We talked to Karen Friedman of Karen Friedman Enterprises on how the firm is breaking complex information into bite-sized nuggets that people can understand during these tough times.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Karen Friedman: We’re well, thanks for asking. Back in March, my husband and I both had COVID. First, I got very sick, but it was so early, I figured I had a bug. When my fever spiked to 102.4 and wouldn’t go away, I was concerned, as was my doctor. There were no tests other than for healthcare workers, so that I couldn’t get tested. I had the fever for nearly a week, but for 3 weeks, I had fatigue like I’ve never experienced. I could sleep 10 hours and then have to go back to sleep. I had some other symptoms, but fortunately, no cough or breathing issues. My husband got sick as I recovered. Lower fever, but his fever lasted 3 weeks, and he did have some respiratory issues. Fortunately, we both recovered and had antibody tests. We both tested positive for the antibodies.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Karen Friedman Enterprises.
Karen Friedman: I was a television news reporter/anchor for many years and worked at stations around the country, ending up at ABC TV in Philadelphia for 12 years. I loved covering the news but wanted to do some other things. In the fall of 1996, 25 years ago, I formed my own company, Karen Friedman Enterprises, which then focused on media and crisis training. Today it has evolved to speaker and presentation training, leadership coaching, messaging, executive presence, and more. As a former reporter, I understood the importance of breaking complex information into bite-sized nuggets people could understand and knew how to make the information more engaging. That is a big part of how we work with spokespeople and companies today. Additionally, in a virtual world, it is difficult for people to just know how to present virtually, so we have been able to help so many people improve their virtual presence.
How does Karen Friedman Enterprises innovate?
Karen Friedman: You have to be flexible and open to change. No one could have predicted this pandemic and how it would change the world. You must adapt to your clients’ needs to give them what they want and deliver it the way they want it. In short, listen to your clients. It’s about them, their needs, put them first. We are doing what we have always done in person, and we were doing virtual work before COVID, but now, we’ve had to take our in-person meetings, training, engagements, exercises, and convert them to a virtual setting.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Karen Friedman: When the pandemic hit, my calendar was booked solid into early summer. Within a few short weeks, everything was cancelled, and my calendar was empty. Because we travel to clients, speak at meetings, run-on site coaching, and training programs, there was no travel, and no one was going to the office. That’s when we started applying virtual models and reaching out to clients to see what they needed. There was a lot of marketing and selling going on because people were panicked. We didn’t do that. We provided free articles and videos on how to better communicate and present without ever asking anyone to sign up for anything. People really appreciated it and sent continual thank yous.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Karen Friedman: Of course. For years, I have worked with a team of excellent experienced coaches. They assist me with breakouts at large on-site meetings. Those aren’t happening now. So while some of them are still working on my behalf providing executive coaching and some on line breakout sessions, the scope of what we did is cut back for the moment. Lessons learned are ones that we always learn in times of crisis. 1. As my father always told me, the only way out of a problem is to work your way through it. 2. Leadership is always about behavior. The most effective leaders are those who can adapt and communicate while a crisis is unfolding, reflect on what they’ve learned, and implement changes to create a better future for the people they lead. 3. Good things always come out of not so good times. I wondered how, in the world, I would sustain my business in a virtual environment. Surprisingly, I like flexibility and have more time to work with people as well as personal time because I’m not spending as much time in airports, on trains, or in my car. It’s actually become easier to work with people more frequently and stay connected.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Karen Friedman Enterprises in the future?
Karen Friedman: Same answers as above. Stay open to change. Be flexible and adaptable. Collaborate with others because no one has all the answers. You’re better together than you are apart. And keep your eyes and ears open to you can implement change that will benefit your customers. If your customers are happy, you will always have a business.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Karen Friedman: Agencies, other firms who do what we do. I don’t worry about the competition. I focus on us. How can we be our best for our customers? What experience can we provide that makes them value our relationship? I am not doing anything different than I did 25 years ago when I started my business, and I imagine that’s why we’re still in business.
Your final thoughts?
Karen Friedman: Good things come from tough times. You just have to grab on tight when the ride gets bumpy. Things will always get better.
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