Like A Boss: Lisa Simpson

Sitting down with Lisa Simpson, Proprietor and Director of Operations of Liberty Distillery this week, and one thing was overwhelming evident: Lisa Simpson is a powerhouse #boss. In this edition of #LikeABoss she challenges our readers to not only prioritize happiness and her coined idea of crystallizing your vision, values, and goals but prioritize what makes you feel on fire. Yes, we had goosebumps, too. Lisa’s spirit animal is a Dragon, she’s a competitive rower, and we? We are in love.

So, Lisa tell us a little bit about yourself...

I began my career with a Commerce/Business degree. It started off with an exciting role working from Tokyo, Japan, with the objective of fostering trade relationships between Canada and Japan. I learned a new language, different approaches to business, and I got to travel. After that I went to pursue a passion and I went to culinary arts school in NYC, which later influenced my interests in the Distillery. With a business background and wanting to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavour, I knew I knew nothing.  I also knew I was risk adverse to financial loss so ended up joining the Corporate world to hone my financial acumen skills and spent 15 years in finance, which I loved. My experience was in a wide range of positions encompassing negotiations, strategic planning, sales, marketing, and commercial lending. In 2009 I left the Corporate world to consult with small to mid-size business, and in 2010 co-founded The Liberty Distillery

You are now the Proprietor and Director of Operations of Liberty Distillery, who or what helped or inspired you along the way?

I would say, my husband, Robert. [Gesturing to the Distillery around us] What brought this together was a joint vision between the two of us; although I put it all together. I had experience in different areas from my various streams of career and life experiences. Robert was a serial entrepreneur and had been in the wine/spirit industry for 35+ years.  Teaming up together it blossomed into a beautiful opportunity. I had the corporate life experience, however when things got tough; when I was feeling broken by the ‘system’, it was Robert’s serial entrepreneur attitude that reminded me “if it were easy everyone would be doing it”, that one can only get there if you be patient and take each day one day at a time. It took us nearly four years to obtain our final approvals and get our doors open.  Four years of dealing with the Federal, Provincial, and municipal governments, specifically, the City of Vancouver. All the competing priorities and timelines of things; it was difficult, very difficult as we were forging into unexplored territory – an industry in its infancy. I remember when I was truly ready to lose it, Robert would step in and remind me “you can’t get past today if you don’t stay present.” Every time it got hard I had to pinch myself to remind “this too shall pass, this too shall pass.”

I’m assuming being the Proprietor of a Distillery wasn’t what you were thinking of being as a child. So, what was your dream job as a child?

I think as a child we change our minds every five minutes. At one point I wanted to be a vet because I loved horses and grew up riding. [Things change,] [I didn’t] dream of being a Chartered Accountant but in high school I recall excelling in accounting and thought perhaps I would become a CA.

[I think] we are influenced by what our parents do. My father was in business and commerce and my mother also had completed a B Commerce degree at UBC. They [my parents] both loved to travel and so I thought I would do something international with a business angle to it. I saw myself doing world travel.  I was all about adventure, having fun, and having a new experience. Some individuals have every step of their lives mapped out, but I never had a black and white picture of what the end looked like. [I knew] I wanted to have many experiences. Curiosity was my driver.

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What is one key leadership lesson you have learned over the years?

Be patient. You really need to take time to think through what your vision, values, and goals are. You need to take time to get to know yourself and what you are reacting to. Life is a series of steps and there is always a fork in the road. You need to know what your end goal is, and clearly define what the vision for yourself is before you can move forward. At every Y in the road you can then go back to your vision, values, and goals to help influence whether you are going to go left or right. You can’t just react to everything that is presented to you or else you will make [a pattern of] poor decisions. [That’s not to say you won’t] make any poor decisions. I think it is important to remember to not worry about making the perfect decision [or the wrong decision]. What you learn from those decisions are the real lessons in life.

What is one piece of advice you would give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?

Find your voice, be patient, and crystallize what your vision and values are. Ultimately, know what you want to accomplish for yourself and what you believe is expected of you. Find your voice so that you can always stay true to yourself, your vision, and values…. especially when we get pulled into so many different directions and/or are influenced by peers and parents.

Take the time to crystalize what it is that makes you happy… when can you stop and say, “I nailed that” and it makes you happy. However, it’s not just what makes you happy, it’s also what makes you feel on fire. I think it is important to invest time… a LOT of time, to truly understand what makes you feel this way so that you can clearly articulate your vision that is aligned with your values.  Then and only then, can you ‘reverse engineer’ your road map to achieve your vision to it.

Information is everything. The more you research, the more you know about yourself. The more you can clearly articulate your needs; the better prepared you will be to make informed decisions for the right reasons to achieve your goals.  More importantly, to achieve your goals that are aligned with your vision, values, and ultimate happiness.

After all of the success so far in your life, what is the one thing you still find yourself struggling with?

I would say probably a few things. Patience is still something I work on, despite knowing how critical and valuable it is. I am better now than I was before, but I know I can still be impatient. The other thing is recognizing success. Understanding what success looks like, celebrating it along the way, and not being afraid to applaud myself. When we take time to do this, it creates a new foundation [and strength] to keep moving forward.


How do you achieve work/life balance in your life?

There has to be self-awareness and understanding for what both your personal and professional needs are on a daily basis. It’s easy to put work first on a consistent basis, especially when you are an entrepreneur. When I wake up and am feeling cranky on a regular basis, I know it is because I didn’t get enough ‘me time’. When I am cranky, I recognize this as a kink when work and life is out of balance. Personally, I need to feel connected to nature and to my friends. When it’s off  and I’m too focused on my work life pendulum, then I need to be mindful and kick myself to re-align back into the right rhythm.

Every action has a reaction and [imbalances over time] will add up to greater imbalances that can become overwhelming. You need to ‘take stock’ of every single day and take a breath. Don’t push feelings it to the back-burner; otherwise eventually the ‘boiling pot of water will overflow and burn you’. Sometimes work or family commitments demand that self-care must be sacrificed.  When this happens I make an agreement with myself, that I will get up an hour earlier for ‘me time’ to make up for it.

They can’t physically see this space we are in (the Distillery); Can you tell us the journey from corporate to create this?

It goes back to what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always wanted to be adventurous and entrepreneurial.  The common thread through all of it is: a desire for adventure, a curious outlook, a focus for information and knowledge, and a strong business-sense and finance background.

I got my Culinary degree with the intent that I could move from country to country. Pastry was my forte and I wanted to be well versed across the board. My vision was to be entrepreneurial in the culinary world. [I had] been out of school for 10 years and realized I knew a whole lot of nothing about a whole lot. I didn’t want to lose a ton of money so I turned to corporate life, corporate finance. Lending of money to small, medium sized businesses. I learned how to decipher who is successful, who isn’t successful, and why. I would be reading business plans, financial results, balance sheets. I learned about many different industries and businesses, and how to be successful in these different environments. With my curious mind the role fit me quite well.

There are three fundamentals that are critical to my enjoyment of life, and that help me to decide when I should make a change.  These are the ‘3 pegs on my stool’.  If any of them are out of alignment then I am tilted or will fall over.  Those three pegs are: I must be enjoying what I am doing and be learning, I must enjoy the people I work with, and I  need to be reasonably compensated to support my lifestyle and what is important to me. During my time in corporate finance I worked at three different institutions and took on various leadership roles, and completed my MBA along the way. At some point however my stool started teetering a bit; I wasn’t feeling challenged enough – I felt I was no longer growing as an individual. So, I left to start consulting with small/mid-sized business.

My vision, values, and goals, eventually aligned with my international marketing experience, passion for culinary, and corporate finance background and I co-founded the The Liberty Distillery with my husband Robert.

Any final thoughts you would like to share with our readers?

The fabric of our lives changes seasonally, sometimes daily. I pinch myself when I am comfortable [or cranky] and challenge myself to think whether I am responding to my internal or external environment? I ask myself, “what has shifted? What haven't I defined [or crystalized] for myself that is creating these feelings”?

I’m constantly ‘reverse engineering’ and planning how to take strategic steps towards my vision. I like to know where I’m headed and understand why I am heading. [I might change my mind] and it’s okay to make changes, but I think it is important to know if those changes are for you, or for someone else that is imposing them on you?

Rapid Fire Q’s

What is your spirit animal? Dragon

What gets you up in the morning? Rowing

What are you most grateful for in this moment? Health

What is the best way women can support one another? Being honest and supportive.

What 3 things do you always pack when you travel? Running shoes, makeup, my music

How do you practice self-care? A lot of exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.

What’s the last new thing you learned? There is always something new to learn every day.

What does success mean to you? Feeling happy and on fire for myself. Everyday feeling really happy, energetic, enthusiastic and looking forward to the day with a curious mind.

Keira Roets