Mark Friedler was only sixteen when he bicycled across the U.S., determined not to get off the bike no matter how bad the weather or how steep the hill. He succeeded, and for the last twenty years this determination has made Friedler a successful serial entrepreneur and business coach. His first real business success was bringing to the Nordic regions the cookie of all cookies, the Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Mark Friedler is the American man who moved to Sweden for a summer job and lived in a dorm at Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan. This is also where he started his days as an entrepreneur. In 1988, in his early twenties, Friedler was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal as the young entrepreneur making Swedes realize what they had been missing. His business began to rocket. Friedler’s Cookies were a hit in the Stockholm Galleria, and soon additional stores opened in other Swedish cities.
The years went by and the young entrepreneur sold his stores. But his most important lesson was to recognize that he continually had to evaluate and reinvent his business concept. Friedler learned that his business was not the cookie stores but supplying a need. He next won the negotiation to supply the airlines with his cookies and finally ended up selling the cookie mix to supermarkets.
From his initial enterprise he learned many valuable lessons about running a company and how to create successful businesses. He put these experiences to good use on his return to the states. Since his return he has founded and sold another two companies.
As Friedler told us about his accomplishments and how he managed to turn small ideas into valuable corporations, he constantly shared tips and ideas with the audience. Listening to Friedler is encouraging, and as he shared useful tools or techniques to implement in one’s business, he frequently backed them up with concrete examples from his own experience.

From crisis to advantage
The most inspiring part of this speech was when he, as the CEO of Gigex (a company providing free downloads for game demos and V-Cast), succeeded in making a small company become groundbreaking within an industry dominated by multimillion dollar companies. The industry grew according to conventional wisdom but by the end of the 1990s free download services were popping up everywhere. Gigex faced a serious problem: Why should their customers pay for a service that they now could get for free? Instead of panicking about being a company without a competitive business idea and being on the edge of losing their entire client list, Friedler started to re-evaluate what Gigex was providing their clients—its Value Proposition (or competitive advantage).
Friedler came to the conclusion that Gigex was actually a great marketing company. He told his salespeople to try a new pitch to the company’s clients, directing them to try to sell-up; instead of just providing a service to distribute demos for games, they began to offer to market all the games. Since they already had all the right customer contacts and extensive experience in file sharing, they offered their marketing expertise and service for a price less than the clients were paying their current marketing providers and threw in the file sharing for free. The pitch worked and Friedler once again converted a critical situation into an actual increase in sales. His comment about this change of image: “Sometimes all you need to do is take a step back. Look at what you see in front of you. What is the actual value in your business? Is there something that you can do differently to increase your business and revenues?"

Find your true path
The most valuable lesson Friedler saved for the end. As an entrepreneur, even though he was by now a family man, his business demands took him away from home frequently. But when he almost lost his son during a medical emergency, he got the jolt that changed his life. Prioritizing his real values, with his family in first place, Friedler cut back on everything else to practice what he believed. As a serial entrepreneur he became an experienced, objective (and perceptive) entrepreneurial coach. Now he is in demand by established corporations as well as startup companies. Best of all, he is happy and willing to share his experiences.
During the lunch Friedler presented “10 tools of how to grow your bottom line” and there is no doubt that we all went home that day at least one tool richer.

Submitted by Erik Bustad and Linn Glimeus, SACC-SF