider cutting down the amount of news you consume daily. Replace with positive habits such as mediating and exercise. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much harder it would be for anyone to even try to put you in a bad mood.
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
My absolute quote is from Maya Angelou
“I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I do better.”
I live my life by this because it reminds me to never stop learning, growing and improving.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I honestly feel that men are ‘groomed’ (for lack of a better word) a particular way and therefore they are ‘expected’ to act and react in situations that can be really unhealthy for them and the people around them. Society still expects them to be a certain way which is counterproductive to how the world is progressing. If I could I would create a movement to address this because while women are becoming empowered, men are still being held to the same outdated stereotypes with their worth measured by an old-fashioned value system. I think helping these men unlearn some of the traits they were exposed to can truly help the world become a better, less violent place.
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Everyone is invited to ‘Keep up with Carli’ on social media:
Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!