As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Esther Fedorkevich. Esther is the Founder and CEO of The Fedd Agency, a Literary and Entertainment Agency.
Thank you so much for your time Esther! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am one of seven kids, and I’m smack dab in the middle. I think growing up in a big family teaches you to be competitive, how to work with others, and, most importantly, if you want to be heard, you better speak up. I have always had a very entrepreneurial spirit; I started my first business at eleven and had my sights set on becoming a CEO when I got older. I founded the Fedd Agency when I was twenty-five with the mission of helping authors get their messages out. I combined my passion for books, my love for people, and my entrepreneurial bent and built a name for myself in the publishing industry. As an agent, I’m the one that gets to speak up for my authors to let publishers know who they are, what their message is, and why the world needs to hear it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Well, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I feel like we become better leaders by learning from our mistakes and looking at them as lessons rather than failures. When I started my agency, I was green, eager, and overly positive. I thought I was the best thing to happen to the publishing industry since the printing press. I didn’t see the value of learning from others that have walked before me. So that being said, I was in an elevator with a big celebrity and started up a conversation on why they needed to write a book, and why I am the best agent in the business, etc. etc. I mean, I sold myself hard. And then the person standing right next to my new potential client introduced himself and said, “I’m their agent. Thanks for the good ideas.” That was the longest elevator ride of my life; I was so embarrassed. It didn’t even cross my mind that someone at that level probably had a ton of people managing their enterprise. I was green. I was bold. I was confident. But I didn’t take the time to look around and ask questions first. So now, I ask questions, I read the room, I try not to make assumptions, and I listen more. I still sell myself pretty hard though — that hasn’t changed.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
One of my favorite books, that I not only ask all my employees to read but I read again every year, is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Through his straightforward writing style and insightful tips, Carnegie guides readers on how to build relationships and better understand people. The book contains simple, practical steps to be a more successful person: smile, remember people’s names, be genuinely interested in what others have to say. Though originally published in 1936, this book is increasingly relevant today. I think with so much technology, we are inundated with information and mass communication, which I think we sometimes mistakenly interpret as connection. Having 10,000 followers on Instagram and liking people’s posts is all fine and good, but if we aren’t taking time to genuinely get to know people, then our success will be limited. I’ve experienced success in my business because building relationships has always been at the core of the work I do. How to Win Friends and Influence People guides me and helps me keep relationships central in my professional and personal life.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
We have always been about serving talented authors to help them create beautifully crafted and meaningful works that sell well in the evolving marketplace. Our mission has never changed. It drives us to innovate and develop new ways to help build our authors’ futures.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
My motto is “Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God.” There is no magic formula for success, but if there was one, I believe it would be to give each day your all.Work hard but know that at the end of the day, it’s out of your hands. Work hard and then give it God.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
There are always going to be challenges in life, but we need to remember to look at the positive. During the pandemic, I was able to spend more time with my two teenagers and my husband (my kids would say a little too much time). I was able to do some of my favorite activities that I normally don’t have time for, like playing golf, tennis, and going on walks. A big part of my job is traveling and meeting with people, so quarantine was really challenging for me. But instead of viewing it as missed time with clients, I decided to see it as extra time with my family.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Well, one of the biggest challenges was that all my authors’ book tours and speaking dates were canceled. No one could travel to promote their book. The other significant setback was that retail book stores were closed, and therefore sales were lower for my authors. Everything was canceled; how do you spin that in a positive light? I found the silver lining and challenged my team to set up as many Zoom calls and talk to as many people as possible. Everything was canceled, so athletes that would have been training every night of the week were now baking bread at home, musicians who would have been on tour were now learning to crochet from the comfort of their couch, influencers who would have been traveling the world and creating content were now. . . well, they were still creating content but in their backyard rather than at a cute café in Italy. The point is, people were available. They now had more time to write that book they always dreamed of writing. So my team and I connected with some of the most famous athletes and influencers and convinced them that now was the perfect time to write a book. It worked. We signed more clients during COVID than we ever would have in that amount of time.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Everyone gets anxious, so to me, it’s not so much about how to prevent anxiety as it is about how to constructively respond to it. I was determined not to let this pandemic get me down. So I set goals to stay healthy, positive, and focused. I committed to running every day on my treadmill and cooking more healthy home-cooked meals for my family. Running and cooking are big stress-relievers for me. For my husband, it’s the piano; for my son, it’s basketball; for my daughter, it’s writing and creating. Find what makes you happy, find what alleviates stress. Find that hobby and do more of it. When we do what feeds our souls, we are more equipped to take on whatever the day has in store for us and whatever headlines flicker across our screens.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covideconomy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covideconomy?
Challenges lead to innovation, and innovation leads to growth; I’ve always believed that. I think that within the scope of the publishing industry, there is a huge opportunity to find and utilize new formats for creating and producing content. With many schools starting online for the 2020 school year and with conferences and seminars happening virtually, there is a need for more accessible and engaging online content. Ecourses, online learning platforms, and webinars may not seem like they should belong in the same sentence as publishing, but I think that there is a great opportunity for publishers to create accessible online content from the envelope-pushing, ingenious ideas that our authors have. Who says publishing has to be by the book?
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think we will be marked by intentionality from here on out. Before the pandemic, a lot of us, myself included, took connecting with people for granted. I now cherish the days that I was able to meet with fifteen new people in one day, but before COVID, that was just Tuesday. Sharing in this collective experience helped many of us empathize with each other and realize the importance of community. During this time, we’ve had to try harder to connect with people. It takes extra effort to be vulnerable and personable on Zoom; it takes extra consideration to be friendly when people can’t see your smile through your mask. I think we’ve all learned the value of connecting with people during this time and we’ll be more intentional in our interactions moving forward.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I believe everyone should write a book. Everyone has a story, insight, or idea that the world would benefit from. So my team and I are finding ways to make that possible, part of that is through our hybrid publishing model. Through our professional editorial and design services, we help aspiring authors create books that are beautiful and engaging. Another way we plan on growing is through eCourses. The goal is to stay ahead on what content people are consuming and how they are consuming it so that we can be a part of creating purposeful content that sells. In the post-COVID economy, publishing will look a lot different. By expanding the scope of what publishing is, we will best be able to grow as a company and continue creating and producing meaningful content.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage others to not focus on the negative aspects of COVID, but find the positive and then innovate. I’ve talked to a lot of people who just took a break these last few months, but I’ve really taken advantage of this time to grow my client list, look at the needs in the marketplace, and create new programs and services around those needs. From someone who has been working in a “dying” industry for the last seventeen years, my advice is to see challenges and setbacks as opportunities to innovate and grow.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I used to play basketball; it was a huge part of my life. I even have a basketball hoop in my office. So, of course, my life lesson quote is by none other than Michael Jordan. His Airnesshimself said, “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” And the other Jordon quote I seriously say at least once a week in the office, and since COVID, probably every day is “Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation!”
How can our readers further follow your work?
Follow me on The Fedd Agency’s Instagram (@thefeddagency)and learn more about the work we do on our website (thefeddagency.com).