Editor’s Note: Grace Ueng is CEO of Savvy Growth, a leadership coaching and management consultancy founded in 2003.  Her great passion to help leaders and the companies they run achieve their fullest potential combined with her empathy and ability to help leaders figure out their “why” is what clients value most.  Grace writes a regular column for WRAL TechWire. This is a reprint. Grace’s column will resume.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK –  Last month, I shared the events that led to a meeting with Eric Chang, who could be called one of the most important furniture designers in the country.  This work led to the synthesis of seven themes which appear in my work, Project Peak: Climbing the Mountains of Life – Business and Beyond.  In prior columns that relate to these seven themes, I wrote on the importance of becoming someone who asks questions and why failure can be a good thing.

In this week’s column, we explore the power of visualization and how to channel your fear to gain an advantage.

Grace Ueng: Failure is a good thing and speaking the future, now

The power of visualization

Chang’s mother was a controller at Lockheed Martin.  There were no artists in his family.  But by not being trained through design school, this allowed Chang to think outside the box.  That’s where his passion comes in.  Hellman-Chang’s design is a reaction to an expression of his emotion.

Eric is the most creative when he is almost dreaming and sleeping.  His waking hours are consumed with running the business so he is only able to dedicate 1% of his time to designing.  Before bed, before he turns off the lights, when he is not bombarded, he might visualize something creative.  He keeps doodling pads by his bedside in case he wakes with a vision of a new design.

A brand is only as valuable as what someone perceives as your brand.  That is the true definition of a brand. Eric had an idea—he believed the bespoke couture of Italian Canali had synergies with Hellman-Chang.

So they connected with Canali who liked the idea—they outfitted Eric and Dan with their tailored hand-made and made to measure suits.

For their first ad campaign, Hellman and Chang wore the finery while wood chips and dust flew as they produced their bold furniture using heirloom quality craftsmanship in their Brooklyn woodshop.  This unusual pairing and behind the scenes look went viral on the fashion scene turning Eric’s vision into a stronger and more established brand.

Grace Ueng: Asking life’s important questions

Fear, and how to channel it to your advantage

Cash flow can become an issue when you can’t take bank loans or have a line of credit.  Survival creates a laser focus.  This plus the desire to be the best, a defining trait of luxury brands, has been a daily driving factor for Hellman-Chang.

The ability to look beyond that fear, and to act in the face of fear, is important.  Dan and Eric made very calculated moves and discussed things heavily between themselves.

“It’s good to have someone that you can talk it out, plan it out with,” Hellman shared.

“We could both play devil’s advocate, no one was right or wrong,” said Chang.  “Hellman-Chang made, and continues to make, a lot of moves that might seem risky.  But you need to balance that out with the potential outcomes and avoid getting swept up in the emotional reactions.  It’s a matter of drowning out the fear with sound decisions and pulling the trigger.”

In the next column, we’ll explore how these first five themes are put into action, and why there’s joy in the journey.

Project Peak: Climbing the Mountains of Life, Business and Beyond

More from Grace

Thumbs up: Empowerment and the three ingredients to be happy at work

From technology marketing leader to starting a new venture: Lessons from an entrepreneurial journey

From depression to gratitude and happiness – how a three-decade journey changed me