Fifteen years ago, Carol Craig was a retired naval flight officer, trying to hold down an engineering career as her husband continued to be relocated for his own military work. She decided to incorporate and work as an independent consultant, she says, “for the heck of it.”
“I was having a hard time finding and keeping jobs, because he would be transferred, and I would have to find something else,” Craig says. “So I started taking odd jobs, just to get things going, and before I knew it I was kind of turning into a real company.”
Today, she’s more than a real company, with $42 million in revenues in the year to come with her namesake company, Craig Technologies. The 400-person firm works to create engineering and technological solutions from prototypes to support.
Craig says she draws on her own military experience in running the show, and has even hired her fellow servicemen and women, along with their spouses, due to the diligence and commitment they display to the job they do.
“One of the biggest things [in the military] is attention to detail,” she says. “Especially in aviation. It’s very important that you don’t disregard the small details and it’s the same in business—no detail is too insignificant. In the military, you are in, you don’t have a choice, you can’t say, ‘Oh I quit I don’t want to do this anymore.’ It’s the same thing with my business, I have that mentality of, ‘I decided to do this, I can’t quit, especially now that I have 400 employees.’ I can’t do that. I made this commitment and I am going forward with it.”
But the thing that almost stopped her from going forward initially was cash. Craig says she had maxed out 8 credit cards, leveraged her husband’s nest egg and was using two mortgages to expand.
“There was a lot of stress, I used everything possible that I could to come up with money to be able to support the business,” she says. “Money was the biggest issue, and it still is today.”
One thing that won’t ever become an issue at Craig Technologies, she says, is culture. She puts it first, always.
“The secret is caring about your employees,” she says. “In business, they say ‘don’t take it personal.’ But I completely do the opposite. I take it personal, because I know at night I am the one who has to be comfortable with the decisions that I make. When you make something an employee-centric company, by nature, you are taking care of the people who are taking care of you.”
As far as mistakes, the ever-optimistic Craig says she feels they’re few and far between.
“Maybe it’s rose colored glasses, because now everything has turned out perfectly,” she says. “Even when you make mistakes, you can’t view them as that, it’s just a change in your course.”
Even the time she wound up with a machine shop in the wake of a business deal gone wrong, earlier in her career.
“I was thinking, ‘what can I do with this? I am an engineer,’” she says. “Well now that little machine shop is a 160,000-square-foot aerospace manufacturing facility.”
Not too shabby for someone who became an entrepreneur for the “heck of it.”