David Friedman is the former President of RSI, an award-winning employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm in the Philadelphia area. He is a frequent guest speaker and seminar leader on organizational culture, leadership and values. A graduate of the College of William & Mary with a degree in Philosophy, Friedman currently lives in Moorestown, NJ with his wife and 2 college-age children.
Welcome David. We are excited to have you here. Can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I spent 27 years building and leading RSI into one of the largest independently-owned employee benefits consulting firms in the country. During that time, we won awards for just about every category of business success – from leadership to growth to quality to being a Best Place to Work. After selling the company to a large publicly-held insurance brokerage, I retired from the industry to pursue my writing and speaking interests.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve always been a writer (I was editor-in-chief of our school newspaper in HS), producing shorter articles and documents throughout my career. However, I didn’t focus my efforts on writing a book until just this past year.
Are you a morning or an evening writer?
I’m actually both. (It’s the afternoon when I struggle!). I wake up early and like to think and write before I work out each day. I also find that sometimes I start getting good ideas in the evening and end up staying up too late writing.
Who is your greatest source of inspiration?
Most of my ideas for writing come from my own experiences and observations. I was a philosophy major in college, and I tend to be pretty reflective and introspective. I’ve always tried to think about my experiences and then see if I can discern underlying principles that I can apply more broadly to my life. This is particularly true as it relates to management, leadership, organizational behavior, and personal achievement. I try to convey my thoughts/learnings in a way that they can be helpful for others and easy for them to apply.
Tell us about your latest book. What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
My latest book, Fundamentally Different, is based on the many lessons I learned and, in turn, taught during my business leadership career. Over the course of that career, we created an organizational culture at RSI that was truly extraordinary; and it was one that had an enormous impact on all who experienced it. Many of our staff described it as literally “life-changing.” They literally became better people as a result of being a part of it, and they continue to feel that way to this day. Clients also had a strong sense that there was something very “different” about the way we did business. It was a big part of why they initially chose to do business with us and why they stayed with us year after year.
In fact, many of our clients were so curious about our business practices that they would ask me to share those practices with them and to speak with their management or senior leadership teams. I did this in small groups and sometimes in seminars. It was a big hit for them, and was fun and rewarding for me. Nearly every time I presented my material, several people would come up to me afterwards and ask, “So when does the book come out?” The way I organized and delivered the material just seemed to naturally lend itself to a book, and I would always assure them that I would eventually do just that.
My “retirement” from the benefits industry proved to be the impetus I needed to finally sit down to write that book, and to share my insights with a broader audience. The result, Fundamentally Different, was written and published in the spring of 2011.
What is different about your book compared to other books out on the market?
One of the things that makes this book so unique is that it’s a business book, and yet it’s not only a business book.
As a business leadership book, it’s a compelling and thought-provoking read that reveals foundational principles for building a culture of success through organizational values. Its lessons are based on my experiences and reflections as a leader of a high-performance organization. More specifically, my book teaches leaders and organizations the 8 key steps to institutionalizing their most important values, and provides lots of stories and examples to illustrate just how to do it.
But I said that it’s not only a business book, and that’s what makes it doubly powerful and impactful.
At RSI, I wrote, developed, and taught a series of 30 values and principles that I called our Fundamentals. These Fundamentals were institutionalized, and were the cornerstone of our high-performance culture.
Fundamentally Different includes an insightful, thought-provoking essay on each of the 30 Fundamentals, each filled with stories and practical examples of how they apply in our daily lives. They include such concepts as “Check the ego at the door”, “Communicate to be understood”, “Set and ask for expectations”, “Speak straight”, and “Be quick to ask and slow to judge.” Everyone who reads the book comes away with lots of “aha” moments and practical ideas that can make a meaningful difference in their lives – at work, at home, with their families, and with their friends.
What was the most challenging part of writing this book? The most rewarding?
The most challenging part of writing the book was trying to make sure that every sentence, paragraph, and chapter was the very best that I could make it. When I’m speaking in front of an audience, I can explain things in multiple ways and adjust my delivery based upon audience reaction. However, when writing, I have only one just to make it right. It has to be able to stand completely on its own. This can be difficult.
Easily the most rewarding part of writing the book has been the reaction of readers and listeners. To a person, they have been nothing short of “wowed” by the book. They’ve raved about how enjoyable it is to read and how valuable my messages have been for both leaders and non-leaders alike. It’s quite affirming to know that my message is having a meaningful impact for people.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Fundamentally Different is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio book formats from Amazon, and most other on-line booksellers.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Absolutely! My website is the central place where readers can learn more about me, my work, and my writing. There you can find a longer biography, see the full list of the 30 Fundamentals, read reviews of the book, read my blog, find out about booking me for speaking or consulting, and see the list of where I’ll be appearing.
You can even read a sample chapter of my book there as well as listen to a chapter from the audio book (which I narrated!).
What is up next for you?
Right now, I’m pretty focused on speaking and consulting engagements, and working on developing materials to supplement my book. I often do talks, seminars, and workshops teaching the concepts that are in the book. As I do these, I’m always thinking about additional materials that I can create that will help make the program I deliver more impactful for people.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’m so excited to share this book with your readers and I know, without any question, that they’re going to be just as excited to share it with their friends, family, and colleagues. It’s a book that can change people’s lives.