Trailblazer. Entrepreneur. Inspiration.
These are the words that come to mind when I think of Christine Magee. Up until last year, she was the Sleep Country figurehead who floated in and out of my TV screen. A pastel-clad self-made #ladyboss who turned a mattress brand into a household name and empire.
Then one fateful day, I booked a Sleep Country ad. I’ve since had the privilege of working with Christine on a few shoots. Having gotten to know her, she represents much more to me now.
She’s tough but kind. Funny but serious. Watching her work is a balancing act of epic proportions; she transitions from role to role with ease and excitement. From taking camera direction on set, to talking shop with the marketing team before running out for a lippy touch-up while taking a call from one of her daughters – she really does do it ALL. And, despite her platitude of responsibilities and successes, she’s warm and considerate, even when she doesn’t need to be.
If there’s such a thing as balance in this world, Christine Magee has found it, so it should come as no surprise that I wanted to know more about this powerhouse woman. My Q&A with Christine is below. ENJOY.
Can you briefly describe your career journey?
As I went off to University, I had not yet figured out what I wanted to be. I went to Western in 1978 with a view of getting into medicine. In my second year I switched to Business School, successfully getting into Western’s Ivey HBA program, which only accepted 150 students at that time. Upon graduating I must have interviewed with every discipline that came to Ivey’s placement centre as I was again trying to figure out what to do next. In the end I chose Commercial Lending as I hoped to apply and expand my business/ financial skills while getting exposure to various industry sectors, companies, and management styles. Although I had a very promising career at the bank and was on their “fast track” program for leadership and advancement, I never really thought that I would stay in the banking sector. I always aspired to be on the other side (i.e., operating a business). I met my future business partners at the bank and they asked me to join them in starting Sleep Country. It was the perfect opportunity and I said yes!
What factors do you attribute to your success?
I have always been driven. I was never motivated by money, but rather by the desire to find my passion/the opportunity/the career that challenged my abilities, leveraged my talents and made me happy. I have also been blessed with family and friends who believed in me and supported my aspirations.
Reflecting on my management and leadership skills, I came to understand in my early career how important it is to use every challenge and opportunity to learn. I also understood the importance of teamwork and the shared values and integrity among colleagues. Our ability to build Sleep Country has been a combination of courage to pursue our vision and the pursuit of a culture that attracts, develops and retains an exceptional team of professional associates. The power of eliciting the ideas and experience of our team creates the opportunity for exceptional thinking, innovation and execution. What I’m most proud of is creating an environment where our team feels supported, recognized and empowered; that is what has made Sleep Country successful.
Any advice for young women looking to start their own business?
Do it! That being said, you need to do your homework. Research the competition, develop your business model, distil your concept to a simple focused approach and then create a network of resources (financial, advisory, partners, associates) to take your concept to execution. Then have courage to go do it. Know that it will be tough and there will be (what seems to be) insurmountable hurdles. But responding to these challenges is what builds your skills, tests your passion and leads to the innovation that will determine your success.
What’s the most surprising thing that you’ve learned about yourself over the last five years?
It was hard for me to step back; I thought I was never defined by my job. In the last year and a half as I transitioned to a co-chair role and away from operator, I truly found it more difficult than I thought it would be. I have had to re-examine my goals and aspirations and consider what more I should do and how to contribute, both at Sleep Country and in other ways (board work, community and personally).
If you could go back in time, and impart one nugget of wisdom onto 25-year-old Christine, what would it be?
I think I would say, “Relax. Enjoy the journey and don’t take yourself so seriously.”
What are you striving for right now, professionally or personally?
Balance; enough time to pursue personal goals (e.g., fitness, more time spent with family), while enjoying stimulating corporate board work and giving back to the community.
What impresses you?
So many things can impress me: people I meet who have a great sense of who they are and are comfortable in their skin. I love people who are driven, passionate and real. It is that blend of the pursuit to fulfill their own potential but not at the expense of others; those people seem to benefit everyone they meet through their influence, knowledge or kindness.
Sometimes it can be the simplest thing that impresses me: a sunset, a lyric, a design, a play, dance or speech. All of these things elicit beauty, appreciation or admiration, which is made powerful by its capture of a moment in time.
The resilience of the human spirit also impresses me. I am always inspired by individuals who, despite challenges, set backs or unfortunate circumstances, find a way to make it through – who pick themselves up or offer comfort to others when they themselves are in need. I have had the privilege of working with a number of non-profit agencies in this country and I truly believe that those individuals who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of helping others are true heroes.
You have a FULL day off and the kids are in school, OMG! Where do you go? Grab a bite? Take a yoga class? Stroll?
All three. I love yoga, love eating and getting to those chores around the house that I never had time for (i.e., cleaning out my closet or my girls’ closet usually to find my clothes there). I’d probably spend time working in the garden or making plans to see someone that I have wanted to catch up with.
A little birdie told us that you’re an avid reader. What book should we all put on our must-read list for 2016?
I am part of a book club and there are so many books that I would not have naturally taken off the shelf but have loved.
Cellist of Sarajevo, Ken Follett Century Trilogy (although admittedly I have not yet read the third book), and All the Light We Cannot See.
What do you love about life RIGHT NOW?
The luxury of being able to contemplate “what’s next?”