On a snowy Thursday afternoon on December 12, 2002, and I woke up with the sense of urgency to make a commitment.
It was a radical move; I was in the midst of a divorce, I had just returned from London a few months earlier, and I was still sorting out my life-career vision after I quit my job in London the year before. When I woke up that morning, I knew I needed to make a change, that I had to make a commitment to my future. And I needed to do it before my birthday, which was the following day. I went into the offices of a NYC Law Firm on the Upper East Side that a friend had recommended, and I started S. Lee Wright Ltd.
I took the leap and have never looked back.
Fifteen years on, and I can say that the leap has served me well. Though admittedly it has been a very windy road with some dark days, some sunny days and all sorts of weather systems in between.
As I was reviewing my year as I always do this time of the year, I realized that this was I was a milestone anniversary – 15 years in business! I pondered just how much the world, and I have changed in that time. I started to review my LESSONS LEARNED, an annual process I have with my year end, and it dawned on me that this may have some VALUE to my tribe. Though my stories of these lessons as a holistic designer, Feng Shui specialist, reflexologist, aromatherapist and a woman running a business in NYC could fill a book, for now, I will only share my top 8 lessons learned.
Always celebrate your successes, no matter how small.
We often get racing so fast we forget to slow down and celebrate the small successes you have along the way. If this is the case and you only ever celebrate the big wins, then it can be a lonely and sad road for a long time. Having BIG dreams is great, though even big dreams start with a single step in the right direction.
The client is not always right.
This is a hard one to swallow, especially for those that are of my generation and it may be surprised to read this as my clients. (Gulp). However, this is a truth that needs to be shared. Just because you are a paying client does not make you right or your opinion, or actions justifiable. Professionalism and respect are necessary for a successful relationship, even the ones you are paying for. And humans are fallible, we need to understand that imperfection is part of the deal, but it is how you deal with the challenges that matter in the long run. Know your worth and stick to it.
As a small business owner, this is a great lesson to learn and it was much easier to mentor others on that to do it for myself.  This life lesson has increased with time as well. Understanding my worth, and my value to the project, to the client, to the world – has been an enlightening experience. We all have gifts to contribute to the world, to share with each other. This is not ego talking once you have experience combined with wisdom, you just need to know when this is a truth and not a demand. Own your own worth and shine brightly.  There is nothing as sexy as confidence.


People do not value what they do not pay for.
This one took me ages to realize and accept. I see it in aspects of my business and life. As often is the case for me, the lessons I learn through being in the trenches as a designer running my own boutique firm have been life lessons to apply to other areas of my life. There is a strong link between what we value and what we willingly give our time, energy and hard-earned cash for. If we do not pay something for the thing we want, we often do not regard it highly. Think of that gift card you never used. Since you never paid for it, it goes into the category of not valuable. Check it out in your own life. You will be surprise. I was.
Trust your team (do not micromanage!)
This was another very tough lesson to learn. Because I thought that I did trust my team. I hand-selected the people to work with me, I spent hours creating training courses for them, I even mentored on the side.  All in the name of being a great leader and having a great team.  The one missing ingredient was to allow my team to do things their own unique way, instead of creating an army of mini-mes. Now, as a recovering control-freak, I recognize the expansion that comes from trusting those you surround yourself with. Creative collaboration is the best path forward as we are not designed to do it all alone, no matter what the media tries to tell us otherwise. Ask for help, then be prepared to take it. 

Simplify and Slow Down.
This also came to me late in the game. By the time my firm was 10 years old I have manuals for how to do everything in my design business, from how to answer the phone, to our monthly review meetings to design templates. In my effort to control things I had made the process more complicated than ever. In my effort to simplify, I did the opposite.
Slowing down gave me the chance to process things in a different way that running on all cylinders does. I am realizing that I am not SLOW minded, or that I take an extra-long time to process things, that this is simply the way our brains work. By not allowing ourselves some empty time, some open space to let things settle and sink in for the ultimate solutions to surface. Create the space and bigger life happens.

It is not just a pretty space.
Design is meant to improve the world and though I often have designed pretty spaces, the focus on design cannot be only about pretty.  We have a responsibility to make the world better, to be conscious about eco-friendly ways to design and build our built environments. Beauty is only skin deep, and the older I get, the more I apply this truth to all aspects of my life. Sustainable design is not an option, it is the only choice.
Embrace Technology
In 2008, five years after my company had been thriving in NYC, the world sped up. I realized if I did not get on the wagon of technology, that I was going to lose everything I had just built. The people that were winning were those let the people win the race because they understood technology better than me. My inspiration to embrace technology like a teenager (well maybe not exactly like a teenager), was my clients – you. I needed to do this to continue to serve. It is not an option.  And this is not a one- time deal – this is a lifelong commitment to making this part of your overall business and life vision. Welcome to the 21st century.
It is my intention that these may help you sail into 2018 with some more wisdom to make it the best year yet.
If you want to hear more of my Design tips, reach out to me at http://www.sleewright.com.
Let’s make 2018 your best year yet.