Thoughts On Business Leadership By Ali Budd

Small Business Canada

Ali Budd – President and Principal Designer of Ali Budd Interiors

Ali earned her B.A. from Huron College at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario and followed with an Interior Design Diploma from The International Academy of Design, Toronto. After graduating, she honed her skills at large architectural/interior firms as well as boutique studios, mentoring under some of Canada’s leading design minds. She opened Ali Budd Interiors in 2010.

What is your definition of Leadership?

Leadership is focusing not only on an end goal but on the process you choose for you and your team to get there. My parents used to run an advertising agency and I spent a great deal of time there. My dad was the art director and my mother the CEO. They had such different approaches to leadership. My mother was always kind and fair but tough. She’s the strongest woman I know and was the one responsible for tough choices and conversations. She is a BOSS.  My dad was everyone’s friend. He made sure there was a cake for everyone’s birthday – he would go around every morning to each team member and ask specific questions about their families and lives. He used to say, “Do you want to know the secret to happy clients? It’s a happy team.” When he passed away, almost everyone who had ever worked for him over the course of his 30+ year career was at the funeral. In my career, I’ve tried to balance both my parent’s approaches which I believe has made me a stronger leader.

What are the most important values and ethics you demonstrate as a leader?

If you follow our Instagram @AliBuddInteriors, you will pretty quickly see I don’t have a typical relationship with my team. I tell them I love them (and genuinely mean it). I’m not fussed with everyone working steady 9-5 days. Everyone works differently – some show up at 7am because they get the best work done early and some come a little late and stay late because that’s what works for them, and we’ve never missed a deadline. I think the most important thing is that the team knows I have their backs, always. There are no office politics – I have no room for it. Our job can be incredibly stressful, so we always fill the space with laughter. Sometimes we need to dance it out for 15 minutes. I am who I am professionally and personally – these sides of me aren’t mutually exclusive and I think letting your team see your humanity only makes for a stronger relationship, which in turn, always produces better work. Not one of my team members has ever taken advantage of me for this. in fact, I think I have the hardest and most caring team around.

How do you encourage the development of your employees?

There are a few things that are extremely important to me in helping encourage the development of my employees:

  • The first thing is constant education. Every single supplier we work with comes to the office regularly to present their process, production, company dynamics and products. At Ali Budd Interiors, we don’t just sell nice things – we understand how they are made, what they are made of, and what makes them different. We want to know anything and everything about what we are putting in people’s homes and what all the available options are.
  • The second thing is making sure my team feels creatively stimulated. If you look at our portfolio, you will see that we do not repeat the same designs over and over again. Our work is diverse. It keeps us thinking, engaged and excited which works well for our clients who want unique spaces.
  • The third thing is I make sure we spend time together outside of work, socially. It’s important they each have their own relationships with one another. They support each other, help each other and root for each other.

What is your advice to Canadian business owners during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Take it day by day. These times are unprecedented, and nobody knows what the right decisions are. We must make tough calls. Our job as leaders is to make sure there is a business to come back to at the end of this and to keep our teams safe. I have not hidden anything from my team – we are working together, every day. We have built this business together; I could never have done this without them. Remind your staff that – they need to hear it.

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