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:


Intro 0:02
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.

Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today of Heidi Magnusson of New Leaf design. Heidi, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Heidi Magnuson 0:39
Thank you Gresh. It's awesome to be here.

Gresham Harkless 0:40
I've been looking forward to may two definitely been looking forward to this one. And before we jumped in, so you 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. And in 2001, 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. Hattie's design has been recognized for its excellence by Howe magazine, the Web Marketing Association and the Association of educational education publishers. Heidi, are you ready to speak to the imcl? community?

Heidi Magnuson 1:16
I'm ready,

Gresham Harkless 1:17
let's do it. So they kick everything off. I wanted to kind of rewind the clock a little bit here a little bit more on how to get started, could you take us through what I call your CEO story? We'll let you get started with business.

Heidi Magnuson 1:28
Okay, sure. Um, 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 want to do that for photography, and 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 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 designer that had totally different influences than what they were seeing around here at that point. So they really liked that I had traveled a lot that I've 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 were in the Washington DC area, started folding. And our agency lost 70% of its business, probably within about six months. And I happen to be pregnant at the time. And I was on maternity leave when everybody got a letter on their desk saying they were either let go, or they were on 50% of the agency got let go that day. I got a courier letter in the mail. Guy knocked on my door. I had a three week old baby. And it said I was like Oh, so it was a really rough time. I was terrified. I couldn't really go on job interviews because I had an infinite home. I was supposed to be on maternity leave, I didn't have any plans for who to watch her 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 areas folding unemployment is higher than it normally is. So it was just kind of kicking 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 got to 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 $150. If they chose your design, you weren't even going to get paid. Apparently a bunch of people, I guess, who also didn't have jobs applied for this and lucky for me, they chose my logo design. And that's how I got my very first $150 that I taped on the wall. That's how new leaf design started. And I actually ended up working for that client for a few years and then when their marketing director left because she was having a baby. Um, 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 11 years straight, I believe 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.

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Gresham Harkless 5:11
Nice. I love to kind of hear you know how you've been able to kind of 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 imagine you know what that was or how that was going through. But I love how you said that, you know, just kind of having them in the mindset, or maybe the mentality at that time is just trying to go for it. 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 want to take those steps and sometimes really phenomenal things can come out of it.

Heidi Magnuson 5:48
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's still tons of people hiring. So yeah, could be a good time to make changes.

Gresham Harkless 6:06
Yeah, absolutely. Because it's definitely a transformational time. So I know we talked a little bit about that change, we change to 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.

Heidi Magnuson 6:19
Um, so over the years, I've kind of developed a real passion for doing nonprofit 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 want to be that person that they're just paying to like throw away ads, and nobody really cares about it, you know, I just didn't want to do that type of work. So for me doing nonprofits and associations are my absolute favorite. I've also joined a networking group to that I do a lot of small local businesses. And that can be fun, too. It's not as a steady ongoing work. But it's kind of nice to have clients that I can meet or see. Some of the nonprofit's 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. So

Gresham Harkless 7:53
nice. And I absolutely love that and kind of sounds like, correct me if I'm wrong, those service based entrepreneurs, those entrepreneurs that are doing their organization of the business, they have a really strong mission behind it. I imagine that when you get to design, as you said, it's not just designing it for somebody to see it. But it's designed to really make a change and make an impact. They sometimes even goes farther amongst the mission.

Heidi Magnuson 8:13
Yeah, no, I love doing that. Yeah. Nice to learn all about it, too. Yeah, exactly. About my job. It's just learning about all the different things that are going out there as well.

Gresham Harkless 8:23
Yeah, absolutely. And I was actually going to ask that, because, um, 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?

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Heidi Magnuson 8:40
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 idea 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, I 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. 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's 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 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 as you can find it online.

Gresham Harkless 9:55
Yeah, no, that makes so much sense and being able to kind of I've always felt Like that, I guess creativity is kind of like a muscle when you're able to kind of flex that out in different ways. It manifests itself, obviously, in something you're designing, but obviously, in the photography and 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,

Heidi Magnuson 10:16
or 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 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 Love colors. I love nature. I love painting. I you know, all of it, I think just all visual.

Gresham Harkless 10:38
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 kind of tap into those different, I guess modalities of creativity is what you feel kind of helps and set you and nuleaf design apart.

Heidi Magnuson 10:54
Yeah. And also, I mean, yeah, I love I think I 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 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, go for a run or a walk or do something completely different, where I'm not thinking of it at all. And all the sudden, it's just like when it comes it comes and it's 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 Monday, and there's 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.

Gresham Harkless 11:43
Mm hmm. Absolutely. I love that. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a SEO hack. So this could be like an app or book or a habit that you have or something that makes you more effective and efficient.

Heidi Magnuson 11:57
I would say my 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.
Um, I guess my hack is just being able to, like you said to kind of 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 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.

Gresham Harkless 12:37
Absolutely. So 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 hacked into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self,

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Heidi Magnuson 12:49
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.

Gresham Harkless 13:05
So now I would have asked 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 means he,

Heidi Magnuson 13:16
I think being a CEO means that you are in charge of your destiny, I mean, you can decide when you want to work, what you want to do how you want to shake your business, how you want to, if you want to 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 for anybody else.

Gresham Harkless 13:48
You and me both. And I think it's so funny because I often he you definitely appreciate that I often talk about the CEO as being kind of like an artist, and you have a blank cabinet. So you get to kind of paint the picture that you want. And just as you kind of spoke about, you know how much time you're going to spend with family how much time you're going to spend on work, you get to kind of paint that adjusted 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.

Heidi Magnuson 14:15
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, it's great. It's nice to have flexibility.

Gresham Harkless 14:32
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.

Heidi Magnuson 14:47
Oh, okay. Well, Heidi, at New Leaf design, Heidi Magnuson, it's new hyphen, leaf hyphen, design, calm and lots of hyphens, which as a web designer I did not know then I know now really terrible. So I will never advise you to do that. reach me at Heidi at New dash leap dash design Comm. 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 Gresham, I were talking, everything is changing for so many people, there's 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.

Gresham Harkless 15:41
Absolutely. And that 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 kind of changes, kind of like being on jungle gyms and if you don't let go of the jungle gym before you just went to the next one, you'll be stuck exactly where you are. And I think we can't be afraid to kind of let go and swing to the next jungle gym so that we can kind of progress and take those steps and evolve as individuals. So I appreciate that. Yeah, no,

Heidi Magnuson 16:11
I agree.

Gresham Harkless 16:15
And I hope you have a great rest of the day.

Outro 16:17
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 a www.CEOgear.co This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

Mercy - CBNation Team

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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