Q&A with Christopher Leach, PResident of Contract Furnishings
Why did you start Contract Furnishings?
I started this business because I wanted to get off a plane and have a dog. I had a very comfortable corporate gig that required me to travel a lot. I had just turned 30 years old. I had invested in a few companies and this was my opportunity to start something new. A friend of mine had started Contract Furnishings in Kansas City and was doing work in Colorado without a formal presence. He approached me about opening an office in Denver.
What is most important to you in working with clients?
Personal relationships mean everything to me. With the Amazonification of business, I work even harder to maintain relationships and add value. People are my priority.
What have you learned about yourself and others by running your business?
Failure is not an option. I am driven to succeed. The safety and security of my team are of the utmost importance. And, with time and maturity, I have learned more about my value and the value of my team. For example, I have learned that it’s ok to fire a client and walk away. Our value, safety, security, and sanity are more important. Life is too short.
What’s your proudest accomplishment in business?
When I bought out my business partner during the recession in 2009. That was a proud and defining moment.
What type of culture do you promote, and how do you create it?
Our staff is our work family, so I want to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard. And, we walk the talk. We constantly communicate, even when the conversations are hard. We also promote a culture of teamwork. Team members stay for decades because of the culture we have created.
What motivates you to give back to community in such a way?
In my younger years, when I felt like a marginalized, gay man, I had my eyes opened to my privilege of being born a tall, white, cis male. My history and life experiences aside, I had privilege. An LGBT leadership program taught me to embrace that privilege and helped me build the foundation for my philanthropy and volunteer engagement. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give back however I can. I’ve been active with various LGBTQ organizations for 28+ years. Being a business owner, I’ve been able to expand that volunteer work professionally into the business community to help other entrepreneurs.
Who do you admire most as a business leader and why?
I don’t admire any one person or worship false idols. I admire acts of selflessness and kindness. The Air Force taught me “service before self,” and that has stuck with me. I intentionally engage with organizations like the Colorado Thought Leaders Forum (CTLF) because they attract like-minded people. CTLF gives me a chance to be surrounded by other intentional leaders.
In the midst of COVID, how are you helping your clients navigate returning to work?
Most importantly, we are listening. We are sitting down with clients to hear their concerns and that of their teams. We are sharing best practices and practical advice to help them hold it together. We serve as a calm voice of reason that can help them pull together safety guidelines, create back-to-work programs, approach their facilities in ways they had not considered. We also help them communicate the expectations with their teams to minimize the employees’ fears of going back into the work environment.
Any hobbies? Non-business interests?
My dog, George. He’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback. He’s the best. I love gardening, art collecting (and, meeting the artists), travel, and philanthropy. I am active with the Center on Colfax, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Denver Art Museum: my favorite organizations. A perfect day is spent in the yard.