IAM804- Founder Listens to Clients and Helps Create Amazing Product

Podcast Interview with Heidi Magnuson

In 2001, Heidi Magnuson founded New Leaf Design with the mission of listening to the client and putting in that extra effort to create an amazing product. Today the firm boasts national and local clients with a wide range of work. Magnuson’s design has been recognized for its excellence by HOW magazine, the Web Marketing Association, and the Association of Education Publishers.

  • CEO Hack: Being able to recharge, take a break and being able to balance your life and also schedule your work
  • CEO Nugget: Never be afraid to try new things, that's where growth starts
  • CEO Defined: You are in charge of your destiny

Website: https://new-leaf-design.com/

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Full Interview:


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[00:00:02.20] – Intro

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

[00:00:29.80] – Gresham Harkless

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Heidi Magnuson of New Leaf Design. Heidi, it's awesome to have you on the show.

[00:00:39.20] – Heidi Magnuson

Thank you, Gresh. It's awesome to be here. I've been looking forward to it.

[00:00:42.20] – Gresham Harkless

Me too. Definitely be looking forward to this one. Before we jump in so you can hear about all the awesomeness that Heidi does, I want to read a little bit more about her so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing. Two thousand one, Heidi founded New Leaf Design with the mission of listening to the client and putting in that extra effort to create an amazing product. Today, the firm boasts national and local clients with a wide range of work. Hadi's design has been recognized for its excellence by How Magazine, the Web Marketing Association, and the Association of Educational Education Publishers. Heidi, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

[restrict paid=”true”]

[00:01:16.79] – Heidi Magnuson

I'm ready.

[00:01:17.90] – Gresham Harkless

Let's do it. So to kick everything off, I wanted to kinda rewind the clock a little bit here, a little bit more on how you got started. Could you take us through what I call your CEO story? We'll let you get started with the business.

[00:01:28.50] – Heidi Magnuson

Okay. Sure. I was actually a photography major in college. And when I was doing that, I realized that I probably did not have the personality type to I'm not in your face wanting to you know? I just didn't wanna do that for photography. And, I wasn't really interested in wedding or portrait photography, so I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer from a class that I took during college. And during my summers, got internships and created a working portfolio before I graduated. So that's how I got my first job after college is graduated. I had a portfolio even though I didn't have a degree in design.

I had worked for three agencies before I graduated college. And then I worked for different agencies for a while. I stopped for a few years, moved to Japan, and came back. I had taught English in Japan. I wanted to do something else. And, actually, the agency that hired me then was really interested because I was a dot designer that had totally different influences than what they were seeing around here at that point. So they really liked that I had travelled a lot, that I'd been to a lot of different countries, and that actually helped me get the job. I worked for them and was promoted an art director for the web department, which is how I even got started on any web design at all.

And then the dot coms in this area, or in the Washington DC area, started folding, and our agency lost seventy per cent of its business probably within about six months. And I happened to be pregnant at the time. Oh, wow. And I was on maternity leave when everybody got a letter on their desk saying they were either let go or they were on. Fifty per cent of the agency got let go that day. Mhmm. And I got a couriered love letter in the mail. The guy knocked on my door. I had a three-week-old baby, and it said I was let go.

[00:03:23.50] – Gresham Harkless


[00:03:23.90] – Heidi Magnuson

So it was a really rough time. I was terrified. I couldn't really go on job interviews because I had an infant at home. I was supposed to be on maternity leave. I didn't have any plans for who to watch or what to do. And I just thought, you know, this is my time to try this. When am I ever going to try to start my own business? This is the perfect time. I have a severance package. All everywhere is, you know, in the area is folding. Unemployment is higher than it normally is. So it was just a kind of kick in the butt to do it now or never and don't complain in the future if you don't get what you want because you gotta try. So I didn't know how to go about getting clients. The first thing I did was randomly find a logo competition online for a hundred fifty dollars if they chose your design. You weren't even gonna get paid if they didn't. So, apparently, a bunch of people, I guess, who also didn't have jobs applied for this. Lucky for me, they chose my logo design.

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[00:04:27.89] – Gresham Harkless


[00:04:28.50] – Heidi Magnuson

And, that's how I got my very first hundred fifty dollars that I taped on the wall. That's how New Leaf Design started. And, I actually ended up working for that client for a a few years. And then when their marketing director left because she was having a baby, she put me in touch with a magazine that she wanted to work on, a community magazine, and they weren't looking for a marketing person. They were looking for a graphic designer. She referred me. They became my largest client for eleven years straight. I built the back of the business on that because it was incoming work every single month. I knew it was coming. I knew when it was coming. I knew how much it would be, and I could feed in other pieces around it. So that's how it got going.

[00:05:12.00] – Gresham Harkless

Nice. I love to kinda hear, you know, how you've been able to kinda transition that as somebody who has gotten laid off as well. I know how frustrating that can be. I didn't even have a newborn, so I can't even imagine, you know, what that was or how that is going through. But I love how you said that you know, just kind of having the mindset or maybe the mentality at the time is just trying to go for it, and you don't have anybody else to blame but yourself. And I think, obviously, during a time like this where so many people are experiencing layoffs and frustrations and fear, I think a lot of times we need to remind ourselves of that even despite the fear, you wanna take those steps and sometimes really phenomenal things can come out of it.

[00:05:48.50] – Heidi Magnuson

Yeah. In times of change like this, there's a lot of opportunity that can come out of it too. And it is really hard to have that mindset sometimes and everybody gets down. But I think you're right. There's lots of job shifting going on. There are still tons of people hiring. So, yeah, could be a good time to make changes.

[00:06:06.60] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Absolutely. Because it's definitely a transformational time. So I know we talked a little bit about that change. We changed to a new leaf design. Can you take us through a little bit more on what you're doing with your clients and how you serve them with all your awesome work?

[00:06:20.00] – Heidi Magnuson

So over the years, I've kind of developed a real passion for doing profit and association work, I love the idea of helping different groups that have a real, I don't know, a passion or a mission behind what they do. I remember when I first started doing graphic design, I just thought, I don't wanna be that person that they're just paying to, like, throw away ads and nobody really cares about it. And, you know, I just didn't wanna do that type of work. So for me, doing nonprofits and associations is my absolute favorite. I've also networking group where I do a lot of small local businesses, and that can be fun too. It's not as as steady ongoing work, but it's kinda nice to have clients that I can meet or see.

Some of the nonprofits aren't really you know, a lot of them are in this area, but some of them, I've worked with people that I've never even met with in person just because they don't they don't live anywhere near us. So we're always on conference calls or Zoom or whatever, which is typical now, but I do like the small business aspect of it too. But, really, my passion is nonprofits and associations. And, I'd say for local clients, I do a lot of website work. For the nonprofits and associations, it's usually around their events and their conferences and their marketing materials, not as much their website other than doing, you know, banners. Because a lot of them have huge established websites with big databases behind them.

[00:07:53.50] – Gresham Harkless

So nice. And I absolutely love that. It kinda sounds like, correct me if I'm wrong, those service-based entrepreneurs, those entrepreneurs that are doing, their organization or their business, they have a really strong mission behind it. I imagine that when you get to design, as you said, it's not just designed for somebody to see it, but it's designed to really make a change and make an impact that sometimes even goes farther, amongst the mission.

[00:08:14.10] – Heidi Magnuson

Yeah. No. I love doing that. Yeah. And loves to learn all about it too.

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[00:08:18.80] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Exactly.

[00:08:19.69] – Heidi Magnuson

About my job. It's just learning about all the different things that are going out there as well.

[00:08:23.80] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Absolutely. And I was actually gonna ask that because, you mentioned that photography aspect that you have kind of in your back pocket, so to speak. Do you feel like that has helped you, in your business, but also in maybe interacting with clients or even from a creativity standpoint?

[00:08:40.79] – Heidi Magnuson

Oh, definitely. I think they just go hand in hand, and I think that if you don't have a good eye for photography, you don't have a good eye for design either because half of design is how you're representing what people want to come across, and a lot of that can be with photography or illustration. And I'm not a wordsmith as much as I am just really visually, love doing that sort of thing, and photography plays right into all of that. So even though I don't do it very much professionally, I do a little bit of it professionally. It just helps in being able to pick out things and think of projects with, I don't know, kind of a different eye than they're used to seeing with photography.

[00:09:22.29] – Gresham Harkless


[00:09:22.60] – Heidi Magnuson

So I really enjoy that part of it. But so many clients right now use there's just millions of stock photos out there. And there are really fun things you can do with them. So I find it few and far between that people are actually hiring a lot of photographers unless it is photographers, like, at their big events, like their conventions or their you know, then they hire people or for their headshots business-wise. Wise. But a lot of companies aren't paying to get those high-end studio shots that they used to do for a marketing piece. They're just not doing that because you can find it online.

[00:09:55.70] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. No. That makes so much sense and being able to kind of I've always felt like that, I guess creativity is kinda like a muscle when you're able to kinda flex that out in different ways. It manifests itself, obviously, in something you're designing, but obviously in the photography in so many different ways. But I think you have to continue to kind of, flex that muscle or work out that muscle or else sometimes you might lose it, so to speak.

[00:10:16.60] – Heidi Magnuson

Oh, definitely. Yeah. And it's fun. I mean, I view creativity. You can do it in so many ways. So I don't know. I've I might have mentioned this before too, but I think it's all interrelated. I love interior design. I love all those house-flipping shows everybody's addicted to. I love colours. I love nature. I love painting. You know, all of it, I think. Just all visual.

[00:10:38.89] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Absolutely. And do you feel like, I was gonna ask you now for what I call your secret sauce? Do you feel like being able to kinda tap into those different, I guess, modalities of creativity is what you feel kinda helps and sets you and New Leaf design apart?

[00:10:54.20] – Heidi Magnuson

Yeah. And, also, I mean, yeah, I love that I think you can get influences from anywhere, and if you're a creative person, you often do. So you can't just always look at the same avenue. I don't know whether I don't know what you would call my secret sauce, but I do like, one trick I use, if I'm just struggling with a design and I can't do it, then, you know, I'll set it aside for a day or three days or, you know, I go for a run or a walk or do something completely different where I'm not thinking of it at all. And all of a sudden, it's just like when it comes, it comes, and it just goes. And it's easy, but you can't sometimes you just can't drag it out. And it takes hours, so just do something else. Do something mundane. There are a million things you have to do in your business. So if you're a creative professional, do one of those other things and then come back to it.

[00:11:43.79] – Gresham Harkless

Mhmm. Absolutely. I love that. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit, and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have. What's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

[00:11:57.79] – Heidi Magnuson

I would say my, actually, my downfall is probably because of the creative side of my personality. I'm not really good with the organization side, and I will be watching your other podcasters to figure out more of that.

[00:12:11.39] – Gresham Harkless


[00:12:12.89] – Heidi Magnuson

I guess my hack is just being able, like you said, to kinda what I said before, just be able to recharge, take a break, know when you are at your limit, and step away from it. Be able to balance your work and your family and, you know, your schedule as much as you can because life is a balance of all of it. And if you're always working or you're, you know, you just you can't live like that.

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[00:12:37.89] – Gresham Harkless

Absolutely. So Yeah. Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget, and this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client. Or if you hopped into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

[00:12:50.20] – Heidi Magnuson

I think maybe my nugget would be never afraid to be afraid to try new things because that's always where the growth happens and has happened for me. And the things that I've been the most scared to do have been the things that are the most rewarding to me.

[00:13:05.50] – Gresham Harkless

So, now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO, and we're hoping to have different quote-unquote CEOs on this show. So, Heidi, what does being a CEO mean to you?

[00:13:16.60] – Heidi Magnuson

I think being a CEO means that you are in charge of your destiny. I mean, you can decide when you wanna work, what you wanna do, how you wanna shape your business, and how you wanna if you wanna live a holistic life where you're balancing your work and your family and your vacation time and do things that you're passionate about. If you're your own boss, you can go whatever direction you want. And I think that's truly powerful to be able to do that, and it's awesome. And I think I may be forever broken for working on a new video.

[00:13:48.79] – Gresham Harkless

You and me both. And, I think it is so funny because I often you definitely appreciate that. I often talk about the CEO as being kind of like an artist, and you have a blank Kevin, so you get to kinda paint the picture that you want. And just as you kinda spoke about, you know, how much time you're gonna spend with family, how much time you're gonna spend at work, you get to kinda paint that, adjust it, and change it at your whim, so to speak, to some degree, and then it gets to be that masterpiece that you want to be your CEO or your business or your entrepreneurial venture.

[00:14:15.79] – Heidi Magnuson

And you can change it and shift it as you want, and it's your you know, if you're in a job, you don't necessarily have that option. But if you're a CEO and you are interested in something different, you can start to steer the business that way. It's great. It's nice to have a flexibility.

[00:14:33.00] – Gresham Harkless

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, Heidi, truly appreciate that definition. I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional. You can let our readers and listeners know and, of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you're working on.

[00:14:47.89] – Heidi Magnuson

Oh, okay. Well, Heidi, at New Leaf Design, Heidi Magnuson. It's New Hyphen Leaf hyphen design dot com. And lots of hyphens, which as a web designer, I did not know then. I know now. That's really terrible. So I will never advise you to do that. Reach me at Heidi at new dash leave dash design dot com. And I don't know. I just think that it's it's great to try and take a chance and to pursue things. And especially right now, when, as Gresh and I were talking, everything is changing for so many people. There are so many opportunities, and nobody knows what this is going to be like in the future and how it's going to forever change real retail space and offices. And so try to look for opportunities, and don't be afraid to change because sometimes it's the best thing that you can do.

[00:15:42.00] – Gresham Harkless

Absolutely. And to make it even easier, we will have the links and information in the show notes as well so that you can get in touch with Heidi. But I definitely appreciate that you know, reminder because so many times, I always heard that, kinda of change is kinda like being in jungle gyms. And if you don't let go of the jungle gym before you just swing to the next one, you'll be stuck exactly where you are. And I think we can't be afraid to kinda let go and swing to the next jungle gym so that we can kinda progress and take those steps and evolve as individuals. So I appreciate that.

[00:16:10.70] – Heidi Magnuson

Yeah. No. I agree. And you're worth this.

[00:16:14.20] – Gresham Harkless

Thank you. And I hope you have a great rest of the day.

[00:16:17.50] – Outro

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

[fusebox transcript]


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This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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