Don’t Wait to Celebrate

Validation helps us fight the good fight.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “the Great Reset.” That’s my shorthand for everything that’s rocked our world and our industry in the last 100 days as we navigate a pandemic, fight a global recession, and come to grips with a new Civil Rights movement that is justifiably disrupting the status quo. I used to think that companies like Freeman, who have overcome every conceivable challenge and adversity in 90+ years, had seen it all. But we’ve hit the trifecta of sea change, compressed in an unimaginable time frame.

I suspect that this is what it means to live at the speed of digital, where there is scarcely time to process the significance of events in real time because they are coming at what feels like warp speed. It’s physically exhausting and emotionally draining for everyone. But baked into the formula of rapid change is inherent hope that rapid change can also bring positive transformation. And that’s why, even when we are scrambling to keep the plates spinning and feeling overwhelmed — especially when we’re feeling that way — we need to celebrate our victories.

Cause for applause came from a surprising quarter last week when Forbes officially included Freeman on its annual list of America’s Best Employers for Women. This unsolicited accolade from such a credible source served as validation that when we act with intent, live our values, and refuse to accept the lazy, ingrained habits that excuse discrimination, we can affect positive change. The Freeman manifesto states that all employees can expect a “career experience to promote an enriching life of learning, creativity, growth, and fulfillment.” We are committed to the relentless work of ensuring equity in the way people are hired, compensated, and afforded opportunities for promotion — regardless of age, gender identity, race, or any other point of differentiation.

We are not ready to declare absolute victory in the fight to ensure diversity and equity at Freeman. But as an organization grounded in design thinking, we know that diversity is critical to success in an industry that demands innovation. This affirmation encourages us to push harder. And on a larger scale, it is a welcome reminder that the seemingly thankless task of tilling the soil today may bear fruit sooner than we think. Until then, we would do well to stay focused on promoting growth. And let’s make time to celebrate each green shoot.

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.