An interview with Florida's Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll

by Kaki Flynn
Managing Editor, 904 Magazine
(a business publication)

Government can learn from sports. All too often issues are used as political warfare just to make the other side look bad. Often the information is entirely untrue or misleading. This does not serve the public well. In sports the loser respects the other side and admiration is given for a victory.

I was sort of a tomboy growing up.  I helped my father with odd jobs such as changing the motor oil and filters, tune-ups, replacing parts in an automobile and plumbing. So becoming a jet mechanic was not novel for me, but it surprised the guys that I knew so much about mechanics.

The lesson my father taught me and that held true in my work as a female jet mechanic for the U.S. Airforce is that I can do anything I set my mind to do and that I should not let anyone influence me to think otherwise.

The best lessons I’ve learned in my life are to treat people with dignity and to make sure they are trained to do the job to their best ability.

As an African-American woman, I have encountered some obstacles; however, I’ve learned not to let that become a barrier. I have used my opportunities to break down stereotypes and generalizations.

The biggest difference between being a business owner and a government official is that in business changes can be made immediately.  In government, there are many moving parts that must agree and the results may not be as immediate. Many times decisions made in government bring about unintended consequences and the problem lingers too long before changes are made.

In government many decisions are based on emotional solutions and knee jerk reactions, and much of the analysis is on how much money it will cost. Also, many people want to get the spotlight for those decisions. Government lacks the competition to make itself strive to do better-the status quo can exist for too long.

I do not have a Blackberry or an iPhone. I am old-fashioned; I like to write things on a notepad. Most of the information and reminders are in my head. At the age of 51, it’s surprising how much I still remember.
My advice to small business owners is to have your own funding, try to borrow as little money as possible to start up. Do not expect to become a millionaire over night. The workdays will be long and the nights even longer when you’ll stay awake worrying about how to bring in more revenue, how to make payroll, and how to attract more business.

It takes time to get the revenue built up. Be patient and try to stay on a steady uphill course. It will take money to make money, so don’t expect not to spend money.

One mistake I made was to open more than one business at the same time. Personal resources were stretched thin when payroll and other debts needed to be paid. This put a strain on the household budget and personal funds.

Know when to throw in the towel.  After a period of time when you spend money on making necessary adjustments, you find that the business is not moving forward, then reality must set in. Do not keep putting good money after bad.

Matthew 6:19-21 is of personal significance to me because it reminds me that I should not do things or acquire wealth and material possessions in order to be pleasing to man. If the work I do and how I operate is pleasing to God, it will be good for man.

My favorite place to eat is at my kitchen table. My husband is an outstanding cook, and I miss his meals.

Good advice from former Governor Bush is, "Be bold but make sure people understand what you are trying to do."

One of my favorite lines in the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins is, "..leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with 'where' but with 'who'. They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline-first the people, then the direction-no matter how dire the circumstances."

In my opinion, government tends to keep the wrong people on the bus for too long.

Something about me that would surprise people is that I really like some quiet time alone.

This interview was done for a Florida business publication. The basic format of this interview was inspired by Esquire's Mark Warren: What I've Learned series.

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