In the midst of headlines about layoffs and shutdowns, L.A. business leaders seem to be ramping up. Many are working remotely but embracing technology to stay connected with employees and clients via video meetings or the still-important personal phone call. A shared entrepreneurial spirit has them turning a crisis into a learning experience. These Type-A personalities are also rediscovering there’s more to life than work and are more than willing to share their tips for using at-home time as opportunity for introspection and self-improvement in anticipation of the next chapter.
Otis College of Art and Design
Veteran entertainment industry executive Charles Hirschhorn, whose career includes a stint as vice president of development at Fox Broadcasting Co., officially stepped into his new role as president of Otis College on June 1. The job comes with built-in uncertainties, including whether fall term will begin in the classroom or online.
PANDEMIC, THE SEQUEL: Otis College was founded in 1918, the year the deadly Spanish flu began its spread worldwide. “We kind of have a crisis survival mentality,” Hirschhorn said. He added that design-
minded board members and students represent a wealth of ideas to reinvent campus spaces to be safer going forward.
SILVER LINING: This year’s student exhibition was forced to go online. “We’ve already had students hired based on their (digital) portfolios. … (Students enjoy) global access they wouldn’t have had in person on campus.”
ZOOMING IN: On-screen meetings gave Hirschhorn an inside look at the disparities in students’ living situations and access to technology. The college has loaned students computers and sewing machines, and launched the Otis is Essential fundraising campaign to support both students and faculty. “We are in time zones and countries around the world, and the faculty commitment in replicating a studio-based art and design education (online) has been extraordinary.”philanthropy
Senior Vice President, Social Impact
Ratnam’s social impact department helps clients of Endeavor, an entertainment, sports and content company, with personal philanthropy and oversees philanthropy for Endeavor- owned properties including the Frieze Art Fair in Los Angeles and other cities. Her department also is involved with the nonprofit Endeavor Foundation. She’s enjoying doing as much at-home work as possible outside on her little patio.
FEEDING THE NEED: “Literally dozens and dozens of clients have been reaching out (wondering) how to use whatever small popularity or influence they have … whether it’s by large donations or creating fun and interesting (online) content to create moments of joy.” Most popular are food-based charities including Feeding America and No Kid Hungry, as well as support for frontline health workers.
EVENT REPLANNING: “More people want to do stuff — how do we translate anything that was physical into digital?”
MAILROOM 2.0: Hollywood talent agencies are known for a corporate ladder that often starts with mailroom internships. As a mailroom alternative, this year Endeavor Impact created the Summer Series for college students and members of underrepresented groups to learn the ropes from industry leaders online. “It’s so much better than it ever would have been in person, in terms of the kinds of people we can get, executives have more time (now), and the technology we can use.”
Senior Managing Director
Wealth advisory firm Lido Advisors was already geared up for remote work when Covid-19 hit. “I make sure I’m not in my pajamas (for Zoom meetings). I’ve been getting formally dressed. … It’s important to look very professional,” Weinberger said. Integrating work with childcare and sharing home space with her husband and three sons, ages 6, 11 and 13, who also are Zoom-ing for school, has been more of a challenge. But this working family has figured out ways to make it fun.
WALK AND TALK: “Any time I get a chance … I’ll go outside and take the call while walking. The kids will often walk, or scooter or take a bike ride beside me. That’s become the new normal for us. … It’s a really nice time.”
AL FRESCO: The kids use the driveway to reinvent fine dining. “What we really look forward to at the end of the day is creating a beautiful setting where we can all sit down and have dinner together. … They’ve been looking online, getting ideas. They enjoy (using) all the stuff from our garage from previous parties and setting the tables and making it as festive as possible.”
Zad jokes that his darkest moment in the early days of the Covid-19 shutdown was wondering how he and his wife would access their favorites from the Alfred Coffee chain (his: iced oat milk cappuccino). During a two-week closure, the company brainstormed the best way to reopen the hipster coffee emporium.
TOUCHLESS JOE: Order via the app or online. Period. “(Some customers) don’t understand why they can’t just pay with credit cards, especially older customers. … It’s a decision we made. It’s like: ‘Why don’t you guys serve avocado toast?’ It’s all good; it’s part of being in the customer service business.”
SIGNATURE VANILLA: “We have added some pantry- style items like eggs and flour and cookie dough. And most exciting, we have added a DIY vanilla latte kit. We never sold our house-made vanilla syrup before, and we are shipping it as well. We are also looking at potentially selling it in grocery.”
WHAT’S IN STORE: To relax, Zad replaced his live sports habit with podcasts — and market research. “We are working on an Alfred ready-to-drink beverage, so I’ve been reading a lot of reports on what’s selling in grocery (stores). … That has been at the top of my list.”
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