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Tips From The Top: One On One With Vicente Wolf

I spoke to designer Vicente Wolf about his best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Vicente: My good friend, Holly, owns the fish and food shop at Gosman’s Dock out in Montauk, where I have a second home. On weekends I’ll join her to assist with various jobs, i.e. washing pots, sweeping, carrying boxes, fetching things and sometimes even prepping the veggies. After a week of being the boss, there is something wonderful about giving in to being low man on the totem pole and taking direction. I always look forward to volunteering my time at Gosman’s – it’s a rewarding few hours of my weekend and takes me away from the design pressures of my NYC-based firm. 

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Vicente: I physically got to the US by boat from Cuba when I was 15 years old. Coming into a society as an immigrant was a handicap unto itself, however, I am also severely dyslexic. At 18 I moved myself to NYC to find my place in America and without a successful formal education.  These challenges forced me to strive harder for ways to triumph. In those years I didn’t know what or how, but I knew I had a valuable contribution to make and was determined to take advantage of every opportunity and did.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Vicente: Being passionate about whatever it is that you believe and commit to your decisions.  It is also imperative that you know your strengths as well as shortcomings, that is not always an easy thing to face.  It’s important that you seek out the right people who can complement your weaknesses. For example, computers and most things digital are not my strong suit. I make sure I hire people whose skill set includes these elements. And, always show your appreciation.  In addition, I have also gained more than I’ve given when I mentor and teach.  I enjoy working with interns, lecturing and situations where I can inspire the next generation of interior designers.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Vicente: As I said previously, you must rely on your village; the people who you surround yourself with.  Success requires a good support team.  Use your team wisely.  When you are aware of what each of them brings to the table, you will know how to utilizes them to the fullest, even inspiring them to challenge themselves. Remember, nothing lasts forever so enjoy it while it does.  Enjoy the road.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Vicente: Trust your gut.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Vicente: Speaking for myself, people have helped me through the years to get where I am today.  I almost consider it a responsibility to pass along what I have learned through my experiences.  It’s so very gratifying to give a boost to those getting their footing in their careers.

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