A Poorly Kept Secret

It’s all about people.

Today closes what has been the toughest week the people of Freeman have faced since the industry shutdown during WWII. The pandemic has hit the Live Events industry especially hard and our people have been heroic in their efforts to support our customers and strategize a way through. Ultimately, with the cancellation of all large public events for the balance of the year, an industry-wide reset is unavoidable; we have scaled accordingly.

I know we’re not the first to do this and we won’t be the last. Our customers are facing equally challenging decisions. There is no “us” or “them” here — if anything, there is a sad but comforting sense of solidarity as we try to plan for what comes next.

It’s a poorly kept secret that, in my opinion, the success of Freeman, its secret sauce, has always been our people. Our “killer app.” Ninety-plus years of sharing a culture that is grounded in integrity, empathy, and innovation has pretty much weeded out the weak players. It’s been awesome knowing that we work with the best in the business…until we have to part company. Then, it hurts.

During this time of deep uncertainty, I have had the privilege of working with people whose number-one concern has been for customers’ businesses. Even as they could see their jobs going away, their professionalism overruled self-interest. I have taken calls from colleagues impacted by our cutbacks who want to make sure that some detail of a client commitment is fulfilled. I have been briefed by account leads who want to make sure “their show” will be in good hands when it comes back. I have been humbled by the graciousness and professionalism of those who are grateful for their time at Freeman and who want nothing more than to see it succeed well into the future.

Our plan to go forward is an implicit promise to everyone who has ever worked for or with Freeman: employees, customers, and partners, all stakeholders.

No doubt, the Live Events industry has taken a hit. No doubt, it will return — changed, but better designed for the shape of the future.

Here’s what will not change: Our pledge to support each other in moving forward. Our commitment to customers to ground our success in their success. Our ability to act swiftly and decisively on behalf of our clients the moment they are ready.

Our allegiance to all who make up the Live Events community is steadfast. Speaking for Freeman, and for any business determined to bounce back, this much is certain: success is assured only when our people insist on it. When it’s their culture and their legacy to do the right thing, they will accept nothing less.

It’s a Small World

Expanding globally promotes design diversity.

Have you ever thought about the expression, “It’s a small world”? Typically, it’s an exclamation used when we run into a friend unexpectedly, or meet a stranger who happens to share our esoteric tastes. Technology has made the world smaller in the sense that it is easier to visit – virtually, at least – its farthest expanses. We can Snapchat with our friends in Asia, WebEx with the London office, and read the latest news from South Africa in real time.

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I believe that people from diverse cultures and locations are more alike than they are different. But I also believe the differences are worth noting and celebrating. One of the serendipitous benefits of expanding into new business sectors and global markets is that it brings a unique perspective to the enterprise. No matter how well-read, well-travelled, or well-staffed we may be, the odds are slim that someone in our Ottawa branch will bring the same resources to a challenge as one of our people in Singapore or, for that matter, in Dallas. And that’s a good thing.

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to visit with our teams in Sydney, New Zealand, Singapore and China – offices that joined us as part of recent acquisitions. I was totally energized by their ideas and the diversity these professionals bring to our enterprise. I learned that these APAC offices have a great mix of men and women and age groups, all tackling a broad range of client businesses with interesting opportunities and challenges. And everyone seemed genuinely enthusiastic about what we can accomplish together.

I am especially interested in how things are developing in the critical China market.  Given its size, growth potential, and importance to the long-term global economy, I’m glad we have solid people in China who can help build our resources and capabilities. Especially as it relates to intellectual capital.

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report, which you can download here, indicates that China is the home to “global innovation powerhouses in e-commerce, messaging, travel, financial services, and on-demand transportation.” Further, she suggests that as disposable income continues to grow within China’s vast population, it all points to burgeoning opportunity for smart marketers.

For any enterprise hoping to remain relevant in the coming years, the ability to bring both local knowledge and a wider, more diverse world view to the process will prove invaluable. The nature of innovation requires that we shift perspective – stand on our heads, change our vocabularies, and imagine new worlds in which the familiar laws don’t apply. Global expansion, and the commitment to work face-to-face with people who don’t share our list of “givens,” forces us to make the leap.