Structuring Your Time and Energy Spend. There is no down time — once you decide to open, it is a full out sprint. But I quickly realized that structural quiet time is essential. Which may appear to be difficult but putting your airbag on first is the only way you can help others. Although everyone wants to hear from you personally, both internally and externally, you must set boundaries that allow you to exhale, recharge and sharpen your focus on what truly matters. To aide my process I am a strong believer in a Rolling 90-Day Plan that allows me to align time and energy collectively around priorities while providing strength in avoiding details that do not serve our greater goal. It allows us to say yes to priorities and no to items that distract us.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Campbell.
Beth Campbell is an award-winning architect and visionary leader in the industry. With nearly 30 years of global design experience, she just launched her own company, Campbell House. The firm is a full-service interior design studio, focused on high-engagement design solutions for hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage, and corporate workplace. Most recently, Beth served as CEO of Wilson Associates, a top global interior design firm. Prior to Wilson, Beth was EVP and head of design for Westfield Corporation and spent 16 years at Gensler as a managing partner and global account director.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am so fortunate, I had an amazing childhood with loving parents, great family and exposure to education and discovery. When I was 8 years old, I knew for sure I wanted to be in the architecture and design field. My parents — as with all parents in the ’70s — spent Saturday nights at friends’ houses for card club or a cocktail party. Of course, the kids were shuttled along and promptly placed in the yard or basement to play (mid-west / east coasters get it — we all had finished basements tricked out as a game room). Every night when I would come home from the night’s events, I would wait for my parents to fall asleep and would then draw the host’s house — and promptly redraw it, with a myriad of design improvements. A few months into this pattern I came home to find a drafting table with T-Square and table lamp. My dad had one requirement: “please just wait until your mother is asleep, we don’t want her worrying you’re not getting enough sleep!”
By the time I was 10, I worked weekends at one of my family’s restaurants and during the week my father arranged for me to stop by a local architect’s office on the way home from school. Turns out he studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and had an abundance of FLW books. All of which I worked my way through over the coming months. I was hooked.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” — Ronald Reagan
Through this simple quote, and amazing way of making choices in life, I feel President Reagan set a tone that has resonated with me my whole life. It uncovered a key to many people’s success, although you must be diligent and committed, you can go much further with a strong cast around you. The former President’s comment also shed light on the fact that my ability to understanding people and reading situations is actually a gift, one that has opened countless doors for me.
Inside of this formula, I have had great opportunity presented to me that has allowed me to go farther, much faster. Exemplified most adeptly via our launch of the Campbell House. We have compiled an exceptional team of talent who is quick to step in to lead, while they are as quick to take a position of followership when needed. While it does indeed take a village, sustainable success is achieved when all players understand that the credit goes to the collective.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
I truly believe that I am the person you see before you today based on growing through the example of those who went before me, those who surround me to challenge and encourage me, some hard work, and the blessings of good fortune.
Inside this understanding that we are all an amalgamation of time, people, and circumstances, I would say a true gift I am fortunate to possess is the ability to read a situation. I have always been able see people for who they are, and not just how they choose to show up. Combining this with the ability to quickly understand a situation, much like Tiger Woods reads a putt or one sees the edges of a puzzle take shape, I can see events, conversations, design projects, and business scenarios all as a series of pieces that are meant to fit together.
Another quality people have noticed in me is the ability to stay calm in a storm, choosing to see the scenario as a set of variables versus a personal afront or obstacle. Realizing that if I slow down and study the situation, there is always a pathway forward. This honed skill expresses itself in perseverance, in good times and in bad.
Even as a young child, I held a passion and commitment to expose the good in everyone. For reasons beyond my comprehension, I see opportunity inside everyone with whom I interact. I can tell you that this occasionally ends in disappointment, but most of the time my belief in them as a person resonates so deeply that they unleash their full potential.
A great example of all these gifts, skills and ability coming together would be a time when I lived in Chicago. We had a major client that was extremely important to the firm, but tensions boiled over, and the client was planning to terminate us. My boss, Lamar Johnson, asked me to go with him to size up the situation. We listened to the client’s complaints and frustrations, which included a lot of yelling and fist pounding on the table. Throughout I asked multiple questions to ensure we understood their full frustration. After an hour of taking copious notes, Lamar and I asked for a 15-minute reprieve to formulate our response. We came back in the room with full listing of changes we would implement immediately, each one addressing the concerns that we surmised from our line of questioning. The client was so happy that we heard them and that we were able to fully acknowledge the real problem, which until that day had been unspoken, they not only reinstated our full contract — they doubled our scope.
Let us now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I have had the great fortune to work with some amazing people and clients over my Architectural career. From starting in smaller firms straight out of University to my 16 years with Gensler, I was able to gain exposure to a breadth of project types — and more importantly, a large range of leaders, all of whom had an imprint on my evolving leadership style. My strongest learning moments were experienced while working at Westfield Development, there I learned the focus and pressures of the Developer/Owner’s side of the design equation, all while be exposed to the most influential boss I have ever had — Bill Hecht. Bill embodied development prowess, design sensitivity, operational knowledge, and passion for bringing out the best in his people. Bill showed me a model of success that is built on providing a culture that allows your collective team to grow and shine. Lessons I cherish.
Through these relationships I have been able to express my passion for design excellence around the globe. With my extreme desire to learn and grow, I have built a skill set of global business, design and executive coaching that have served me very well in honing my craft. Bringing to bear my passion for design, my appreciation for global cultures, and my in-depth industry knowledge will allow us to successfully build the Campbell House brand.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I see my life as a constant series of evolutionary steps — but this stride into entrepreneurship was the biggest change yet — and somehow the most natural. During this all-important transition I am working very closely with my Executive Coach; focusing on development of my entrepreneurial skills, working on high impact activities, and setting strong parameters on my vision such that I can easily decide where to spend my time and energy.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
The decision to take the plunge was an evolution, a series of events, discussions, and opportunities. But in all good story lines, there was a specific conversation that changed my line of thinking. While in Cabo for a friend’s 50th birthday I had a conversation with Jill, who brilliantly asked — “Beth, is this something you can fix or are you riding this to the bottom.” Then and there, overlooking the Pacific Ocean with coffee in hand, I realized that although I had solutions to revive the brand, I was faced with a leadership board that had no desire to have the brand succeed. That February morning, I knew I had to make a major change, that I had to leave.
Through the Spring of 2020 I was interviewing for similar CEO positions and quickly realized that my goal and passion to impact our industry, influence lives and truly make a difference meant I needed to form my own team on my terms. By July I had realized I was going to launch my own Creative House, based on learnings from all my experiences, both good and bad, to create an environment that fosters work that is collaborative, flexible, and meaningful. And to this day, all my files are labeled “Project Cabo”.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you have not been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Being fortunate to have insatiable desire to learn has continually opened my world of opportunity. While living in San Francisco and working on a global optimization project with the most amazing team, I realized that I am not just an operationally driven project manager. My passions were evolving to include broad set problem solving for major design projects, all which could be solved by applying people’s skills and passions with the right focus towards their own growth opportunities. Through my MBA and my Executive Coaching curriculum, I realized that further blending design, management, and emotional intelligence in one brain is a powerful cocktail.
Most recently, the realization that I thrive on the entrepreneurship side of the leadership equation has served as a major accelerant in my personal fire to make a difference. Pushing the boundaries of all my skills and vision to make a collective of market leaders, revolutionaries that are customer oriented and personally vested in the wholesale opportunity impact people through the built environment has proven to be quite intoxicating.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
The launch and start up process has been overwhelmingly amazing. The wave of support and encouragement as we embark on our new path has been nothing short of inspiring. I am realizing that by us striking out it shows signs of hope in a difficult time for many. Alongside us taking a sour opportunity that was born from the collapse of a once great brand and building up a new House that will provide innovative services for the clients while fostering a culture that will develop and grow talent has received words of support from around the globe.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
To begin with, I feel I am one of the fortunate ones on this earth. I have the most amazing family; I am truly blessed with exceptional parents and siblings. With the knowledge of being adopted at birth, you cannot stop and consider that could have ended up anywhere — or even never taking a breath — I consider every step that I have taken in life to be an opportunity to fulfill my destiny.
Further exposure to a long list of amazing life influences has to be topped by Lamar Johnson, Architect, friend, and amazing family man whom I had the great fortune of working for in Chicago. Lamar encouraged me to lean into my “odd in design world gifts” of emotional intelligence, business sense, and design appreciation. He also taught me the invaluable lesson of the importance of authenticity and transparency in leadership. Lamar taught me that brilliant, caring humans can make a difference.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I have found it interesting how excited everyone is for us in our breakout moment, but more interesting is how the conversation always goes to “creating an environment of freedom for designers to pursue passions while keeping personal priorities in sight” and “getting away from bureaucracy that drowns passions.” I find this front of mind for so many in our industry as we emerge from the constraints of the pandemic; we are all longing to reconnect and to ensure we maintain flexibility in our work while contributing to meaningful pursuits. And typically, size is quickly translated to oppressive bureaucracy — but I believe it lies in the culture, the leadership, and the corporate behaviors. While it is true that many large firms are focused on profits which drives individualist rewards for slaying the dragons, firms of any size have the choice to set priorities that emphasize teamwork and collaboration while rewarding focus on qualities and characteristics of the group rather than an individual. I feel strongly that this pivot of priorities will be one of the beautiful outcomes of a dark season in our global history.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
First is to acknowledge all of us have been there, we question ourselves or our ability. And we all need to acknowledge we are driven by fear of some type. The question one needs to ask — is the fear driving you forward in motivation or causing you to shy away into a shadow of what you can truly become. Over the course of my career, I have had the good fortune to see the positives that crop up from what is perceived as a lousy situation, which has oddly driven a behavior in me that fosters excitement when things seem to be going sideways. I have learned that during chaos is where the brightest opportunities lie, so instead of backing away I fill with adrenaline and lean into the uncertainty as I know with certainty that something amazing is waiting on the other side.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I am fortunate to have learned early in life the power in building a strong network of people around you. People who complement your skillsets, challenge you to be better, and know when to encourage and when to guide. I took extensive strides leading up to the launch of Campbell House to set our core leadership team, which is a highly skilled and widely diverse set of players that all complement and constructively push each other.
The other willful and concentrated effort I made prior to launching Campbell House was to tap into my circle of advisors that is deep and strong. I spent hours running through business plans, branding strategies, scenario planning, disaster planning, and vertical integration models. Each person brought their own perspective and insights. But most importantly, as I communicated my vision through these series of conversation it forged in me a crystallization of my purpose and mission. These conversations have proven priceless.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
Interestingly, at this turn I found it terribly uncomfortable to “stay the course” or “stick to conventional career paths”. The evolution that took place inside me during the evaluation and discovery phase quickly opened up to one answer, it is time to open my own Creative House. With the
pent up demand due to the pandemic, adding in the openings in the marketplace created by underperforming or competition that closed shop, I knew in my heart of hearts that “the time is now to act”. So, I did.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Breaking Constraints. We all bring our learned behaviors with us, most of these learnings are good but, in some instances, what served us in the past will hold us back in the future state. For some it was that individualistic — survivor mentality — is the road to success; protect my personal assets and I will win. Others feel that corporate hierarchy is at play no matter what leadership states. Then others cannot break the patterns of “this is how it has always been done”. No matter what the mindset, no matter how great the individual players might be, as the Leader you must set clear expectations with solid definitions of success and share repeatedly the vision and mission to provide all comfort that they are valued, they are not alone, and that together we are stronger than alone.
- Structuring Your Time and Energy Spend. There is no down time — once you decide to open, it is a full out sprint. But I quickly realized that structural quiet time is essential. Which may appear to be difficult but putting your airbag on first is the only way you can help others. Although everyone wants to hear from you personally, both internally and externally, you must set boundaries that allow you to exhale, recharge and sharpen your focus on what truly matters. To aide my process I am a strong believer in a Rolling 90-Day Plan that allows me to align time and energy collectively around priorities while providing strength in avoiding details that do not serve our greater goal. It allows us to say yes to priorities and no to items that distract us.
- Hyper Uncertainty. Uncertainty, everyone deals with it differently. This we know. But uncertainty in a startup compounded with the excitement of adventure is a new cocktail for me to consume. It is a hyper dose that drives all players to extremes. Almost into “violent agreement” at times, myself included. By recognizing this and openly talking about it — both cause and effect — is a sure recipe to get everyone into “harmonious agreement”.
- Run Your Race. We have all dealt with stressors in our careers, ones that change as each season evolves. In my most recent stint I found an incredible amount of negative stress, where I was constantly digging out of problems that were created by someone else. Although it sounds overwhelming, there was an odd comfort in the consistency and pattern. Now as an entrepreneur the stress is very different, it wildly undulates and is extremely positive. Although this feels more positive on the surface, I am finding that adrenaline pushes 24/7 can be terribly exhausting. But I am here to tell you, I fall asleep each night with a smile on my face, both from the knowledge that I will not wake to a fresh stack of issues created by someone else, but more so by the sense of accomplishment and impact we are having each day.
- Run with Purpose. I have found a deep need for daily reminders to avoid distractions. The guiding voice to say do not fight battles that are not on your doorstep, do not engage in battles that are not between you and your purpose. I have found it almost therapeutic to recognize distractions and use them to take a minute to step back and reframe what is top priorities, and then choose to act. Winston Churchill said it best — “You will never make your destination if you stop to throw stones at every barking dog along the way.” Daily, and sometimes hourly, we need to remind ourselves that we are on this earth once and we cannot keep wasting energy on frivolous distractions. Keep your mission, your purpose, front of mind at all times.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Be Kind. I feel so strongly in today’s political and global economic environment, we need to be better to our neighbors. Our world needs to collectively realize that we are better together and focus on the greater good and not just our own self interests. Fight the urge to delve into polarizing actions and conversations.
It can start with one person — with you. By being nice to a stranger, an authentic compliment, a moment of caring, a text of encouragement, and simple smile. It can be dramatically contagious. As we are on this earth one time, we owe it to ourselves and others to make the most of our contributions. So today, choose to be positive and know that every interaction is a chance to learn and to give back. You cannot always choose your circumstances, but you surely can choose your reaction. Make a difference, live the “no, not me; you first” attitude.
Knowing kindness is contagious, start a new pandemic today — love and respect of humankind today.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
We are so fortunate to live in a time of amazing, brilliant, and inspirational leaders. Players with a wide variety of skills, talents, and passions. Many I would enjoy having coffee with, such as Warren Buffett — a brilliant businessman who is always led by his grounding core values. Anna Wintour –with her incredible fashion and business sense, which jointly goes on display each year as the epitome of arts fundraising at the Met Gala. Brene Brown — who courageously shares her inspirational rawness and keen ability to constantly capture the human desire to become better. And Elon Musk — risk taker, entrepreneur, and visionary all in one pair of perfectly selected Nikes. Need I say more?
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