16 Business & Life Lessons from 16 Years as a CEO

16 Business & Life Lessons from 16 Years as a CEO

My dear friend, I’m so excited to share that LeAnne Bunnell Interiors just celebrated its 16th year in business! 

Wow. Let me soak that in for a minute… 16 years is beyond what I ever imagined. I’m feeling overwhelmed. Grateful. Nostalgic. Ambitious. I’m tempted to say “Where did the time go?” but let’s be honest, I know exactly where it went…

The time went into transforming our clients’ homes (and by association, their lives), building our fabulous team of ladies, and bringing our Calgary community together at 7070 HQ

With the champagne bottles from our Sweet 16 party barely dry, I thought I’d take this moment to reflect on the past 1.6 decades and share some lessons learned.

Whether you’re in the business of business or just looking for your best life, I think you’ll find some nuggets of wisdom in here… or at least a laugh or two. 😉

Leanne Bunnell Celebrates 16 Years

LESSON 16: YOU’RE CAPABLE OF MORE THAN YOU THINK.

When I first started LBI 16 years ago, I thought I wouldn’t have an affinity for the business side. Once things were underway, I was surprised to find that I do. 

Sure, there were hard lessons learned and sacrifices made (you’ll find many on this list), but regardless of your situation, if you really commit to something, I bet you’ll find yourself rising to the occasion!

LESSON 15: DON’T WAIT TO GET SAVVY.

I remember when I used to think the hardest part of running a business would be getting the designs right for my clients; turns out that’s the easy bit. 

If I could go back 16 years and give myself some advice, it would have been to take a business class. As soon as I got a handle on the ins and outs of the numbers and how I could affect them, business decisions were infinity easier. Get to know your P&L, folks!

LESSON 14: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

I spent years working for waaaayyyy less than minimum wage and burned myself out on more than one occasion. Like many first-time business owners, I always made sure my clients were happy, even if I wasn’t. 

If you have “people pleasing” tendencies like me, be aware of how these impact your business and personal life. 

Whatever your career or personal situation, if you notice your emotional tank is empty all the time, make a change! You deserve to do what you love AND be happy.

LESSON 13: ALWAYS AVOID THE BLAME GAME.

Running a business taught me to always check that urge to blame others for my situation, and not just in business but in life too. No matter the situation, you’ve played some part in getting there. 

Instead of blaming, I’ve found that it’s best to look at the situation free of judgment (of others or of yourself) and understand the motivations behind the actions that got you there. These give us the clues for a successful resolution.

LESSON 12: DON’T FORGET TO BE THE CEO OF YOUR BUSINESS (& LIFE)

The biggest struggle in running LBI these last 16 years has been balancing working IN the business (tasks for clients) and ON the business (navigating this oh-so-stylish ship). 

It’s all too easy to prioritize client work over your own business’s health and growth. (After all, they’re paying you.). But balancing the two is essential, no matter how you define success!

The same can be said for life — we can let it throw us around or we can step back and take control over whatever is in our power to control. 

LESSON 11: EVERYBODY NEEDS A TRIBE.

It took me a while to discover this one. I thought I could sail through business on my own and wasn’t sure I wanted the responsibility of managing a team. But before long, I discovered I couldn’t do it alone. 

A strong tribe is absolutely necessary, not just to succeed, but to be happy, too. In addition to building a team, I have met and become friends with so many in this industry. It has never been the burden I feared — it has only made my life and heart more full.

Leanne Bunnell Celebreates 16 Years

LESSON 10: BUILD A TEAM WHO SHARES YOUR VALUES.

When it comes to building a team, skill is great, but values are much more important. To me, integrity is the most important value a person can have, followed closely by resilience and persistence. This is what I look for in the people I surround myself with.

Maybe you value with these three qualities highest too, or maybe there are others you value higher. Whatever they happen to be, surround yourself with these values and you won’t be disappointed.

LESSON 9: YOUR COMPETITION ISN’T WHO YOU THINK IT IS.

I used to think “competition” meant other interior designers in Calgary. Fast forward 16 years, and now I know this simply isn’t true. Other designers are not my competition — supporting them lifts the whole industry up and everyone benefits. (I talk more about this journey here!)

If you’ve been fighting your competition in business (or even in life), look at them again with fresh eyes. Are they really your enemy? Is there a way you can help support each other and mutually profit? 

leanne bunnell lessons from 16 years design firm Calgary team

LESSON 8: ESTABLISH REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS OF YOUR TEAM

I once had a client, a very successful woman with multiple businesses, tell me that the most you can expect from employees is 85% of the effort you, as the CEO and founder, would give. 

At first, I was surprised, but then I realized, well, of course! I would never expect a team member to make the sacrifices for LBI that I (and my family) have made over these past 16 years. It has nothing to do with work ethic; it’s simply too much to ask.

Knowing this, I’ve been able to grow the LBI team to be its happiest, most productive and creative self because the expectations are realistic, defined, and supported by all. 

LESSON 7: ESTABLISH REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR CLIENTS

Managing expectations is invaluable in business, a design project and in life. (That’s also why we love to take you behind the scenes of the design process here on the blog!)

Setting realistic expectations from the beginning, even if it’s a less-than-rosy expectation, is critical to communication, smooth sailing, and ultimate success. You can apply the same principle to your family life! 😉

LESSON 6: LISTEN TO OTHERS’ STORIES

Our clients always have fascinating stories. Of course, it helps us design personal spaces, but it also gives us insight into experiences beyond the scope of our own stories. I love to hear about the paths other people take in their lives. (It’s the same reason I love to read!)

Being able to empathise and understand others’ perspectives is always a valuable tool — and helps create your tribe.

LESSON 5: YES, YOU CAN MIX BUSINESS AND PERSONAL.

In the beginning, I never, ever thought I’d become friends with my clients. I always held myself apart and kept things ‘strictly business’, but I do count my clients as friends and love seeing them socially now!

LESSON 4: WE ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF TRANSFORMATION.

My clients are fantastic people, and we are so grateful to be part of their lives, even for just a short time. It’s so satisfying seeing how having a well designed interior can transform their lives, and clients tell us constantly how our work makes their life in their home better. 

We might not save lives, but we make the lives of people who do better and that is our ‘why.’

LESSON 3: SUCCESS CAN BE MORE THAN PASSION & A PAYCHECK.

When I first started LBI, I just want to make beautiful functional spaces. I saw success as making my car payment and cell phone bill each month! 

Now, my definition of success has drastically changed — I provide a living to other women and their families, as well as my own. That’s pretty cool.

LESSON 2: THE IMPACT GOES BEYOND THE WORK.

As I mentioned, some of my early mistakes led to being underpaid, overworked, and unhappy… and yet it was still a valuable learning experience. What got me through all of those hard moments was seeing the bigger impact. 

Yes, we were improving our clients’ lives, but even more so, I’m a role model to my daughters, who have their own goals and dreams. That has always kept me motivated to grow and think bigger and better.  

If you’re feeling stuck, look for the deeper impact. It can get you to the other side.

Leanne Bunnell | Interior Design Calgary

LESSON 1: GIVE YOUR GOALS THE FREEDOM TO GROW WITH YOU.

I love comparing my goals 16 years ago to my goals now. Before, I just wanted to design spaces and pay my phone bill. Now, I have goals for my role in the industry itself — I want to see every designer succeed and grow and help new arrivals have massive success.

And that’s okay. It’s okay for your goals to change and evolve with you and your business (or with your family). We don’t have to have everything figured out in the beginning… we’ll get there when we get there. 🙂

So whether you’ve worked with us in the past, will in the future, or are a blog regular, I want to thank you so much for being part of our journey. We couldn’t do it without you!

XxLeAnne

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