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Interview with David Friedman, Author of Fundamentally Different

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David Friedman is a business leader and the former President of RSI, an award-winning employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm. He is a frequent guest speaker and seminar leader on organizational culture, leadership, and values. Skilled at taking complex business ideas and making them easy to understand and implement, Friedman is a highly recognized and sought-after business consultant. His first book, Fundamentally Different, was released in June.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I spent 27 years leading and building 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. In addition to my recent book, Fundamentally Different, I’m a frequent guest speaker and seminar leader on organizational culture, leadership, and values.

On a personal level, I’m a graduate of the College of William & Mary with a degree in philosophy. I’m married, and live in Moorestown, New Jersey (outside of Philadelphia) with my wife and two college-age children.

What made you first decide to become a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing and have always felt quite comfortable organizing and expressing my thoughts in written form. Over the course of my leadership career, I had written many shorter pieces to explain our philosophies, strategies, and directions, and people always appreciated my gift for explaining ideas in a way that was so easy to understand. I suppose I always had it in the back of my mind that I would someday focus more fully on sharing this gift with a broader audience.

Can you tell us about your latest book?

One of the things that makes my latest book, Fundamentally Different, 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 eight key steps to institutionalizing their most important values, and provides lots of stories and examples to illustrate just how to do it.

But 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 inspired you to write it?

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.” 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?”

Fundamentally Different is the answer to their question, and it’s my chance to share my insights with a broader audience.

What is one thing you hope readers will take away from this book?

That organizational culture is the key to success, and that the effort to “institutionalize” our most important values is the foundation to intentionally creating a high-performance culture.

How is your book different from others on the market?

1. Everything I write about is based on personal, firsthand experience – not academic theories or the outside view of consulting firms.
2. As noted previously, the book is as valuable for the corporate CEO as it is for the non-business person.
3. While the book is fun and easy to read, it’s literally packed with powerful insights and value from the first page to the last. There’s no fluff.

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.

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 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.

You can learn more about me, my work, and my writing by going to my website 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!).

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About Cheryl C. Malandrinos