The dust has settled, the warehouse is back in order, and the blur of what happened almost a month ago is a mere memory, but a memory that will last me a lifetime.
To the 280-plus guests who showed up on April 30, 2015, to celebrate 25 years in business for Decor and More Inc. and my official surprise retirement party, all I can say is I was humbled and honored by your presence.
My initial shock and tears settled into an evening of connecting and reconnecting with me, sometimes only catching short snippets of conversations as there were so many of you to see.
Some of you I see on a weekly, monthly or annual basis, and some I haven’t seen in years as you have retired or moved on to other industries and careers, and yet you came with your crazy stories to share almost as if an impromptu roast had broken out.
Whether wandering the party venue--in the tent, warehouse, offices or parking lot--around every corner, animated conversations about this industry and the insanity it takes to live in it, and love it, were going on.
People were laughing and crying about stories and incidents that happened years ago, and as we connected over the stories … the faces from the past were finally remembered, all a little older yet wiser, and yet all still “in love” with this industry. It is a true testament that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.
I was never prouder of both my boys Bryan (president) and Greg (vice president) and my entire Decor and More family than that night. I love you all with unconditional love and salute you for all you did over the last 25 years, and all you will continue to do over the next decades. You give tirelessly, and all treat the company with ownership mentality, and each other with respect. They say it takes a village to accomplish a party like this while still executing other events on the books and, my dear friends, the village came out in full force--and for that I am so thankful.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES For all the kind words, cards, e-mails, calls and well wishes from colleagues, clients, suppliers and friends, thanks does not seem to be enough. The fact that many of you travelled from Toronto to Oakville was a big deal, but another 30 or more coming from Calgary, Quebec, Fredericton, Muskoka, the Niagara area and even New York City was so touching.
The first guests arrived just prior to 5:30 p.m. and the last left about 1:30 a.m.--a true testament that this group does everything to the max and so you did!
This industry is not for “the faint of heart.” We have survived 9\11, SARS and recessions, and we are still standing strong.
Our days are long and pressure-filled; and our families need to lovingly understand if we are to survive in the industry, we desperately need their support. We, unfortunately give up some of our own milestone moments to ensure others get theirs. We are stretched and pulled to meet incredible deadlines, unimaginable wish lists, impossible budgets and unique human dynamics to ensure our clients goals and dreams are met because we are ‘’part owners’’ in their journey, and all because we are passionate about this chosen career.
I am convinced, that since I left in the fall, the entire team has “dug deep” to exceed even my expectations so that I could step aside with confidence that the next leg of the Decor and More journey will be even more successful. I know the next generation will use cutting-edge technology, social media and streamlined management techniques, paired with unwavering creativity and yet never straying from our core values of disciplined service and ethics--and still have fun doing it.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR LESLEE? So where do I go from here? Well, I will be spending winters--except for Christmas--in Fort Myers, Fla., and spring through fall here in the greater Toronto area. My schedule will be much more flexible than yours, so if and when you just want to chat, give me a call and we’ll connect. I will be stepping aside, not away. I plan to do some speaking, some workshops, and some sourcing for the industry and team, but I will not be in the office. I am retiring to live life.
When I left the company in the fall I could not have entertained a retirement party as my emotions were too raw, and I didn’t know how to define myself anymore. Sure I was a wife, a mother, grandmother, a colleague, and a friend, but who was I when I was no longer "Leslee Bell, CSEP, and President of Decor and More"? I had derived my identity from that role for so long, it was like leaving a marriage after over 25 years and wondering how, and if, I would survive in the real world.
The words to a famous song by Rita Coolidge say, “I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love.” That is true for me. I will step aside, and not away, while I am still enamored with this industry, and I will be cheering from the sidelines all of your victories large and small. The lifeblood of this industry will always run deep within my veins, and I know our team will exceed what I have ever dreamed of; but it doesn’t mean I will quit dreaming.
So this is not farewell; it is, ‘’ I’ll see you around,’’ and we will really take time to laugh and reminisce at the craziness of our lives in this industry. But I do want to share something I have learned in the last six months.
- I have discovered I am someone apart from my Decor and More identity, and I had lost her in the journey.
- I also want to assure you the best is yet to come!
- I do love retirement, I love my family, I love the grandkids, I enjoy travelling to a warm place in the dead of winter, I look forward to hearing what is going on in your lives back in Toronto and Calgary, I cherish our new home and the neighborhood and my friends in Florida.
You see, friends were a rare luxury my career would not afford, but I now have time to foster them and give them the time they deserve and return the energy they invested in my life.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the richness that knowing each of you has woven into the tapestry that is my life. So as the door of this chapter of my life closes I already can hear other doors opening; so until we meet again…..thank you again for the memories. It was quite a ride.
Leslee Bell, CSEP, is founder/partner and now creative director of Decor and More, with offices in Toronto and Calgary, Alberta. She is also a past president of ISES Canada.