Recently I sat down with the dynamic, humble, and ultra-successful businessman, Richard Friedman. Friedman has an impressive history of turning real estate into gold by pioneering projects including hotels, shopping centers, office buildings, and housing. Some of his more notable real estate expeditions included the conversion of Boston's historic Charles Street Jail into a luxury hotel, the construction of the 42 story St. Regis Hotel and Residences in San Francisco, and development of Charles Square, an 800,000 square foot project that included the iconic Charles Hotel near Harvard University.
Richard is a self-made success story. He grew up in Brookline, MA with a love for making money and living fast, very fast when you consider his love for downhill skiing. As a young man he had no problem working hard to earn a few bucks. Some of his jobs included shoveling snow, working at the post office during the holidays, bag boy at a local supermarket, mowing lawns, and collecting rents for his dad's two person real estate office. A talented ski racer at Dartmouth, Richard's favorite job after college was becoming the ski coach at Harvard. After college, and before ski coaching, Friedman became an officer in the US Army in a short career that ended with a ski injury. He came home to begin working with his dad's real estate office, Carpenter and Company, today owned by Friedman. That was 1968 and since then Richard Friedman has built a massive real estate empire out of the ashes of his onetime dream to be a professional skier.
Here are 5 lessons to success, from an entrepreneur who shoots from the hip and tells it like it is. This is Richard Friedman's lessons for success, unseasoned.
Pick Up the Phone: One could argue that success is in Friedman's DNA. He's a hard worker so undoubtedly, he'd have ended up building an empire in whatever line of work he ended up in. His career resulted in a lifetime of developing hotels and real estate, all because of a simple phone call he made more than 40 years ago. Friedman was hired by Jordan Marsh to sell a warehouse that they had used for storing fur coats, so he did what any great real estate agent would do, he worked the phones to find a buyer. One of the calls he made was to Hyatt Hotels in Chicago, and a man by the name of Donald Pritzker. Not only did the warehouse get acquired, but a local investor, Hyatt, and Prudential developed it with Friedman's coordinating leadership. The Pritzker family was quickly developing the Hyatt brand and soon Friedman found himself traveling the country finding other hotel opportunities for the Pritzker family. One phone call, a "cold call" if you will, resulted in a lifetime family friendship and parallel empires in the real estate and hotel world.
Passion Required: Richard Friedman tried many jobs prior to landing at his dad's real estate office after college. One such job was as a door-to-door knife salesman. Friedman says that the job lasted 5 days because he couldn't sell something that he was not passionate about. He says that passion is what drives you to get up early, stay up late, and to make those hard cold calls. You must love what you do to the core, or you'll never have what it takes to build something awesome. Richard is not passionate about just any project, but when he's passionate, he can turn it into gold. He turned the historic Charles Street Jail into a beautiful hotel, The Liberty Hotel, and has developed other grand hotel projects along the way. That being said, he admits that developing a courtyard hotel along Rte 495 wouldn't excite him and he'd never do well building one. What excites Friedman now is his current project, the new Four Seasons in Boston. At 699 feet, the new Four Seasons (the second one in Boston) will be the tallest residential building in the city. The first 20 floors will be home to 211 luxury hotel rooms while the upper 40 floors will be developed as 180 luxury condominium units. Friedman has a track record of turning real estate into landmarks and undoubtedly he's well on his way with the new Four Seasons Boston.
Argue: Friedman loves to debate with his friends, family, employees, and business partners. Ever since his days as a philosophy major in college, Friedman says that he learns best from the Socratic Method because it forces everyone within the conversation to answer hard questions and to learn from one another's perspective. He admits that sometimes the arguments get heated if only because all involved are passionate about their position. When the arguments are over, it's back to business as usual and egos are left unbruised. The best part about a great argument says Friedman is that it stretches your thinking.
Don't Look Back: Richard Friedman says that he hates attending reunions and talking about old times. He sees it as a waste of time and energy. What he does enjoy is spending his time looking forward. Friedman says that many people spend too much time rehashing or reliving the past, so why go back?
Surround Yourself With Great People: Friedman says that his number one key to success is his ability to embrace talent. He surrounds himself with people who are extremely talented and then he's loyal to them for life. His assistant, April, has been with him six years and not only is she great at keeping him organized and grounded, she has the eye of an interior designer and has helped him make design decisions on some of his properties. I also had the opportunity to meet Alex, the General Manager of Friedman's hotel, The Charles Hotel. Friedman recruited Alex out of The Jefferson, a hotel in Washington DC. Friedman had stayed there often enough to see that Alex had incredible talent for taking care of customers while simultaneously running the hotel. Friedman recruited him to Boston and Alex has been running The Charles Hotel ever since. Friedman's office is not far from The Charles Hotel so it's not unusual for Alex to stop by when Friedman's in town to just say hello and make conversation.
For someone as ultra-successful as Richard Friedman, he is down to earth, humble, and transparent about what it has taken to achieve big goals. Arguably one of the most powerful men in Boston, Richard Friedman has built a massive real estate and hotel empire the old fashion way, hard work and strong networks. He is success unseasoned.