Selling In A Skirt with Kimberlee Centera

Selling in a skirt

The C-Suite Network

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“My mother used to say, don’t dwell. Don’t dwell on it. Keeping that vision moving forward and not dwelling on the hard things, because there’s certainly a lot of hard things. There’s certainly been things that come up. But I always get up and I’m always taking that next step and I’m always moving forward.”


Judy Hoberman Coming up on Selling in a Skirt with Judy Hoberman. We’re going to talk about connection, community and a lot of energy. So, if you are ready for some energy, stay tuned. Hi. Welcome to Selling In A Skirt with Judy Hoberman. For those of you that have been here before. Welcome back. And for those of you that haven’t been here, welcome. So excited to have you. Now, selling in a skirt is all about connection, community, creating relationship. And today a lot of energy. So, we also about empowering professional women and encouraging men to not only champion for women, but champion with women. So, what I love most about this incredible journey is being to connect amazing women and amazing men and just seeing what happens. Well, today I have a story about how connection really, really, really plays off. So, before I tell you about my guess, I’m going to tell you about how we met. This past June, I decided to create a newsletter on LinkedIn, and we didn’t post it promoted. We didn’t do anything with it. We just put it out there and all of a sudden there were thousands of people that subscribed, not followed, but actually subscribed. And I was very honored and truly, truly humbled. Well, one of the things I did was I went through the list, and I pulled out all of the incredible women that I could find that I didn’t really know. And I emailed each one individually a personal message, and I said to them, thank you so much for subscribing to my newsletter, and I would love it if you would let me share you with my network. And guess what? This is what happened. And my guest today, when I read her profile, I knew I had to meet her, and she had to be my guest. So let me tell you a little bit about Kimberlee. Kimberlee Centera is the CEO and founder of TerraPro Solutions. She’s a leader in development of renewable energy. I told you energy projects. And she’s a champion of women in renewable energy. I’m actually going to let her tell you her story because it doesn’t get any better coming from her. So, Kimberlee, welcome. So, so excited to have you here and so excited to really finally meet you. Air Quotes. So, what I want you to do is tell everybody who you are, what you do, what you love about what you do.

Kimberlee Centera So thank you so much. So excited to be here. So, we my firm TerraPro Solutions provides risk management solutions for clients in the renewable energy space. And we specialize in real estate and title. And we want our clients to be prepared for due diligence because energy is all about transactions, and especially in the large-scale utility scale market, it’s all about transactions and being prepared to be able to go through the due diligence process and close on debt or equity or M&A. You know, there’s a lot of different pieces that can happen. So, we try to educate our clients and make sure that they can check all the boxes to be well prepared for that transaction. It’s always all about the money and so we’re well aware of that. So, we want our clients to be prepared.

Judy Hoberman Okay. So, you have this this big position. You’re the CEO of TerraPro. Did you have any challenges when you are a female? Because we’re going to talk about women today, about being a female CEO. And if you had some challenges, how did you overcome them?

Kimberlee Centera Well, I think there’s challenges every day. You know, sometimes I feel like the David in the world of Goliath. But I. I think you have to be clear about who you are and your value proposition and really what you’re trying to bring to the market. Because for me, certainly, it’s about a business and we obviously want to produce revenues, but it’s also about bringing women up and changing, you know, energy. And I’ve been in renewables for almost 35 years now, so I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, but I haven’t seen enough changes really. And I would love to see more. And women still only represent about a third of the workforce in renewables. So, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.

Judy Hoberman Yeah, absolutely. You know, I read a statistic, I guess it was probably in the middle of the pandemic and it said that that 25% of women CEOs left their position and the 25% only amounted to 12 women, just 12. You know, and it was it was it was craziness to me. So, my question to you is, how do you help women create success for themselves? Because we can’t do it by ourselves, and we shouldn’t do it by ourselves. So how do you help them create success?

Kimberlee Centera Well, I think obviously I’ve learned a lot in the ten years of running my own business and also over the course of my career. Early on in my career, I was working for a small wind developer, and I realized one day when I was sitting at the executive table that I was the only one that wasn’t a vice president. And I looked around, I thought, okay, there’s, you know, vice president for meteorology and transmission and all these different roles. And here I was, I was working on real estate, which is integral to the projects, but yet I hadn’t been recognized for my efforts. So, I basically took a step back and raised my hand and said, you know, I think I’m deserving of this position. So, I think there’s a lot of that. And I try to really encourage women to be aware of the value, be aware of their contribution. I think oftentimes, you know, we’re team players and that’s a great thing about when we’re all about collaboration. But sometimes we get lost, and, in the mix, we get lost in the shuffle. And so, I try to really encourage women to be aware and know when to speak up about your contribution because there’s a time to speak up and find those mentors, find those people that are willing to promote you. I was fortunate to have someone that was willing to promote me. And, you know, I went and said, you know, I think I deserve this. And I think also I was willing to put together the rationale, you know, I knew, you know, the powers that be that I was dealing with. I knew I couldn’t just march into the to the owner’s office and pound my fist on the chest and or on the table and set up and deserving of this. So, I think it’s really important. There’s a lot of pieces to it, but I try to educate women around the idea that we need to be our own advocates, too, and find those that can help us along the way.

Judy Hoberman Yeah. And I think it’s easier to advocate for somebody else than it is for yourself. But I know, you know, I also came from male dominated industries, starting with construction and working my way through financial services. And I remember receiving a compliment from a gentleman and then he said, for a woman. And it kind of negated everything he said before for a woman. Do you think that there’s a way for women to change that? I know, you know, the needle hasn’t moved far enough, but how do we how do we promote women into the C-Suite? You know, it’s easier to promote them into middle management, but to get them into the C-suite, sometimes we’re not ready or we don’t think we have enough of the qualities. How do we do that? Because, you know, I think ten years ago, you know, the needle has moved, but still certainly not enough. So how do we do that and how do we do it together? Like, how do we collaborate with other women in all industries to make this push?

Kimberlee Centera I’ve had a chance to think about this just because of some of my own experiences. I know I applied to be on a board in renewables specifically. And, you know, I was told that, you know, gee, you haven’t been on our committees. You know, you just don’t have enough visibility. So, we don’t think that you’re a candidate. But, you know, now, but we think, you know, you should go and follow this path. So, I think they’re, you know, having those conversations is important. But the other side of that was, I thought to myself, well, that’s kind of interesting because, no, I haven’t been on your committees. That is true. But what I have done over the last ten years is build a business, you know, a multimillion-dollar business from one person and, you know, $1,000 in seed money. And I create a company from ground up, you know, every single piece that went into that. And at the time that I did that, I was a single working mother, and I had a child that had to be carpooled. And so, I think while there’s legitimacy to the idea that as women, yes, we need more experience and we need to do more, I also think in leadership, we need to take the time to take a look at our candidates and maybe change a little bit of the parameters that we consider. You know, a lot of the women that work for me that are have blown me away with what they’ve done were women who knew nothing about renewables, but they demonstrated a lot of acumen. And so, I was willing to work with them and train them. And now this year especially, I think I’ve seen so many of the women that work for me step out in amazing ways. So, I think it’s there’s a lot of different components to it, but I think part of it is leadership stepping in more. You know, traditionally, I think men I’ve love men. They’ve always been huge supporters of mine. But I think traditionally maybe men are given a little bit more clear understanding of a pathway. A lot of times men are just promoted maybe in different ways than women are. Right. And so, I think a lot of it’s incumbent upon us as leaders to reach out and start to have those conversations and really take a look. I think women are leaving. Like you said, these so many women have left the workforce. And I think in a lot of respects it’s their discouraged because they’re working really hard and yet they’re not. What they’re doing uniquely is maybe not recognized or acknowledged.

Judy Hoberman Yeah. And sometimes, you know, it’s hard to say, you know, I think I deserve this because you just don’t know what the, you know, what the results are going to be. And I also know for a fact, and this has been said like a million times already, that women, unless they have 100% of all of the skills that are required, they do not apply. They do not raise their hand because they don’t want to waste people’s time. They don’t want rejection. And a man could be, you know, 60% he’s like young man I in. And so, part of it is mindset. Part of it is confidence. And that’s all part of being a leader. But I also know that all of us have received some great advice as we were coming through the ranks or even when we were little, and it’s traveled with us. What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Kimberlee Centera You know, thinking about that, my mother used to say, you know, don’t dwell. Don’t dwell on it. You know, and I think there’s something to be said for, you know, keeping that vision moving forward and not dwelling on the hard things, because there’s certainly a lot of hard things. And I think one of the reasons for my success is there’s certainly been challenges. There’s certainly been things that come up. But, you know, I’m I always get up and I’m always taking that next step and I’m always moving forward. And so, you know, learning what you can and being willing to learn, being willing to reach out to people that can help you. I never you know, I freely admit I don’t have all the answers. So, I think not dwelling on your mistakes and your shortcomings, but really focusing on your strengths and what can you do and using that as a catalyst to move forward.

Judy Hoberman Okay. So, you don’t dwell, which is a good thing. What do you do with your mistakes? Do you learn from them, and do you share what happened and what the lesson that you learned with others so they in turn don’t have to do the same thing that you’ve done?

Kimberlee Centera I think there’s a huge value to doing that. I shared with someone recently know we had a tough year a few years ago where we are really, I learned a really hard lesson in my business, and I learned that I really there were a lot of things happening that I didn’t know about that were affecting my team. And one of the I, you know, I just really thought, how can I change this? What do I need to do? It felt daunting. And so, what we did is we turned around and we said, okay, we’re going to focus on our culture. We’re going to focus on creating an environment where we have values. And we make sure that those values are communicated and that everyone buys into those values. And so, over the course of a couple of years, every opportunity we got, we stressed our values and who we are. And we said repeatedly, this is who we are. We respect each other, we’re professionals. We get into the trenches with each other and work together. So, we had a new experience to share that happened where we had to make a difficult change. And the wonderful thing about it is because we had shared our values and everyone knew what our culture was supposed to look like, they came forward and said, you know what? This doesn’t feel right. This doesn’t feel like our culture. This is this is not what we said, who we are. This is not consistent with who we are. And it was so amazing because I realized then, looking back, that you can’t force people to communicate with you, especially when you’re CEO. There’s a lot of reasons that people don’t want to call you and say, you know, I feel really uncomfortable about how someone was treating me. But if you create an environment where your values are clear, then it provides a pathway. It provides an opportunity for people to come forward and say, you know, this isn’t right. And that was a tremendous learning experience for me about how I could change that communication, how we could flip it around so that people were clear, and they knew when it wasn’t. Right. And that was amazing.

Judy Hoberman Yeah, I love that. I mean, because you don’t see that that often. And when you do, it really stands out. And I do believe that a lot of times when people talk about culture and mission and vision, it’s something that’s written on the wall, and nobody even knows what it’s about. But for somebody to come forward and say, this just doesn’t feel right, I love that. So, kudos to you, because that is that’s something that leaders would strive towards and not everybody reaches that. So, you did, girl, that I told you I wanted to. But that comes up. Another thing, though, you know, you talked about nobody wants to bother you. Nobody wants to come to you. So, I talk about the lonely leader and the lonely leader to me. And when I’ve surveyed a lot of women, what they say to them, to me about themselves is exactly what you’re saying. People don’t want to come to you. People don’t want to complain. On the flip side, you also don’t know who you can trust and who is doesn’t have a hidden agenda. So, have you ever experienced that portion of it? Because the first side you did already when you said people don’t want to bother you and tell you that somebody wasn’t treating them right, how has that ever happened to you the other way where you felt like, I just want somebody to talk to and I don’t know how to do that because, you know, I’m at the top and who is really going to be there for me?

Kimberlee Centera I think it’s true in so many respects. You know, you can I have friends that I’ve had for many years that are wonderful, but it’s really hard to talk to them in a real way about the challenges of my business and running a business and all the decisions. You know, it’s hard for people to really relate to that. You know, I’m fortunate in that we created a leadership team to run the company. So, you know, I have that team that that we can work with, that we can make joint decisions. So, a lot of the decisions are made through that mechanism. But still, at the end of the day, it is difficult, and it is, you know, unless someone has had their own business and they’ve been in the trenches and they really know what that looks like, it’s hard for them to really relate to all the challenges that come up. And I, I encourage women. I do a lot of things. I have one on ones where I with all my key people that report to me, and we talk weekly. And so, I, you know, honest about them and those conversations, it’s really about hearing where they are. And I will share things about myself, even personal things about myself, because, you know, people are the compilation of their life. You know, you can’t just compartmentalize work in life. So will we talk about things that are going on and I’ll share things. I know what it’s like to be a single working mother, you know, I know what it’s like for the kids to need you. And, oh, you’ve got to all of a sudden you get that call and you’ve got to drop everything and go. So, we have those conversations and I also encourage women to find a network. I’m very fortunate in that I’ve cultivated a lot of different networks from faith to organizations to support me. And I think that’s made a huge difference, too.

Judy Hoberman Yeah, absolutely. Now, one of the things I always talk about is you have to know your people, and if you don’t know your people, then you don’t know what drives them and you don’t know what what’s going to move them, and you don’t know really what they’re looking for. And so, once you know your people there and you relate your own stories, that’s when there is like magic that happens. So, what do you think are some of the top qualities of a great leader? Because obviously you are a great leader. And I’m just going to say that only because of the things I’m hearing. But what do you think are some of the best qualities that make a leader a great one?

Kimberlee Centera Some of my own personal attributes that I really focus on are, first of all, I think you have to be humble. You have to realize that you’re not the smartest person in the room and you don’t always have all the answers. And I know what I want. I know what my vision is for the business, and I’m driven to pursue that and to cultivate that. But at the same time, I try to listen. You know, you have to listen. I you know, I think inherently just being a leader, you’ve got a lot to say, right? It seems like always got a lot to say. I’ve always got an opinion, but I’ve learned to try to be smarter about, you know, asking questions and just giving people a chance to talk, you know, and really hearing what they have to say. I also think having courage, you know, it takes courage. And I really for me, it’s a focus on strengths. You know, we all have weaknesses. Years ago, I remember having reviews where, you know, you were supposed to focus on your weakness and let’s really work on that and how are we going to improve upon that? I think that’s inherently flawed. You know, let’s focus on our strengths. You know, we all know we have weaknesses, and we can talk about that for days. But I think let’s focus on our strengths and the things that make us great and let’s really cultivate those. So that’s another thing I think that’s really important as a leader and trying to have wisdom and employ wisdom and, you know, realize that I’ve surrounded myself with some really talented people and, you know, they’re not always going to do things the way that Kim is going to do it. But that’s okay. You know, I’m going to give them an opportunity to do it and recognize that they’re trying. So, I think those things have really helped me in the sheer as I say, I’m so excited about the growth that I’ve seen and all the people on my team and just, you know, telling them there’s no barriers, there’s no boundaries. Go out there, be creative. We know what we want to create as far as who we are. And I’ve just been really excited to see that.

Judy Hoberman Absolutely. And creativity is, you know, people play it down and I don’t know why, because you get your best ideas when people are allowed to be creative, you know? Yeah, there’s just so many things there. It’s, it’s really incredible. But I love I love the qualities that you’re talking about because I do believe that people don’t look at those as qualities of a leader. They just think, well, that was that was a nice to have. But really, I mean, if you are a courageous leader, if you are a generous leader, if you know, if you are there for people, that’s what that’s what changes. If you’re empathetic. Empathy is something that’s really been a topic of conversation for most leadership companies. So yeah. Okay. So, my last question, other than where can we find you? But my last question to you is, what’s your number one piece of advice for women in leadership positions? What would you tell them in order for them to shine like you are? Because you are definitely a great and a quality leader and women look up to other women that are in leadership positions. So, if you had to just go through all of your brain right now, like what’s the one piece of advice you would tell them to follow?

Kimberlee Centera I would say be clear on who you are because you’re going to be challenged. You’re going to be discouraged. People are going to tell you that you can’t do that or, you know, you’re not smart enough or fast enough or whatever it might be. But I think what’s really served me well is being clear on who I am, my values, my proposition, what I’m about. And having that light my way. And even when it’s been hard and we’ve had things happen and gosh, it’s sometimes it’s really tough, right? You know, and things. But we always feel like, okay, that’s going to turn out well in the end. And it does. You know, we’ve had situations where things transition maybe with a client and we’re like, oh, how is this going to go? And it’s always turned out favorably because we have been clear on who we are. We’re clear on the fact that we’re about relationships, we’re about building connection. And we have the opportunity to be at a conference recently where everyone is finally back together. And it was so wonderful to have all these conversations with colleagues and realize that, you know, even when we’re not doing our best work, people call and say, you know, Kim, you guys didn’t do your best work on this deal, you know? And it’s like, let’s talk about that. We need to fix that. But just getting those phone calls is so important and being able to have those conversations. But that’s because we’re clear and I’m clear on who we are, and it’s about those relationships. And it opens up so many opportunities and people I think, are hungry for that. I think especially after the experiences of the last couple of years, business is great and obviously we’re all here to do business too, but it’s so much easier to do business with people that value those relationships and the opportunity to create great things together.

Judy Hoberman Yeah, absolutely. Business is built on relationships. That’s what it is. And it doesn’t matter who you are or what level you are, it’s built on a relationship. So, I agree. And what a great way to end this conversation. So, if people or when people actually want to connect with you, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Kimberlee Centera The best way is through our website. If you go on to, you can reach out all the information about tare pro and myself is there and what we’re doing, and we’d love to hear from people. Please reach out and we’d love to hear from people.

Judy Hoberman Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. You know, as I said, being connected through this crazy world of, you know, LinkedIn, it really it changes my perspective. And so, like I said again, when I saw your profile, I said, okay, I have got to meet you. So, I thank you so much for your time and appreciate your wisdom. And I look forward to our next time.

Kimberlee Centera Great. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Judy Hoberman Thank you. And till next time, we will see you soon. Bye.

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