Making Something From Nothing: Lauren Carroll Of The Montgomery Carroll Group On How To Go From Idea To Launch
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
You need to be leaning into your company full-time: If you really want it to be your career and a strong company you must devote your full attention to it.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Carroll.
Lauren Carroll, a decade and counting Senior VP and Partner of The Montgomery Carroll Group, focuses solely on residential real estate solutions. She thrives on finding her buyers the ultimate dream home and ensuring a profitable sale for her sellers. Using her refined property knowledge in a targeted area that she’s practically grown up in is one of her many strengths. Lauren exudes a strong dedication and attentiveness to all she encounters throughout the beginning to end of the home buying and selling process. With over $250 million in residential sales under her belt, she is committed to fierce negotiation and yet can easily create a level of ease to complex processes for her clientele.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
During my childhood, we moved around a lot, but my mother found a wonderful school system where we established real roots in the Boston area and a community with an excellent K-8 school system. I learned early on that I loved to run track and became a state champion in the 100-meter hurdle.
As my mother remarried, I grew up with my stepfather who I got along with well. We enjoyed the same things, operated the same way, and our similar personalities allowed us to form a strong bond.
The hard work of my mother and stepfather taught me to put my best effort into everything I do. They showed me a lot about dedication and it inspired me to apply these qualities into my own business as an independent boss. I also was fortunate enough to have strong friendships, life long companions (some of which I have known since third grade) who helped shape me into the person I am today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have never forgotten this quote from my high school yearbook. “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth” by Archimedes
Throughout my life, having to overcome challenges, and being a strong woman to succeed for my family, that quote has remained relevant for me not only today but in every opportunity I have encountered.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
While getting your business off the ground in the early days, this requires a lot of sacrifice, however, work-life balance has always been a priority for me. Having control over decision making and being able to support my family were my major motivaters when I started my business.
This book, Letters to a Young Entrepreneur by Ricardo Levy helped me from the start of my business development. In the early years there can be a lot of stress, and unknowns, being able to succeed and the ability to have a helpful tool such as this can give you comfort, direction, and confidence.
A lot of entrepreneurs have a saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”. This book can help gain perspective and speaking from experience, this was a guide for me from the beginning until even now.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
In my industry particularly, is marketing. Taking a new idea on how to promote yourself and turning it into an executed plan. It takes a lot of trial and error, and you have to be resilient when trying one of the ideas. Take feedback, make adjustments, be patient, and have the willingness to be flexible. Keep working on it even if it doesn’t produce what you want in the timeframe you had planned.
Specifically, I think forming partnerships is a good idea, but the challenge is finding the balance between personal and professional relationships if you are going into business with someone you know. You should be aware that partnerships can form even if you do not know each other well, but lines of responsibility must be clearly defined. It is important if you want to team up or partner up with someone else to communicate upfront and establish real terms before you form that bond, since once the image goes out and is not handled properly, you may have to start again on your own if it fails.
In sales or any field for that matter, having a good completely original idea can be a challenge. You need to be creative so you can set yourself apart as a leader in your competitive field. This is where setting clear terms, boundaries, and long and short-term goals can support your idea and build confidence as a leader.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
To me, research begins on the internet. Even if your idea isn’t brand new, you should research it and look around, particularly online, to see whether it’s already been used or not.
Most businesses locally (depending on the industry) are more interested in what people are doing right around me than if it has been done before. If it has been created and established for someone in a competitive position to you, there is always a way to spin it for you. This could be achieved by changing the language, design feature, or execution timing.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- To really understand how long it will take you until you generate income: When you start your business, do you have a plan for what happens if it takes you longer than you expected to generate income?
Investment in yourself and starting your own business requires a significant amount of personal capital upfront, as well as the energy and capability to go without being paid for an unknown period of time. Everyone needs to be prepared so that they can stay calm and focused on their real goals. It is inevitable that we will spend time and energy worrying about money, but how we approach that can help us succeed.
2. You need to be leaning into your company full-time: If you really want it to be your career and a strong company you must devote your full attention to it.
It’s often that people have a good business idea that they want to try and develop in their spare time or outside of their regular job. It’s been my own experience and those of many I know that in order to really get off the ground, your startup business needs your full attention.
3. As soon as you can, hire administrative help to make your business even more successful: Many times, we take on the role of CEO, as well as other responsibilities. This can take away from meeting clients, creating new ideas, or self-promotion.
Hiring is often lower on people’s list of things to do when they are just getting started. Eventually, we develop the habit of taking on roles and responsibilities that ultimately need to be delegated to someone on your team so you can focus solely on the more important aspects of your business, whether they are building clientele or staying on top of current market trends. There are a host of things that we need to prioritize but in the long run building a strong administrative support system for yourself is imperative.
4. To consider releasing some control: Even though your business is your baby, it is wise to get advice from other resources around you and learn from them.
This leads back to the answer for my third example, and while it’s important to hire before you think it’s necessary, it is also important to listen to your instincts about the ideas you have. It is also essential to consider the advice of those you admire and who have come before you when making strategic business decisions. Reinventing the wheel is not always necessary.
5. Fake it till you make it: There is some validity to that. Many people don’t want to work with a new company that presents itself as unknowing of what it is they are doing.
It’s difficult to feel fully confident when you don’t know what you don’t know. Or every direction your business is going to take in your early years. However, projecting to the world that you know what you’re doing will help you gain success.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Trial and error will happen so lean into that. Take your idea or your product and test your prototype in every possible manner. Review your product with peers, and survey groups where possible.
You may choose to invest in paying a marketing firm to run a focus group for you to help you consider every possible positive and negative outcome. Your product may seem to serve everyone or a certain group, but you should invest time and energy into knowing who you think your product will best serve.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
Yes, if it’s within your budget and means. It wouldn’t hurt to speak with someone who has experience in executing new ideas. It doesn’t mean that you take everything they say word for word or execute the strategy exactly as how they presented it, but I think in most situations you would be fortunate enough to hire a consultant. All it can do is gain additional perspective. I believe you should also stay true to your own gut instincts for your own business — that’s what makes it unique!
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
I think this is very much a personal decision. There can be great benefits for either, but I would choose a bootstrapper. In most cases, venture capitalists take your company in the direction they want which gives them some level of control and decision making. Then again, what happens to your business can be beneficial, because the venture capitalists are willing to invest in you and can accelerate your business’s growth. There is nothing wrong with getting help if you need it.
However, I think there is a lot to say about pulling your own funds and having full decision making control. Although it may take longer, I personally feel that I will be more successful in the long run. If you are creating a business that is founded in something you love and truly believe in, creating it on your own will most likely feel more authentic and give you a greater sense of personal strength over the course of your life.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I believe so. The examples I can share with you are I take every opportunity to foster new agents who need guidance getting their business started. Nothing really makes me feel better than helping new agents learn the ropes, answering their questions, giving them confidence, and my opinions on their next best steps. I try to support new people in my industry because I remember how scary it can be in the beginning.
I take every client and sale I have very seriously. I try to bring as much ease into my client’s life as possible for the time period we are in high contact. I want this part of their life and this major transition to be a joyful one. My goal is to leave people knowing I was helpful, so I consider making people happy to be good for the world.
I donate to causes that are important to me. I support one particular child through an amazing nonprofit that focuses on children in certain communities that need an extra hand. My own hard work and success allow me to help people in my own community every year. Everything from donating my change balance at CVS to making food for families when one parent in my community is sick or injured. I particularly try to make small deeds of service when I am having a bad day for myself. It’s the number one thing that lifts me up. Paying it forward is an amazing way to lift the spirits of others as well as your own.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Lately, I’ve been inspired by videos that I catch online of people going into grocery stores, or various shopping establishments and paying for the orders of families potentially in need. I like the concept of surprising someone you don’t know. I think it reminds us that we are all part of a larger community.
Through the work I do I am often the first introduction to a family in a new neighborhood and I wish for them to have a good experience with that. By surprising someone you don’t know with a lovely gesture, can not only make them feel good in the moment but can make their whole day. This idea can inspire people and spread love, joy, and peace in a simple, quick, and profound way.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Well, I love lunch so let’s go with that! This question struck me as thinking of what successful women in my own field of who I would like to pick their brain, so I’m going with Barbara Corcoran.
Arguably one of our country’s most successful real estate brokers, certainly the most famous. In my field, it’s not uncommon or challenging for women to be successful. There are no compensation inequalities that we need to overcome as much as there are in other professional fields comparatively. But it comes with its own challenges.
Running a corporation such as Barbara does take a lot of leadership skills in male-dominated fields. I would love to pick her brain about her success and failures in our business and I would love to hear about the challenges she has overcome to get where she is today.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: Lauren Carroll Of The Montgomery Carroll Group On How To Go From… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.