Building the Unconventional CEO

By Josh Field

How Does She Do It All? Google “‘Carol Craig’ AND ‘Craig Technologies’” and about 3,700 results appear, so needless to say this self-described “accidental entrepreneur” has garnered a lot of attention over the past decade. In 2009, SpaceCoast Business magazine named Craig as its “Business Leader of the Year,” one of the first in a string of awards and recognitions bestowed on the founder and CEO of the Cape Canaveral-based government contractor of technology, engineering and manufacturing services and products. So, six years later, I sat down with Carol again, not so much to talk about her company – which has more than doubled over that timeframe – but to better understand how she does it. And by “it,” I mean run a $45 million company, serve her church and community, maintain a marriage, raise her two children, one of which suffers from a rare genetic disorder, and find time for herself and personal pursuits like writing a book, working on a Ph.D. and playing the piano.

“Honestly, I am pulled in different directions every minute and inevitably ‘drop balls,’” explained Carol.  “It’s a constant struggle to prioritize, but I try really hard to give the appropriate focus to critical tasks . . . and recruit help from others.  And if something has to give, I let it go and I don’t look back and feel bad about it.  I just move on to the next thing!”

Perhaps much of this focus – which is prominently exhibited today in her company tagline, “Because It’s All About The Mission” – is the result of the discipline required to efficiently solve problems as an engineer and military officer prior to launching her entrepreneurial venture in 1999. And while Carol has the inner drive to ensure that the mission is accomplished, she is astute enough to recognize she can’t do it herself, thus surrounding herself with a trusted and loyal team.  “Carol is grounded in a belief that trust in the people that make up your team is paramount,” said Dean Rosenquist, Craig Technologies’ chief operating officer.  “While she is very involved and knowledgeable of every aspect of her business, she affords the leaders she’s hired to execute on the plans that have been mutually developed.”

Family First

This team starts at home – her mother, Thelma Bovard, was one of her first hires and her husband, Capt. John Craig (USN), served as the company’s senior government affairs advisor for a short time – and family is a theme that runs throughout her core values.  “I’m extremely fortunate to work with my best friends, 

literally,” says Carol.  “That helps tremendously in feeling secure in business because I know they are looking out for us just as much as I am looking out for them.”

“Family. Integrity. Loyalty. Passion. Community.”  These five values serve not only as the foundation for what the public sees of this dynamic businesswoman, but for how she leads her team, her company and her own life.  “Everything John and I do is for the benefit of our children, Danny and Gillian,” she explained.  As the mother of a 14-year-old son affected with Prader-Willi syndrome, a complex genetic disorder most commonly known for causing life-threatening obesity in children, Carol established The Danny Craig Foundation in 2010. Its goal is to “identify, screen, and carefully administer funding to organizations that deal directly with research or other life impacting projects that answer the sense of urgency felt by all those involved in the lives of children coping with medical challenges.” Recently, Carol joined the board of directors of Nemours Children’s Hospital in Lake Nona because, “I believe in building high-quality medical resources in the region that can help to address unique disorders like PWS.”  


Can Women Have It All?

Depending on what you read and who you talk to, there is still a double standard and a glass ceiling in America that hinders the success of women in the workplace. Cultural biases and stereotypes perpetuate the beliefs of some that a woman cannot be a good wife and mother if she is also a successful businessperson. PepsiCo Inc. CEO Indra Nooyi recently accelerated that debate when in an interview about work-life balance she said, “At the C-suite level there is no balance.”  And then went on to add, “If you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom.”

Carol Craig, on the other hand, explains it quite differently: “[Husband] John is absolutely amazing and supports our family in so many ways.  I honestly couldn’t do what I am doing without him.  But, our schedules are crazy, and we are very fortunate to have help from others to fill the gaps and make sure our children are supervised and things around the house are covered. I have a cleaning lady who often feels sorry for me and is always straightening my closets and fixing things around the house that are broken, even though that really isn’t her job. My children have a nanny who is truly a part of our family and she not only helps with my children but also the dog. We have close friends with five young girls so we’re always carol-craigswapping out children and helping each other out.  

I’ve always said that work-life balance is a myth because there really is no way to give equal billing to all aspects of your life at all times. The important thing to remember is to take time for yourself and I definitely do that – whether it’s singing in the choir on Sunday mornings while my family sleeps in or stealing away for a good workout.  The truth is ‘it takes a village’ and we’re blessed to have that village.”

So, why aren’t there more successful female entrepreneurs, and what can be done to change this?  According to Carol, “A lot of women have great ideas but don’t have either the confidence or resources to start a business. I think many women are afraid of failure or they think they can’t attend to their families if they start a business.  We need to give women a ‘safe haven’ to ask questions of others in a comfortable and non-judgmental environment.  That’s where community networks and supporting organizations can help to guide women in fully developing their ideas and making a realistic plan.”

Fortunately, Central Florida is home to several quality networks and organizations that do just that, e.g. WeVenture (formerly the Women’s Business Center at Florida Tech), ATHENA, Women of Excellence at the Melbourne Regional Chamber of East Central Florida, Orlando Women In Business, National Association of Women Business Owners Orlando, and Women in Defense. “We have the tools but we need to start changing the culture,” says Carol.  “That’s going to take time but it’s worth the effort.”

What’s Next

At only 48 years of age, Carol has achieved professional and financial success that few ever reach in a lifetime.  Yet, her drive to accomplish “the mission” and her surrounding “family” at Craig Technologies help keep her humble and focused.  

“You know, people often ask me if I feel like I’ve found success,” said Carol.  “Truthfully, I can’t really say that I have despite what everyone else sees because I am still working to help my son find a path to independence.  One of the young women I was visiting last year at the Frances Walker Halfway House in Titusville described it best.  She said, ‘When you have set a goal in your heart and mind, you can achieve so many other things that are great, but until you reach your original goal you will never feel success.’  I think that my primary goal is to ensure that my family is taken care of and Danny will have the life he deserves no matter what happens to me.” 


Honoring Carol Craig 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015  | 6 —9 p.m. | Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place

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