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IKEA’s Former CEO: Every Job Counts, Even the ‘Poop’ Ones

Having climbed the corporate ladder, former IKEA North America chief executive Pernille Spiers-Lopez is thankful for each rung — even the lowly ones. “I have done dishwashing jobs at a hotel, I have cleaned horse poop when I was a horseback rider on the weekends,” she says. To be sure, these jobs weren’t glamorous. But they did teach her an important lesson about taking the time to learn how to do a job, any job, well.

Her experience also taught her that failed ventures can be the start of exciting new professional opportunities. In her early 20s, Spiers-Lopez gave up her dream of being a journalist, a profession she’d studied in school. It was a hard decision, but by finding the courage to cut the cord, she could devote the time to starting her own business — a path that led her to the U.S. and launched her corporate career.

The move showed her the power of perspective. “I would say, be kind to yourself and have patience,” she says. “We don’t look at life as a full life, we look at it in small segments of a year or phases. Every phase is important but it’s not the end.”

Pernille joined IKEA North America in 1990 and became its president in 2001. In 2009 she shifted to the role of global HR manager, and left in 2011 after spending more than two years commuting between Chicago and Europe.

For more on Spiers-Lopez’s ambling path to success, watch the video above.