April 5, 2015 | last updated April 5, 2015 5:05 pm
Women In Business 2015

Bligh finds success putting clients first

PHOTO | Steve Laschever
PHOTO | Steve Laschever
Carolyn Bligh, principal, Bligh Graphics LLC, shown with her mentor, her mother, Barbara Reibling.

Who is your mentor and why?

I've been lucky to have many wonderful mentors, but the one that stands out and has been with me since day one is my mom. She is the ultimate example of hard work, perseverance, and devotion. Learning from her example has been invaluable for work, and for life decisions as well. She has also been a tremendous resource of knowledge that I can tap into, especially as a woman in business. Having someone always there for you, and believing in you, makes you feel that anything is possible. There is nothing you can't do with a great mentor in your life.

How do you mentor your staff?

I mentor by being open, honest, sharing and caring. Being a good role model, and staying positive. Very often, you learn just as much yourself, and about yourself, through the act of mentoring.

What advice could you offer to people thinking about being a mentor?

I believe the greatest gift you can give someone is inspiration. Mentoring can be the way to give that gift, and by mentoring you are privileged to give that gift. Pope Francis has a great motto I get inspired by, "People first, and then everything else follows." If we believe in people, help people, and inspire people, we will be a better world. Acting on opportunities to help people is the start. I bet there are many people who don't even realize they are already mentoring others, and that is great. You don't need an official title, or program, you just need to share and care about helping people be the best they can be.

When Carolyn Bligh decided to leave her graphic design job at a large northeastern architectural firm and open her own business — something she never envisioned doing — she did it with the confidence instilled in her by her parents.

"I was a female in the building industry and I was young, I had no gray hair, not a lot of experience, but had a boatload of enthusiasm and I believed in myself and my ability," Bligh says looking back on her plunge into entrepreneurship just over two decades ago.

She was 28, six years out of college and coming off her first job. She had not moonlighted while at what was then Russell Gibson von Dohlen (RGvD) and had no clients when she founded Bligh Graphics LLC.

"I was just, 'Let's do this,' " says Bligh, who turns 50 on April 14 and is as enthusiastic as ever, but with 22 more years of experience in what's now called visual communications design, which also includes branding services.

Bligh's clients are mostly in architecture, engineering, construction and real estate.

RGvD was her first client — and where she met her architect husband, Jeann˘t Bligh. The first big client she landed on her own, BVH Integrated Services engineering firm in Bloomfield, still uses Bligh.

"They pretty much started my business," she says.

Jeann˘t was instrumental, too, leaving RGvD in 1994 to help Bligh, complementing her skills with his strengths in finance, organization and writing. He did that for 17 years, then re-entered architecture before joining BVH last fall in technical communications. They have two children, Matt, 18, and Anna, 14.

Getting her start in building and design fields taught Bligh the industry and served her well in business, including helping the Construction Institute at the University of Hartford, where she worked on the group's rebranding campaign with its then assistant director, Deborah Laviero.

Laviero, now vice president of organizational development at OFI, a commercial office furniture dealership in Newington, still works with Bligh, whom Laviero says has been instrumental in OFI's development.

OFI has used Bligh to help with brand awareness for the last 14 years, Laviero says, calling her a "very strong business partner." Bligh does external work for OFI and internal communications.

"I think she really listens to the client's goals and she has a very unique way of delivering to the need …," Laviero says. "She's so detail-orientated and so creative and unique with her approach. I always say she's fun, she's fresh, she's fabulous with her deliverables. The detail that she puts into it, it just takes so much of the effort away from me and it frees me up to do so many other things."

Bligh pours herself into her work, acknowledging long hours working from her Simsbury home. But she loves the projects, striving to do great work every time.

"I firmly believe you are as good as your last job," Bligh says.

"I take it very serious when [clients] have faith in me and trust in me. I cherish that and I do not want to disappoint my clients," she added.

That includes responsiveness, she says, recalling a term she once heard: FUBB, or Follow Up Beyond Belief. It's her mantra. She returns calls and emails within 24 hours, "no question."

Key to success, too, has been diversifying her services, not just designing logos, brochures or websites, but also doing social media, interviews for clients and more.

It's also important in business to know your limits, she says.

Bligh's energized by mentoring and guest lecturing students at her alma mater, the University of Hartford, where she also sits on the Alumni Board and lauds the school's positive impact on her career. She also volunteers for numerous organizations and is Connecticut chapter president of the Society for Marketing Professional Services.

"That is a huge part of who I am and my business," Bligh says of giving back.

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