Carla Romaine is the co-founder and chief operating officer of the digital transformation Engagency (www.Engagency.com), named one of the top B2B companies in the world for its services and brand reputation.
Key clients include global investment management firm PIMCO, Interstate Batteries, Alliant, KinderCare, Unum, Legrand, Materion and more. Founders Jason Perry and Romaine bootstrapped the business from a home basement in 2002 to a multi-million dollar venture with employees and outposts in Oregon, Romania, Texas and the Washington, D.C., metro area. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emerson College, Boston, Ma.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Carla Romaine: I’m the chief operating officer at Engagency, a digital transformation agency I co-founded more than 15 years ago. My job is to oversee operations and make sure that we’re profitable and growing. I’ve been in the technology world from the onset of the tech boom of the 1990s and have worn many hats during my career. I’ve been a technical writer, a project manager, a web developer and a database programmer. Like many entrepreneurs, I enjoy being hands-on. Why settle for one job when you can do five, right? Over time, as I began to think about starting my own business, I used those skills as the basis for starting a technology company.
Now for the main focus of this interview: Many readers may wonder what are the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs must overcome to be successful?
Carla Romaine: Not being taken seriously. Women in this society are relegated to certain industries and certain roles. I think many women subconsciously accept this limitation and you see the majority of women who strike out on their own are not in what would be considered the more “serious” fields of finance, technology and medicine.
For me, I grew up with a chip on my shoulder which I still successfully carry around – I would not be beholden to any limitation based on my gender. In fact, it became a point of pride for me to overcome the gender bias and pursue whatever I found interesting for myself. That happened to be technology
How did you overcome these obstacles? Who helped you during these difficult times and how did they?
Carla Romaine: I’m a hard worker, but more than that I am fierce and passionate about what I do. I’m not fearless, but I make myself push through the fear. It’s not easy to be a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry. What it takes to succeed is a focus on being respected rather than being liked and having what it takes to earn that respect. This means going beyond speaking articulately on a subject; it means being competent in something beyond the level most people achieve. It means that when you talk, people listen because they need the information you have and they realize that they can depend on you to get it.
That brings me to dependability – you have to be there when you are needed, all the time, every time. And joyful. You may be surprised to hear me say that, but a genuine desire to not only solve a problem but to also to be useful and helpful to another person takes you a long way, no matter what you are doing.
To say I have had no help would be absurd, but I can honestly say that no one leaps to mind here. During difficult times I turn inward, I shut off emotion, and I just get it done.
How did these lessons shape the way you conduct business today?
Carla Romaine: I like to be liked, but I cherish being respected, and it’s at the cornerstone of every relationship I have – whether it be with clients, partners, employees or the guy ringing me up at the grocery store. Be kind. Be fair. Know what you are talking about. Get it done. Repeat. Keep learning, listen to people so you know what they need. Solve problems. Get it done. Repeat.
What advice you wished you had received when you started, that you’d like to share now with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Carla Romaine: Don’t settle, and don’t get sidetracked thinking about the unfairness. I spent too much time as a younger woman feeling angry about how much harder I had to work and how much more difficult it was to get a foot in the door. It doesn’t matter. Keep going. Do this for you and forget everyone else. If you want to achieve something, focus on achieving it, not on what it would take for someone else to achieve it.
Out of all of your proudest moments as an entrepreneur, is there a particular one that stands out the most?
Carla Romaine: Early on in my business, I had a large corporate client that would have me participate in planning sessions for its technology platform. Typically I’d be in a group of three or four people and we’d brainstorm and document things. At one point, they invited me to participate in a much larger group meeting, and I was in a room at a big table with lots of people I didn’t know. I am not an extroverted person. I am quiet, soft spoken – fierce and tenacious, yes – but quiet.
At one point I had something to say and opened my mouth to find I was drowned out by louder, more-male voices. My main client contact leaned forward, put her hand up and loudly said, “QUIET – Carla has something to say.” The room went silent. I blushed up to my ears, but I carried on, spoke articulately and demonstrated my competence, and from that point forth my opinion was sought, and quiet was made for me. I felt deeply moved, and it bolstered my confidence in a way that allowed me to speak up more confidently.
What do you plan on tackling during the 2022 year? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Carla Romaine: Expansion. My business is growing, and I cannot be everywhere at once – not even close. But I still want to have a high degree of understanding around how each client is doing, how each project is going, etc.
So my challenge is two-fold: first, to correctly hire and train people on whom the responsibilities of running full sections of the business can be trusted, and second, to find new ways of analyzing the business from a top-down perspective so that what I see in aggregate is more valuable (as a business owner, not as a person) than what I see through direct experience. Moving to this perspective and developing the analytical skillset has been rewarding, interesting and frustrating.
I’m sure our readers will be very thankful for the insights you have shared. What is the best book you’ve gone through lately and please share some takeaway lessons from it?
Carla Romaine: “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” by Nancy Duarte. This is a book about storytelling and presentation. It’s vital for effective communication and in selling.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, I do have one more question for you. When was the last time you did something for the first time and what was it?
Carla Romaine: I recently bought a piece of land on my own in the Southwest, so I’m looking forward to building it out.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Carla Romaine for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Carla Romaine or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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