Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced bookkeeping and accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked. Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.
We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.
Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
In March we have a conversation with Carter Welch. Carter is a branding, sales and business coaching professional with hands on experience in multiple industries, including wine, manufacturing, and professional services (law, accounting, consulting, among several). After growing up in Maine, he was a History major at Bowdoin College. Upon graduation, he worked in Brand Management for Procter & Gamble, Pillsbury and Brach’s, where he built a consumer brand from $9 million to over $50 million in less than four years. For much of the past 20 years, Carter has built his own company, focusing on branding, marketing, and sales growth.
Carter is married to Tracey, the President of CompleteDTC, a comprehensive DTC management system for wineries, who was featured in one of our earlier Protea conversations. Carter is active in youth leadership and competes in short-distance triathlons several times a year (when he isn’t playing golf). Carter & Tracey love camping and driving vacations, especially visiting their 3 recently graduated sons, living in LA and Sacramento.
Tell us about your decision to go into marketing and your journey to Business Advisor, Coach and Consultant?
Right out of college, Procter & Gamble offered me one the best business management training opportunities in the world, in their Brand Management program, which included marketing, sales, general business management, P&L management and consumer research/education. It was the perfect job because it included not simply marketing, but also general business management. It was such a great fit for me, I continue and progressed in Brand, Sales & then General Management for P&G, Pillsbury, Brach’s and an internet FinTech startup for the next 15 years. After moving to Fin Tech for a few years in 2000 at the height of “internet startups”
I then got the itch to start my own Marketing Services business, focusing on providing branding and marketing services to primarily small and light middle market clients in many different industries. We later moved to California, where I took a role as head of marketing, sales, and business development for a sizeable ($750 million) company, until I again had the desire to go out on my own again. Today, my passion is to guide owners of smaller companies (generally start-ups to $20 million in revenue) to help them grow, scale, and lead their companies – all while helping them find joy in their work and balance in their lives.
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
Lack of clear road maps has been the biggest challenge. There are lots of books to read, but how do I apply it for me and for my clients? As an independent business coach/consultant powered by The Shirlaws Group, I have access to incredible intellectual property that I use to help my clients. Some of the tools I use now, I really wish I had access to when I started my own Marketing Services business. I made mistakes that I may not have made if I had access to the “road maps” that Shirlaws gives me to use with my clients. For me, like most business owners I encounter, the problem isn’t a LACK of ideas, it is often TOO MANY ideas. How do they simplify and focus? How do they get help in developing a very specific road map, for their very unique business? That is what drives me – to help my clients avoid mistakes I made earlier, so they can achieve the kind of success and balance they seek.
What are your short-term goals of your career and yourself?
I’ll provide a personal goal that translates into professional lessons for success: I want to be a triathlete. Last year, I lost a bunch of weight through the Kaiser Weight Management Program (which I HIGHLY recommend). I then decided I would try to complete a short-distance triathlon, which I did at the end of last year. (Short distance means: ½ mile swim; 13-mile bike race, and a 5K run.) I will compete in several more races this year and next (moving up to the next distance level later in the year).
I love triathlons because they make me a much better business coach. Why? It teaches me the value of perseverance. There is no way I could have completed even a short race when I started training. And had I tried to “ramp up” too quickly, I would have gotten injured and failed. Instead, I built up training slowly and didn’t try to do more than I really could or should until I was ready to continue to “scale” my training. This is the same thing I work with for my business clients.
Also, with triathlons, I need to have balanced training, doing something nearly 300 days a year. But I may only compete in 5 or 6 actual races a year. So, my success is completely dependent on my finding joy in training, in putting in the effort to build up strength and endurance the 98% of the time that no one is watching (when I’m competing in a race). The same is true for my clients. They need to focus on improving all the little details in their business day in and day out. Get a little stronger here. A little faster there. A little smarter here. A little more efficient there. Budget time (and resources) effectively. These are great lessons and goals for my career.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
I’ll offer two.
First: Diffuse and disarm.
So many people, especially inside organizations are ready to fight. Rather than fight an outside competitor, they turn to working at cross-purposes within their organization. Someone once taught me that when tensions are high, I need to diffuse the situation. Listen (genuinely) and then diffuse the heat and tension. Next, disarm opponents within your own organization. A great mentor once pointed out that the biggest challenge to sales success is internal sales prevention. So, with my clients, I help them identify and root out sales prevention within their own teams.
Second: your brand isn’t what you think it is, your brand is what your customers (and potential customers) think it is.
Seek first to understand what your customers (and people who have chosen to NOT become your customers) really think and believe about you. You cannot be understood unless you first seek to understand (shout out to Stephen Covey).
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
Don’t seek to be right. Instead seek to implement right solutions that can be supported by your team. Great ideas executed poorly always fail. Very good ideas that have buy-in from the team implementing them, usually win. Being right if you can’t convince anyone to follow does not a leader make.
What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Seek win-win solutions. Listen. Collaborate. Encourage. Don’t seek credit yourself for good ideas – give that credit FREELY to others. No one wants to be beaten into submission. Find solutions that are a win for your company AND a win for the people on your team. They will feel empowered, your business will be successful, and the moment will feed on itself and create extraordinary power within your organization.
Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?
I love to serve as a youth leader, and I have throughout my life. When our boys were younger (they are now in their early 20’s), I coached many of their sports. I believe I coached or assisted for about 40 different teams (basketball, baseball, soccer) for my 3 boys. I still serve as a church youth group leader, which I’ve done for over 20 years. This involves serving a number of high school students as a mentor, friend, coach, and listener. Especially over the past two years, I’ve seen how difficult it can be for students to navigate through high school. Every week, I look forward to the time I can spend with these amazing students. Plus, it keeps me sharp on current popular culture (yes, I knew all the performers at this year’s Super Bowl half-time show). On a more serious note, I just like being able to lean into students’ lives and be able to listen and make a difference in their lives.
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us here at Protea Financial!