Interviewee Name: Carol Roberts, Professional Speaker & Marketing Communications Consultant
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Carol Roberts: I am a marketing and business development professional. I’ve enjoyed making contributions in community development and international development and that has been my passion and it’s really been a humbling and phenomenal experience to make a difference in my community and in the business world. That’s my endeavour, my initiative in life, is to make a difference using the gifts that I’ve been given.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Carol Roberts: Usually I do a little bit of a brain dump. I do what’s called morning pages so any thoughts I have lingering from the day before I just put it on a piece of paper and park it. Then I start on a very spiritual centering level in that I read my Bible, I read some devotionals and pray for others, and this helps to give me perspective. I review what I want to accomplish for the day, which I had cast the day before and then I go for a workout at the gym. I say an affirmation to create momentum and then I will read the headlines from the major newspaper then just go about my day completing my priorities. In the evening I’ll probably read or watch a lecture or a movie. I close my day giving thanks for either three things that I’m grateful for or three lessons learned.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Carol Roberts: One of the centering things for me is that I read the Bible. I find that the Bible has provided me with valuable wisdom and I also go into a faith community so I attend church on a regular basis. There are other things, other tools, and reading Motivated magazine is one of them to help me stay motivated. Success magazine allows me to read about other high achievers, and socializing with high achievers who have made a mark, left a legacy, or done something impactful in the community. I find that I feed off their energy, and just to speak to my mentors, people who encourage me to keep on the path.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Carol Roberts: I think I would probably be more appreciative. I think there is always a place for gratitude. I think I’d be more appreciative of the journey. I would worry less, I think a lot of the worries I’ve had in the past have really been unfounded, so I would spend more time doing, and less time worrying. Those are the things that I can think of.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?
Carol Roberts: I discovered that I’m a lot smarter than I give myself credit for. I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was, and one of the pearls of wisdom I learned is that not everyone is dealing with the same moral compass or ethics. Sometimes you go into a business relationship and you assume that people are dealing with the same ethics that you bring to the table, not so. So I think that’s been the biggest discovery this last year.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the biggest advances in your industry over the past five years?
Carol Roberts: In the marketing and communications and business development industries, social media has exploded and I think that now we are able to have many different touch points and able to reach a whole different community. I would say that this has been one of the biggest advances over the past five years.
Avil Beckford: What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
Carol Roberts: Sometimes there is an over saturation in the market. Even if you look at advertisement right now it’s everywhere and people get disinterested when there are too many messages. The second would be marketing clutter, everything is becoming really cluttered. You check your email and there are ads on the side and it tends to take away your focus so there is always going to be competing priorities, look at me, look at me, and I would say that’s two of the things I’ve noticed.
Avil Beckford: What’s unique about the service that you provide?
Carol Roberts: In all of the areas that I’ve worked, whether it was strategic planning or business development, my approach is meeting people where they are in their journey, whether it be an individual or company. I don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. I don’t use the one brush for the canvas, I use many applications so I think that’s my point of differentiation.
Avil Beckford: What do you observe most people in your field doing badly that you think you do well?
Carol Roberts: I think sometimes the industry may try to please too many stakeholders, too many people. I think if you have a simple approach and zero in on your target audience, and hold tight and fast, and give them what they want and anticipate their needs.
Avil Beckford: Describe a major business or other challenge you had and how you resolved it. What kind of lessons did you learn in the process?
Carol Roberts: A company I was working with was losing a lot of money on broker commissions. The form the brokers were using were ill-designed and there was a lack of communication between what the company wanted and what the brokers wanted. Being the proactive person that I am, I decided to redesign the form and made that suggestion, and create a broker education program and make it accredited. Both of those things were implemented, and the broker education program became the first in Ontario, Canada and that let me know that ideas are powerful. And sometimes the most obvious things are hidden in plain sight.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Carol Roberts: A woman by the name of Gail Kennedy was the president of an investment company that I worked with, MRS (Multiple Retirement Services), and she saw that I was able to communicate with the brokers so she started to promote me every 14 months. I started as a receptionist and when I left I was the Vice president of Marketing. But every 14 months I would go on to something else, every progressive position she could find for me whether it was in operations, customer service or going to visit brokers on the road, training across Canada. She always found a spot for me and always promoted my personal and professional growth.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Carol Roberts: I took on a role at the provincial government and unfortunately the role was ill-fit. It should have been an internal hire, but it was a private sector hire. I think if I had done my due diligence, and listened to my gut in the beginning, at the interview, I would have followed it. The disappointment came when I realized there were no support systems in place to support my success. Once I realized that I kept trying against the grain to make it a success, and finally I had to concede that it wasn’t a fit for me and that it just didn’t work and not take the failure personally but instead take the lessons from it and move on.
Avil Beckford: What has been your biggest disappointment in your life – and what are you doing to prevent its reoccurrence?
Carol Roberts: I don’t really have any biggest disappointments. The disappointments in my life have taught me the greatest lessons. I haven’t experienced any disappointments that have been impactful that were so devastating.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Carol Roberts: One of the toughest decisions for me was a very personal one. It was to dedicate my life to Christ and become a Christian because you live counter-intuitively to the way the rest of the world lives. You walk a different path and you are held accountable by having integrity, and having a moral compass and so that is a big decision because I knew now that my life was not my own and that I had to surrender it over to God. That was a big decision for me.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
- My baptism because that was a changing of the guard from the old life, giving up the old life for the new.
- Moving out and having my first apartment, declaring my independence as a young woman.
- Going back to school after many years. I had dropped out of college, had been working at successive progressive positions, and I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go to university. Somewhere along the line I thought, “I might not be able to do it after being out of school for so long.” I took a chance and went to Ryerson and I aced my first marketing course. That was affirming and it impacted my life because it made me realize that I could apply myself and that there is more than one way to get an education and that I had gotten an education on the job, which actually helped me to excel in the classroom.
Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
Carol Roberts: I started an outreach program called Good Works and it’s a faith-based program to help people who are in career transition and people who are looking for work. I used my artillery of tools to start the program. I have an instructional design as well as a marketing background so I was able to market the program. I facilitated the program and got people to come in from externally to speak about the work environment and it was a successful program and many people from the community were helped. I would say just taking the initiative to start something and not wait around for someone else to do it again proves my history of being proactive was still sharp and that I am not one of those people who is going to wait and see what happens. I am going to make things happen, and that was an affirming thing. And just to know that so many people had gotten something that was so practical. They got practical information that could help them make their own decisions.
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
Carol Roberts: In many ways! I’ve had mentors throughout my career, Nigel Fisher a former CEO of UNICEF Canada was one of my mentors. Theresa Curry who is a former president of Multiple Retirement Services was one of my mentors and Gail Kennedy, a former president as well. Karen Vance-Wallace who runs one of the nimblest not-for-profit HIV charity is one of my current mentors. I mentor six mentees throughout my career and it’s really an affirming, phenomenal experience to be supported in ways more than a paycheque. It’s the emotional life, it’s the spiritual life, it’s everything that helps you to create forward, progressive momentum.
Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Carol Roberts: I can tell you one that’s guided my entire career – Theresa Curry is responsible for it. She said, “Carol always go where you are celebrated and never stay where you are tolerated.” This has pretty much been my working mantra, and if something is not a good fit, concede and move on to where someone can appreciate your gifts, and appreciate the value you bring to an organization. Sometimes it’s best not to try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Avil Beckford: An invisible mentor is a unique leader you can learn things from by observing them from afar, in the capacity of an Invisible Mentor, what is one piece of advice that you would give to readers?
Carol Roberts: Value and hone your strengths, and commit yourself to life learning. The best gift you can give to anyone and to yourself is to be committed to life learning, and sharing what you know with others.
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