Creating Environments Of Success - Alicia Cannon - Defining Hospitality - Episode # 128

Dan Ryan: Today's guest is a designer whose signature style is a harmonious balance between dramatic pop inspired pieces and a refined classical style. Her boundless talent infuses into each project she takes on, resulting in design that delights her clients. At the end of the day, she's a designer who truly embodies what it means to create hospitable places.

She's the lead designer, principal, and founder of AJC Design, the A, the J, and the C. Alicia Cannon. How are you, Alicia?

Alicia Cannon: I'm great. Thanks Stan for

Dan Ryan: Thank you for being had. Um, so just to contextualize our talk right now, I've been on this recent road of talking to people from the beginning of my career journey. And, uh, you're one of them because way back in the day, um, we were both in Los Angeles or I might've been in San Francisco and you were in Los Angeles and you were working at Sheryl Rowley and Sheryl was like some of the first projects I ever worked on when I started my first company.

And, um, it's just great to be able to be here with you. And also you've taught me a lot because I think you were like the OG. LinkedIn boss that like, really, I was like, wow, you've really put something really cool together and gave me a little bit of FOMO and then, but you also were awesome about it and like kind of coaching me and helping me understand what kind of a power LinkedIn can have.

And this podcast has been great on getting off on its own, but LinkedIn has been an invaluable source. So in a way for the success of this podcast, um, I think that I could say thanks to you for helping, like, show me.

some little ideas and how big this platform can be.

Alicia Cannon: Yeah, I agree. Well, you're welcome, first off. And I do actually remember that candid conversation. I think it was, I think it was like July or August of 2020 or maybe 2021. And you had called me and you were really in a like, what do I do? Where do I go? And I just remember being like, I think you'd be really great at this.

I think you should give it a shot. And I think we had told you, um, about our strategy in the social media area. And, you know, we may be small, but we wanted to be mighty on the social media side. And LinkedIn was where we felt. We could be really a useful, powerful, um, you know, creator. And, uh, yeah, we've, we've been doing really well on the LinkedIn platform.

And, and obviously you've been exploding, which is, and I'm so happy that I've gotten the opportunity to be a guest on your show. So thank

Dan Ryan: You're very welcome. And just for the record, everyone, and, uh, I did look at her number of followers before we got on and she's, she's beating me.

Alicia Cannon: Probably not by much at this point. Mm

Dan Ryan: I'm coming in hot. Um, but aside from that, I know like we're talking about social media and getting everything out, but like you're an awesome designer, uh, hospitality, multifamily, all the things. Um, and I'm all, I always love talking to people who I started my journey off with, and you were working in another company and. took that entrepreneurial step and leap or leap. It's more of a leap, right? And then here you are and here we are, and you're working on great projects. You've got a really great team. Um, and it's just exciting to kind of be woven, have our stories kind of woven together, um, and our journeys woven together.

So it's, it's, it's awesome. It's so thank you.

Alicia Cannon: Yeah, I know, absolutely. I mean, I think it's probably close to 20 years. We've known each other at this point, um, because I think my journey in California was to 20, uh, 2003 to 2006. And, um, most of that time I spent at Sherrill. So, and obviously, Sherrill is one of the... Founding fathers, I feel, of hospitality, founding goddess of hospitality.

So, um, I couldn't thank her enough for all the valuable tools and assets she gave me to learn about hospitality. And she was like a really good, um, mentor in the industry. So,

Dan Ryan: And, and actually that's a great segue because I always ask, like, and you teed it up perfectly, so maybe you should do this also, but like, how do you define hospitality? What does it mean to you?

Alicia Cannon: Well, I think for me, hospitality is an experience that is created intentionally with the guest's needs in mind. and each hotel that we get to create is a blank canvas. And for me, I get to create these memorable moments. idyllic escapes, reassuring comforts away from home. And I get to use all of my creative...

You know, fingertips to make this come together for people and for guests. mean, it's such an amazing, I would say, tool or I would say gift that I do have. It feels like I do have a gift. And there are obviously many of my, you know, contemporaries obviously have this gift, but I'm glad that I get to bring this gift, which is a passion of mine and something I knew I wanted to be from so long ago.

So, I get to... See it come to fruition, which is amazing.

Dan Ryan: love it. And going back to like original inspirations and like you said, your, uh, goddess of inspiration, as you look at your journey and think about. Kind of where you are now and recognizing this passion. Who was it? And it's awesome that you're, you're recognizing it. First of all, it's awesome because many of us don't recognize it.

Don't, and don't evangelize it. Don't get out there and like talk about it and kind of, and trying to impact others. But what is it that, um, who are some of your mentors and how did they help you realize or, or get this passion out of you? And so that you, you found your path.

Alicia Cannon: Um, I mean, obviously, Debra, Debra Geer, who I worked with at Cheryl's office. She was one of my first mentors, and she just taught me a lot about structure, um, and how to, how to really, She was, she was very structure oriented. She, she told me how to, To put together a spec book from soup to nuts, to how to put a matrix together.

She really, she really knew how to do everything. And she was a really wonderful designer, and she still is an amazing designer. Um, I also learned from Jody Harley who worked at Gensler. She was one of my first, um, uh, uh, mentors, and she really helped me understand FF& E, um, from start to finish, you know, and how it, the process works, and understanding everything from a design and narrative up to construction administration, and she really helped me understand all those parts of the process, um, you know, even to working with, uh, David Easton, who's obviously one of the masters and great architects, um, who's, But David learning his, um, neoclassical style and how he applies it and how, you know, working for someone who was such an incredible, talented architect and designer, you know, taking his style and his, his design aesthetic and implementing it into a hospitality application, uh, wasn't, you know, The easiest at first, you know, because he is a residential designer and, you know, my job as a hospitality designer was to help him recreate his residential aesthetic into a hospitality quality.

So, when we were doing St. Regis's and, um, multitudes of them, um, during the 08, uh, 07 08 timeframe of, um, this decade. So, um, it was definitely hard, but, you know, learning from all of these greats really helped me understand. You know, their vision and, you know, how I want to adapt my own vision and what was important to me.

Um, learning, um, how they ran their, their offices. You know, and, and how everybody was a little different. Um, what it meant to be in a family, um, Smaller environment versus a larger environment like Gensler. So, learning that, um, all helped me hone my skills in, so I could become an entrepreneur and, uh, open my own studio and, you know, run it for the past 16 years.

So, I adapted the skills that I learned along the way and, um, took what I felt would work for me and, and I think that's how I decided to really go out on my own.

Dan Ryan: can't believe it's been 16 years.

Alicia Cannon: Yeah, February.

Dan Ryan: Good

Alicia Cannon: I know. I know, it's a long time. I'm still here. Still getting paid. To do the thing I love to do. Which is amazing.

Dan Ryan: it's, it's really amazing. I, I hearing Deborah Gere is amazing.

Alicia Cannon: A blast from the

Dan Ryan: Totally. I was an intern for her way back in the day and she's,

Alicia Cannon: yeah, she's the best.

Dan Ryan: I have a really great story about when I was an intern. Which I'll save for another time, but involving her and Kathy Stein. So

Alicia Cannon: Oh, wow, Kathy Stein, yeah.

Dan Ryan: we'll loop back on that one when we stop recording. It was a fun one. Um, um,

Alicia Cannon: Where was that at? Oh, at HVA. Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah, of course. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's so

Dan Ryan: anyway, and I think that's what's also so wonderful in such a small. All of those things in that world that we all operate in and thrive in. Um, there's this ability to say these names and have these shared memories that are that are different, but it's, it happens with such frequency.

So I really feel like even though we are all doing different things and we've all kind of gone other places, we all share. In this culture that we've built within this industry. And it's another cool thing. You know, I get a lot of great feedback from doing this, but my favorite channel are the, are the kids who are in school or interns, or, uh, they're just starting out on their path and they, they listen to people like you or other guests.

And they're like, wow, I didn't know I could do that. I met someone the other day. They're like. They said, Oh my gosh, I loved your podcast. You did a, an episode with yada, yada, yada. I didn't know I could work for a big company and work remote. And I was like, Oh, but she, she picked it up from me. I was like, wow, that's freaking amazing.

So it's like leaving all these, um, Impacting all the, with all these little, uh, well, little moments, but cause like they just happen, but they, they leave a really big impression for others.

Alicia Cannon: Yeah, of course, you know, in fact, when people, uh, like interns or, because we often have a lot of interns that come through our office, they always ask me, like, do you have any advice? And I always say to them, go work for a large firm, a medium sized firm, a small firm, find the culture you like, find the environment that feels good to you, because you're in it to win it, you know?

You're there to learn, you're there to be successful, and it's really important you understand what it It's what you like because you're going to spend a lot of time there and it's really important to understand, you know, the people that you want to be around, the culture you want to be around, you know, so it's really important because they're so vastly different, you know, and, and there's so much to learn from all different size firms, you

Dan Ryan: Well, I don't, I'd also say, like you were saying, you want to learn about the culture you want to be around and the people you want to be around. But I also find like having that broad experience, you also learn about the people and cultures you don't want to be around. Right. And that sometimes is more, more valuable.

Then the ones that you do, because the no, like, Oh, that, that is something I don't want to do. It really can change the trajectory. And it's interesting. Cause I was at this NEWH show out in, um, Minneapolis this week, and there were all these students from, uh, university of Minnesota, university of Iowa, and they were all walking through and one of them came up, she was like, You know, I'm older than a lot of my colleagues.

I think she was 30 and she's like, do you have any advice for, for me as like, I get out there because, you know, I guess maybe she was feeling like she was a little bit behind the eight ball or behind, like, because she's starting late or finding her passion later. And I was

like, I was like, well, not really.

It's awesome. You're, you're figuring this out now. Like most people never

figure it

Alicia Cannon: took a leap! You took a leap of faith! Like, good for

Dan Ryan: And then she's like, well, do you have any advice? And I, and I, so I was like, I don't know, I said, well, listen to this podcast. Number one, it'll give you some great, some great insights. But then I said, uh, collect no's.

And she's like, what? I was like, have people say no to you as much as possible. Because no is like, Yeah.

it can hurt sometimes, but if you collect them and you, um, You relish them and look at the, look at the, all of the no's you get as gifts. They're also really informative because it means you're doing stuff.

It means you're making, you're taking action and have collecting no's or getting no's said to yourself five times this week or 15 times this week. It means you're putting one step, one foot in front of the other and, and forging your path forward. Hmm.

Alicia Cannon: Right, exactly. I, I have like a great example of no. There was this firm that I really, and I'm not gonna say, but there was this firm that I really wanted to work for when I moved back from L. A. to New York, and I have been. watching them. I had been reading every wallpaper magazine about them. I was like so excited when I got on the interview.

I had two interviews with them. I was sweating bullets on the second interview. I swear, like, thought I was, I, I was like they saw all the sweat stains underneath my red linen dress. And all I kept thinking is like, I'm not getting the job, I'm not getting the job, and I found out I didn't get the job, and I was devastated for like a week and a half, like, and I was like, wait a second, after the second week, and I'm like, why am I devastated?

I have five yeses that I just got from all these amazing, incredible firms that are way better than this actual firm, and I was like, why can't I just be blessed with the yeses and understand that the no just means my path is

Dan Ryan: Mm

Alicia Cannon: and that's okay, and that my journey is not You know, stop right here.

It's keep, it's going. It's just on a different path right now, and that's okay, and that it's going to lead me to what I need to ultimately be doing. So, or where I need to be. So, I'm glad I got that no, but of course I was devastated, and, but it just brought me on the right path to where I am now, and that's okay.

Dan Ryan: It's interesting you say that because also this week I, I learned something else. I was with another friend of mine, um, who was a college and professional athlete. And he, I was talking about my son as, as he like gets really hard on himself. If he doesn't perform well on, on the field or at school, he's like, I suck, I suck, bruh.

Or, uh, and. It motivates him in a way, but my, um, and he doesn't suck. He's really awesome. So just in case you're listening, Theo,

Alicia Cannon: Yeah.

Dan Ryan: it's impressive and just keep on rocking. Um, but, um, and I'm very proud of you.

Alicia Cannon: laughing

Dan Ryan: he's the one listener we have. Um, but my friend who was the athlete, he said, you know, it's interesting. He was talking to some sports psychologist person or someone who'd seen a sports psychologist and this idea of. In anything we do, but using athletics, like if you're playing tennis or taking a shot or whatever, um, you remember the bad ones, right,

You remember the ones you missed or the things you weren't in the right. spot, but the sports psychologists, apparently what they were saying is, it's really important to remember the good ones because if you remember how you feel and what everything smelt like and what the lighting was like and what...

what the whole environment and moment was like as the good thing happened and you could just remember that when you have the bad one and you can fall back to that really good place, right? And, and it's really important to start modeling that. So Theo, just know that I just learned that this week and on the next drive to practice, I'm going to be talking to you about it while you're looking at your phone, not listening to me, but I'm really hopeful that it will sink in.

Alicia Cannon: It's all about the yeses.

Dan Ryan: it's all about the S's and the positivity, but also the nos are, are, are really good. Um, when you go back 16 and a half years ago, let's just say, um, what were some of the data points that helped give you the courage and the strength to take that leap?

Alicia Cannon: I think it was the validation from my Dad. Yeah, when I, uh, uh, sorry, he just passed away in March, so

Dan Ryan: I'm so sorry.

Alicia Cannon: it all, yeah, it gets a little, whoo, but anyway, um, I remember, uh, this valuable lesson that I got from one of the firms I was working at, and the lesson was, if they can do that to someone else who is your boss, they can do it to you.

And it was a scenario where they were trying to promote me to my boss's position, while my boss was still employed at the company, and she happened to just, um, be on vacation at the time, which I thought was really... Not the kindest way to approach the situation. However, anyway, they offered me the world and I just remember, um, getting back from this lunch where they just wined and dined me and I got back and I was just like, they just offered me this amazing, incredible opportunity.

But at the expense of someone who I respect and who is one of my mentors, and I just kept remembering, like, this doesn't feel right. And I picked up the phone, I called my dad, I, like, escaped from work, grabbed my phone, and I said, this is just what happened. And he said to me, he goes, if they can do it to her, they can do it to you.

And two days later I resigned. And I said, you know, thank you for your time here, but, you know, I'm, I wrapped everything up with a bow and gave them ample, an ample amount of time before I left. But after that experience, I had said to myself, That's not the culture I want to be a part of. That's not, I may have one of, some of the greatest projects in the world, but at the end of the day, that's not the type of environment I want to be around, or the type of people I want to be around.

And I'm ready to create that environment. And my dad said to me, I said, and, and mind you, at that point in time, I had been moonlighting on the weekends, and had been saving. money to go out on my own, uh, a nut. And I said to my dad, you know, I said, I think I'm ready. And he goes, I wish I knew what you know now.

He's like, I wish I didn't have kids at the age of, you know, 25. Otherwise I would have went out on my own. And at that time I was in my early thirties. And he goes, I wish I knew. He's like, I would have gone out on my own way back when, but he's like, this is a great opportunity for you do it. And I never looked back.

Dan Ryan: Um, okay. So as you were telling that story, and thank you for sharing because Theo.

you should listen to your dad, right? Because I know what I'm talking about.

Alicia Cannon: Always,

Dan Ryan: I got, there's so many great, um, or incredible, just dad moments that I have too, and he's not with me either, but, um. What I picked up, and I heard you say this before in conversations, there's this idea of intentionality, right?

In paving your own path. It's like being very intentional. And oftentimes in work and life, it's, we're, we're all so reactive, right? We're, we're reacting to the needs of the clients, to the needs of stakeholders, family, health, like, but it's, it's really hard to be proactive and intentional, and I think that for many entrepreneurs, um, It's that intentional step and you don't even have to be on it's actually there are a lot of other people that that do this is where it's like you're guarding your time, you're blocking your time, you're being very intentional with every moment and I, I find it's hard to be intentional with every moment and it's something I struggle with, but how do you like really leverage that idea of intentionality in, in what you do and on your journey?

Alicia Cannon: Well, I think, well, one of the reasons why I went also out on my own is because There's definitely not enough travel time, you know, to explore and to be creative, and I think part of doing my job creatively is to see stuff and to see the world and I needed to intentionally block out time to see the world so I could be a better creator and I feel that the The firms that I work with and, you know, there was, I remember one firm, when I interviewed with them, they said, you know, um, how do you, we frown upon, you know, anyone taking any vacation within the first year.

And I was like, okay, peace out, this isn't for me. You know, and I just knew that I needed, in order to be a good creator and do what I need to do, um, at, for my client, I needed to see stuff and I needed to be well, I needed to explore and I needed to allow my creative, you know, juices to really like, you know, open up and the only way to do that was to get out and see stuff.

So that was like a really important part of why I went out on my own. And, you know, I also wanted to be able to take my kid to school one day. You know, and be able to pick her up and, you know, be very present in my daughter's life. Even that was before I had a kid. I knew I always wanted to be able to have a family and be able to have, you know, a business and be able to balance that by not being, being able to drop whatever I need to do and make sure my priorities were in check and in line.

And that wasn't very, that was, that for me was very intentional way before I even, you know, like, I had a, you know, a family, so.

Dan Ryan: And then on that, just keeping with that intentionality frame, because again, going back to that whole, you're, you're like LinkedIn coaching or making me think, just not realize like, what is at the fingertips, right? I was just like playing around with it and you, you built like, it's really, it's awesome.

It's not just like, it's real. Um, really impactful information that people can use on their journeys. So like when you look at starting and like you're, when, when you first start, you're the, you know, you're the chef, you're the cook or the cook, the, the, the cook, the waiter and the bottle washer, whatever that whole term is.

So, you know, you've made this leap. Um, what are, what were some of the really, I guess, most meaningful and intentional things you did as a, as a nascent business owner to get lift off and, and have success.

Alicia Cannon: Well, one was kind of establishing what my brand was about, and I think what my ethos and all the things that were important to me, and one was to be more of a family oriented brand. Um, something where... My clients were always going to be repeat clients, um, my clients, you know, the man I'm working with right now, I've known him for 11 years.

We've done multiple projects together, um, you know, I have other clients who I've been, I still work with, but I mean, most of my clients are repeat clients. I think, you know, making sure I establish that rapport and that it's, that at the end of the day, they always get me and that they know they can always turn to me and, you know, it becomes a very family oriented, um, relationship.

environment, and that's kind of how I've always cultivated my culture, is by, is cultivated the right way? I guess kind of cultivated my culture, um, and you know that, that's just been really important to me. So family's been very important to me, um, and making sure that it's all, you know, it's reciprocal, it's, you know, it's everlasting, it's longevity.

Dan Ryan: And then,

Alicia Cannon: That was kind of

Dan Ryan: no, I like that. So no, it's good because if I also think about things that I've heard you say over time, you know, there's this. I know like in past conversations you would talk about a script or a narrative or ideas like that. And again, if you're creating a narrative or creating a culture or creating a, writing a script, if you will, there's a real focus in getting that next word out and, and defining where you're, where you're going.

So what are ways that you. Keep that script fresh and keep that culture, um, true to what, what your values are.

Alicia Cannon: I think, uh, never being more than seven people in my office. That was really important to me. Um, you know, always being small but mighty. Um, that's always something that's been part of us where, you know, we always can compete about with the big people. There's no project that's too big for us. We've done tons of ground up.

You know, we just opened the Harlem Renaissance Project, which was an eight and a half year long project. You know, we've done everything from St. Regis to Ritz Carlton's. I've worked with every brand, um, under the sun. I, I think no matter what, we can do anything. And I think it's just making sure that if something doesn't feel good, It's probably not right.

Or, you know, as Justin Bateman said, I just listened to his podcast about this, like, if you can't commit to it today, you're not gonna commit to it in three months from now. So, you know, whatever you're gonna say yes to today, make sure it really is something that you want, and make sure it really is meaningful, and that you're gonna put all of your creative juices and passion into it.

So, you know, commitment's also really important. So if it doesn't feel good, just walk away from it. You know, and we've done that multiple times, like, it's not fitting for us. Um, so, I think that those are the three powerful things that we kind of always circle back to, or I at least always circle back to.

Dan Ryan: That idea of being small, but mighty really resonates with me. And it's kind of come up a couple of times in these conversations where, you know, you start an entrepreneur, you want to grow, grow, grow, and have this amazing, huge business and lots of people working and. Hey, that can work out great. It can also turn into something that it's not what you wanted.

Alicia Cannon: Overhead sucks.

Dan Ryan: yeah,

Alicia Cannon: Too much overhead sucks.

Dan Ryan: yeah.

I can. But there's also the idea of, um, just being a, I think it's called small giants was this book I read a while ago and I was like, Oh my God, I really wish I read that in the beginning, but it was all about just. Being small and mighty, you know, and, and I love how you, you said It a couple of times just in this conversation, just being family oriented.

And I think as you were describing your career journey, working for others, there were big ones and then there were more family ones. So, and I've not, I've actually not heard it described like small businesses described as family. So how did you come up with that? Idea because in reality, it's not family, but it, it kind of is, So like, how did you pick that

Alicia Cannon: is, I mean, all my ownerships, uh, the, the, the people that I work with are Um, individuals, uh, who own a smaller portfolio, um, maybe multifamily, maybe office and hotel, um, some mixed, uh, some, some just hotel and then have gone off to multifamily because they wanted to sell their portfolio. But they're not big, big guys out there.

You wouldn't find them on Instagram. You're not gonna find them on social media. You're not even gonna find them sometimes on LinkedIn. And if you Google them, you're not going to find them either. So, they're kind of, have their anonymity, and I kind of, I respect that. Um, they just want to do good stuff, powerful stuff, make some money, and do good work.

And, you know, they're just, they're not in for the frills. You know, um, and they value me, which I think is the most important thing, is they value me and they have respect for me. Um, they aren't, they're just really good guys. And gals.

Dan Ryan: And gals, um,

Alicia Cannon: yeah.

Dan Ryan: as you were talking about your David Easton experience, like doing all those Brits Carltons in 07, 08, then the financial

crisis, then, you know, there was a pandemic in case anyone remembers not too long ago. And you're going through that. Um, and then as an entrepreneur, like, what were some of those, you know, what were Dark.

Well, I guess the David Eason was before as, as an entrepreneur, but you could, you could have even had that dark experience then too. But like, what were some on your journey? What were, where were some like really bleak places you were and how did you find your way out? Mm

Alicia Cannon: Ugh, when you didn't have a project in the hopper and you just finished one. Um, you know, when you're starting out and you're doing everything from, you know, from start to finish and then all of a sudden you're like, I didn't, I was doing all this work and I didn't get another project in my hopper.

Oh sugar, what am I going to do? Um, and that's part of the process of learning, right? You know, obviously you don't want to bite off more than you can chew. Um, bringing on two full projects is, is a lot. That means you have to bring on more people and, you know, learning that process is like how much can you actually afford and how much can you not afford and, you know, what, what does this look like and you're working out of your house and it's like a lot of trial and error.

You know, there was times where, you know, we had a client that was just like, Yeah, I'm not going to pay you 5, 000. And I'm like, that's a lot of money. That's a lot of money. You don't understand. This is my first year out on my own. You need to pay me. You know, and, and until I got my ducks in a row and made sure my contract was ironclad and, you know, did all those, you know, you know, got my lawyer and, and, and, you know, had all those.

Protective nets for myself. You know, obviously they come with time in in going through this learning curve, but I think at the end of the day it just was a learning process. Like I had to make all of these mistakes and go through it. But I think the hardest one was ma, not making sure I. have a project in the hopper down the line or I was in business developing six months in advance to make sure I got that project, you know.

And you know, networking was really important to me, um, and you know, NEWH was incredibly valuable for me. I was on the board for NEWH for many years. That was like a great asset, um, learning who the players were in the industry, just kinda getting out there, my name getting out there, getting, you know, in the industry, but I think there was just a lot of I'm going to be doing a lot of networking, hustling that you have to do in the beginning.

And it was exhausting and tiring. And I know that these times that I don't do it as much now that I have a family and, you know, things are harder, a little bit harder. But, um, you know, after COVID, you know, you just need to get out there and kind of hustle a little bit more. Now we can hustle a little bit more via, um, The internet, I guess, LinkedIn and, you know, and other, other avenues, but, uh, yeah, I would say is, is marketing yourself and getting yourself out there and, and making sure you had business prepared.

It's hard,

doing it solo.

Dan Ryan: Okay. So then, so now you've been doing this for 16 years, you've built this team, you've built this family, um, as you're looking forward, and I know it's very hard to see the future, but what's exciting you most as you look out there?

Alicia Cannon: Oh, gosh. Right now? I think it's just getting through this deadline. I have a big deadline right now, and we have a new project starting, so I'm like, just trying to get through this one spec package with, you know, this deadline, and then we have another one that's starting right on top of it, so I think it's like getting to the end of the year, planning my daughter's birthday, getting through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then we move into our new offices, so yes.

Um, our new office is started Jan 1, so that's exciting. So, we're finally, we moved out of Harlem, we went into kind of a storage facility, and now we were working remotely, obviously, as most of us were doing. Now we're back, we're getting

Dan Ryan: Cool. Where's your new office

going to be?

Alicia Cannon: it's going to be in the Flatiron on 25th and Broadway, so I'm sure,

yeah, it's good.

Yeah, so, excited about that. I think that's probably what I'm really looking forward to, is like, getting to an office and getting settled and kind of getting back to, like, shaking off the COVID, all the COVID stuff, you know, and, and really being done with it and putting it in the past. For once.

Dan Ryan: Yeah, And it's nice. Like, I'm just seeing so.

many more people go back into work, but I'm still seeing this hybrid thing, which again, is where this podcast really fills in the gaps on everyone's kind of water cooler time or missed water cooler time.

Alicia Cannon: Yeah, I mean, I will listen to a podcast to and from work. I listen to a podcast at work all day long. I probably listen to like five podcasts a day.

Dan Ryan: Yeah, that's good. It's well, and you're, you're walking and you're riding in the subway and it's just nice to have your fill up your brain. Um,

Alicia Cannon: Yeah, of course.

Dan Ryan: what's your biggest Need? right now?

Alicia Cannon: Need? Ah, wow. Um, well, we could use some interns. We could use a new junior designer. Or Senior Designer.

Dan Ryan: Okay,

Alicia Cannon: All apply, please!

Dan Ryan: just stay less than or equal to seven.

Alicia Cannon: Exactly. Actually, just, we just need probably two new roles to fill. Um, we had some transitions this summer, but uh, yeah, we're, yeah, we'll, we'll, we'll find the right, right fit. Once we get settled into the new office, I think everything just works it's way out. I tend not to fear so much after my Ayahuasca journey, so...

Dan Ryan: Oh yeah. Just let it, let it all go and,

Alicia Cannon: They're letting it all go! LAUGHS

Dan Ryan: your, you're there.

Alicia Cannon: Exactly, After the experience I had with that, I'm just ready to... I just had it, uh, I just went on my journey in August.

Dan Ryan: Oh, wow. so... that's like pretty intense. Like,

Alicia Cannon: Aero is uh

Dan Ryan: wow, that's some big milestones this year. Um, father passing away, ayahuasca and new office.

Alicia Cannon: Yes, and my mom getting diagnosed with Alzheimer's, so. Yeah, just putting it all out there.

Dan Ryan: wow. You release it.

Alicia Cannon: Yeah, releasing it, that's why I can't, I guess that's why I'm excited for the new office.

It's going to be a new start, and a new brand. We're actually, um, our new branding will come out this year, so, uh, actually, after the new year, and a new release of a website. So, uh, yeah, we're very excited,

Dan Ryan: Did you do the branding yourself?

Alicia Cannon: No, we used an outside company. Yeah, a company here in New York.

Dan Ryan: okay.

Yeah. It's always, I was talking to, I was actually recently speaking with someone who has a branding company they're like, yeah.

we have, we hired a branding company to help us with ours and they're really good at what they do. I was like, why didn't, why don't you do it?

And they're like, well. Do you like talking about yourself? And I was

Alicia Cannon: No, it's the hardest thing! It's so hard! I know, they're like, what do you, how do you describe yourself? Or, the questions were, how do you describe yourself? What kind of car could you, and we obviously have a team, like, we have a whole team. Branding and social media like part of AJC. And everyone was saying these things and I'm like, is that what you think about me?

That's the kind of car you think I would drive? Oh my god, like, we thought that it was insecure. I was like,

Dan Ryan: Wait, what

kind of car are you? Now I want to know.

Alicia Cannon: Well, I don't drive this car, but uh, they, one of the girls was like, I see you in a white Range Rover. I'm like, oh, that's been on my vision board for a while. But no, that's not the car I drive right now.

Dan Ryan: Well, that's it. So Yeah. again, that's being intentional, releasing, and then, uh, taking that next step out.

Alicia Cannon: Yeah, we're excited for it. I, I think it's going to be a great, we're excited for the new year. So, so, ready to kind of wrap this year up and put, button it up and put it behind us and just move forward. No fear.

Dan Ryan: Um, hey, when you, when you bring on new people onto your team, uh, into your family, if you will, um. How do you, like, what are ways that you indoctrinate them or onboard them into those values? I guess first you have to, you have to find them and screen them. But like, what are, what are things that you do to, like, actual actions to bring, to bring them in?

Alicia Cannon: Well, what I used to do before my HR came on was very different. Now that I know I'm not supposed to X, Y, and Z, I keep my mouth shut and I have a whole list of questions that I do ask. Um, I do ask them a lot about their culture and what their expectation on the culture is. And, you know, I'm very transparent, um, about who I am as, you know, the principal.

And I'm not a, I'm not a... I'll say this. I'm not going to sit behind you and tell you what to do. I need you to be a forward thinker. I need you to be someone that's going to think outside of the box. I'm not going to be your micromanager. And, um, so I really need someone to kind of clone my head somehow.

Dan Ryan: And what are, what are some of those ways that you get all of your learnings out of your head and into the heads of others?

Alicia Cannon: I train them. I do do, I do pretty like aggressive training in the beginning, um, especially with, um,

So I try to be helpful and help them understand how to write a spec, what's in the body of a spec, like, what's the language that goes into a specification, um, because if they don't know that information, you know, they're never, they're never going to be a great designer. Like, they really do, you Need to learn the small, the really important things, and the language of interior design is one of them, and uh, you know, I help them get that dictionary underneath their belt to start, and um, I think that's like one of the most valuable things I bring to the table, is I really do help them in those, especially the junior level, like, the small, like how to do a matrix, like what does a matrix look like, what's a budget look like, you know?

Um, I kind of go through it with them, I try not to, have someone else teach it. I try to go through the basics with them and, and, and help, help them down the road. And a lot of times they're applying what they're learning here, you know, in AJC at school as well. So, um, you know, so they're getting, they're getting a win win, you know, no matter what.


Dan Ryan: Anytime with

Alicia Cannon: to do.

Dan Ryan: Is a

Alicia Cannon: Yeah. I'd say the same for you, Dan. Dance. Gensler.

Dan Ryan: Oh, don't make me blush. Um, so if you were to go back to when you were like starting your journey, because your first, where was your first hospitality job? It was

Alicia Cannon: Well, uh, no, no, no, Mason Contract.

Do you know Charlie Grady? Okay, so Charlie and I and Do you know Chuck Green's fan? No, Chuck works at Hafele now, um, and Lenny Horowitz was the owner of Mason Contract. Lenny Horowitz, he used to own Mason Contract products, which was Oh my gosh, gosh. Steve Wachler from, who used to be with Amatex.

I'm really calling it back. Mason was in Glendale, which is Queens, I guess. Glendale. And they produced mattresses, but they also had an interior designer, a design department, and the woman I work for, Gloria. We used to call her the Stella, rest in peace Gloria, the Stelladora Queen. And any of the guys I just mentioned will tell you stories all the time about her.

We designed three star, um, hotels.

Dan Ryan: Stelladora, like the breadsticks.

Alicia Cannon: the breadsticks, she would eat Stelladora, like breadsticks, the cookies, the biscuits, the whole thing. She would have Stelladora all day long. And I just went in there and I did mood boards all day long. And I met with all the vendors and stuff like that. So that was probably my sophomore year when I was at Pratt.

Dan Ryan: so...

if you were to magically appear in front of yourself there, what advice does the Alicia that I'm talking to now have for her younger self, eating Stelladora

Alicia Cannon: Network! Never lose... network a lot. Like, all these guys that I knew back then, I mean, I was like 19, you know? And, you know... I still know them to this day, you know, like we reminisce. I think it's awesome they're never burning your bridge. And the industry, if you love hospitality, which I knew I loved hospitality, uh, I think, you know, it's a small industry.

So, you know, don't burn your bridge. And, you know, just whoever you knew back then could be peer at your door the next day. So, and they could be your boss, or they could own, you know, you know, a hotel. You never

Dan Ryan: Yeah. I'm So,

happy. Like, uh, I see Charlie Grady at the shows, or if I'm ever down in Florida, I'll see him down there. And he's one of those people that every time I see him, I just can't not smile. Right. You know

Alicia Cannon: I know! Ear to ear! I know! I know! I was just talking about him the

Dan Ryan: Charlie, I hope you're listening. I'm going to

Alicia Cannon: I hope so too. Totally. He's the best. He's the best. I knew him when, like, he was owning liquor stores. I think his family was owning liquor stores. And then he went to work at Mason, and he didn't even have kids. Now his kids, I think, are college.

It's funny. It's crazy. I know. It's wild.

Dan Ryan: has been, uh, a really awesome walk down memory, memory lane with you, Alicia. Um, if people wanted to learn more or connect or whatever, what's the best way for them to do that with you?

Alicia Cannon: Uh, you could definitely go to our website, um, AJCDesign. com. You can reach out to us on LinkedIn, AJCDesign, or Instagram at

Dan Ryan: Awesome. Hey, this has been a long time coming and I'm so glad we got to do this.

Alicia Cannon: I'm so happy. Yes, thank

Dan Ryan: now I want to learn more about your journey. So we'll do that offline.

Alicia Cannon: you.

Dan Ryan: And, uh, thank

you. for your time. Thank you.

Alicia Cannon: Yes, thank you. I'm glad we got to do

Dan Ryan: Yeah. And then also thank you all to all the listeners without you, we wouldn't be here with Alicia. Um, so please, if this. changed your idea on your journey or hospitality or anything, please pass It along.

Cause we keep growing by word of mouth and Alicia is going to give me some more hacks on how to do it on LinkedIn. So, uh, thank you. Thank you all.

Alicia Cannon: Awesome.

Creating Environments Of Success - Alicia Cannon - Defining Hospitality - Episode # 128
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