Christine Friedreich is one of those special people who are able to take the reins and not be driven by strokes of fate. Despite the fact that the hospitality industry has been dramatically affected by the COVID-19 crisis, Friedreich Hospitality continues to gear up for the future and work on new solutions with great enthusiasm. Positive communication. Genuine customer loyalty. Hospitality. Truly making a difference.
We already know an excellent summary of the COVID-19 situation from your article on Forbes. What was your first step at the beginning of the crisis, what was the first thing you did, and why?
I was just in the countryside at the time and didn’t notice the cuts as much at first as others in the city may have experienced themselves. As a business owner, I then immediately started writing positive affirmations for myself on a daily basis and shared them with those around me. This was extremely motivating for me and I also received very good feedback from others about my affirming thoughts.
From a professional perspective, have you changed anything in your strategy?
Yes and no. Of course, it was a shock at first that actually all the orders that were on the schedule were canceled. But I started working on new ideas and said to myself, eventually it will pass. I started planning for the future. What can I do better, what can I change? How can I prepare for the time after? These were the questions that occupied me at that time.
How did you communicate with your customers? How did your customers react to the new situation?
After some time of waiting, I tried to get in touch with many people and exchange information by phone. There were many more conversations and I have kept that up until today. When you think about what has changed as a result of the crisis, it is especially about personal contact. On the phone, you can clear up a lot of misunderstandings that would probably be much more difficult to clear up by mail. I noticed how good the interaction felt. That’s how my partners and I shared our thoughts during the crisis: We’re all in the same boat. And this cohesion was very positive.
What helps you the most or who do you ask for advice – who do you exchange ideas with?
In the beginning, it was certainly my partner and my employees. I can imagine how difficult it is when you’re a sole proprietor and you don’t have a team around you for support. The hardest part is getting out of the crisis. That’s why I’m infinitely grateful that I had a team by my side and didn’t have to walk this path alone.
We determined that we had to look forward. To show that we are there, that we are motivated, that we are not giving up, we have hired a new employee to take care of marketing. We’re going to find solutions to the current challenges across the industry. There have been a few people who have buried their heads in the sand, but I have tried to be in touch with those who are optimistic about the future.
What’s coming in the future? Does Friedreich Hospitality already have finished plans?
We are currently working on several concepts. One of them involves digital hospitality solutions: How can proximity be created despite the distance? How can hospitality and warmth be experienced? How can digitalization support hospitality? We have just applied for funding and hope that our wish will be granted and that we will be able to develop further with this support.
I am already looking forward to January: Then we will organize “Facettenreich”, the first forum on hospitality in Austria. This will be an event where we offer a stage for the topics of service and hospitality in Vienna. I am already very excited to see how this project of the heart will develop in the coming weeks.
If you could wish for one skill, what would it be?
I think sometimes it would be nice to just be able to beam from time to time. (laughs) To a powerful place like the mountains, for example. In the summer I worked a lot in nature and I really enjoyed it. That’s exactly what I need in the city: to get out of a meeting and catch my breath – in the mountains, by a lake, in the green. That would be a nice skill to have.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of my team and of the fact that I have succeeded in setting up and leading my team in the way I envisioned. That we can really work together so well.
Of all the projects, I’m most proud of the soccer championship in Russia. It was the first major task that pushed me close to my limits. But after every project, you look back and say: Wow, how great that we mastered it. Our last project was also a special challenge: a grandiose wedding in India. Between five and ten thousand guests came every day, which meant ten sleepless nights for me, but at the same time was incredibly exciting. The client is the fifth richest man in the world. In the end, he said to me, “Christine, you were right and I was wrong.”. That was great, empowering feedback and I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
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