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Good Leaders: What experiences are shaping your future?

For Joe Cecere (left), CEO of LITTLE, design is about finding the creativity in all walks of life. Joe is the speaker at the Good Leadership Breakfast on November 17.

The acclaimed design firm LITTLE has been shaped by two significant moments in the life of Joe Cecere. First, it was creating store window signs for Meatball Sandwiches in his parents Italian restaurant, and then a mentoring partnership with the the firm’s founder Monica Little, in his college days at MCAD – the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Joe Cecere will share his thoughts about how Design Thinking is shaping our future as the speaker for the November Good Leadership Breakfast on Friday the 17th.

“I’ve learned that running a world class design firm is a lot like Meatball Sandwiches – you love the mess when you are hungry, because the mess is worth it!” he grinned.

Mentoring works

Joe (left) is the host of Kick-Ass Happy Hours, where cool people come into the firm to talk about creativity.

Minneapolis design icon Monica Little spotted something special in Joe Cecere when he was a design student at the MCAD, and she went out of her way to start a mentoring partnership that’s still alive today. She passed the reigns to Joe a few years ago, and he is still grateful today. “I knew immediately – all those years ago – that I wanted to be a leader at LITTLE someday. I’m really excited to be leading a 39 year-old company, that I love, into the future,” Joe explained. “It’s my job to make sure the firm still has the excitement like a start-up.”

Over 39 years, LITTLE has earned a reputation for humanizing large, powerful companies with a self-identified “branding from the inside out” strategy. “We’re living in the era of Design Thinking, it’s the age of creativity that opens up what design can bring to everything. It’s not just about “marketing” anymore, it’s about experiences and products as much as packaging. We all know we have less tolerance for a poorly-designed experience these days: when something just doesn’t work, it’s not about a pretty picture,” he laughed. You’ve seen the impact of their work with clients including Target, Lowes, Microsoft, US Bank, Minnesota Timberwolves, and The Gap just to name a few.

NOTE: Guests are invited to bring a student to the Good Leadership Breakfast next week for free – it’s our way of encouraging mentoring, like Monica Little did for Joe Cecere. Nominate a student for a free ticket here. And please take a moment to share the mentoring event below.

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Hungry for more

Maybe Joe will bring one of his children to the Good Leadership Breakfast, as an investment in mentorship.

But what about those Meatball Sandwich signs? “Working in my family’s restaurant in St. Anthony Village, I fell in love with the whole experience – the customers and the food of course – but making those window signs is where I found my passion for design,” Joe smiled. LITTLE employees share in his passion for the food at internal quarterly meetings. “I bring in four Panini presses for ‘Joe’s Panini Bar’ to serve the employees. It’s the old-fashioned way of connecting, around food!”

Bring a student for free to the breakfast on November 17. Just fill out the nomination form here.

“Future” is the last of The Seven Fs (faith, family, finances, fitness, friends, fun, and future), and the featured subject for the last breakfast meeting of this year. Joe Cecere will be a delightful, inspiring voice of optimism and creativity to help us all think about what’s shaping our future. A few tickets remain – get yours here.

Good leaders build on the sum total of their experiences to follow their passions. And they design a work/life strategy that embraces the messiness, like a good Meatball Sandwich.

Please share with me: What experiences are shaping your future?

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