If I Knew Then What I Know Now about Patricia Fripp

by Joanna Slan, Reprinted From Professional Speaker Magazine

When you think of NSA legends, you think of Patricia Fripp. For Fripp’s story is the sort of stuff legends are made of, the story of an twenty-year-old who took a boat to New York and a Trailways bus to California seeking fame and fortune. It is the story of a young woman with a strong work ethic and $500 in cash who worked cutting heads of hair while everyone in the salon took breaks. And, it is the story of a woman still wonders how her life might have turned out differently had her boss Jay Sebring not been murdered by Charles Manson and his gang of crazies.

Fripp is a legend for all that, and because she is a mysterious and powerful woman who enjoys her own company and goes her own way. Her extraordinary success can be explained easily once you know her: she works hard, harder than most of us ever will. She has a laser beam sort of intelligence that cuts directly to the heart of matters in a practical, no-nonsense way. Charmingly, she also has a wry wit, as illustrated when she moans halfheartedly that if she had had $450 less dollars and couldn’t speak English, she would be as successful today as Nido Qubein.

“The thing about this business,” she explains, “Is that we can design it the way we want. I always wanted to make a comfortable living having a good time. I never wanted more than one full-time employee. Because I am single by choice the only money I spend is on me and my business. The only teeth I pay to have fixed are mine. I live my life as what my brother would call a ‘small mobile intelligence unit.’ And being an entrepreneur, I don’t particularly want someone to tell me how to run my life and business.”

All of which explains why Fripp has only come lately to the idea of partnering with other people, a recent revelation that has added new dimensions to her speaking business. She calls it “the fun of collaboration,” or what happens when two small mobile intelligence units get together for group projects, still maintaining their unique identities.

“There are two types of collaboration,” she continues, “the first being a meeting of like minds or talent for fun, education and/or profit.” Here she points to one of the one of the most successful collaborations in the speaking world, Platform Professionals. This group consists of humorists, Jeanne Robertson, Robert Henry, Al Walker and Doc Blakely. They market to each other’s clients saying if you loved this humorous banquet speaker, you’ll love the rest of us, thereby offering talent to a client for the next three years.

Another successful group is Speakers Roundtable of which Fripp is a member. “We’re 20 speakers, many past NSA presidents (such as Fripp) who get together one or twice a year to discuss the business, enjoy camaraderie, share leads and marketing idea, write a couple of books together and generate another audio program.

The hallmark of this type of collaboration is an equal caliber of professionalism with all members working at nearly the same fee level.

“The second part of my discussion,” she continues, “is collaboration with like minds/talent/goals.” A specialized segment of this, collaboration with opposites, represents the newest discovery by Fripp as a pleasurable way to expand her business and her knowledge.

As she explains, her recent Odd Couple Seminar work with Alan Weiss didn’t begin as a big strategic move She and Weiss were appreciative of each others’ talents but weren’t friends. Their speakers’ education seminars started when Fripp sent Weiss an e-mail as he was on his way to do a consulting seminar in San Francisco, her home base, saying, “Sorry I will miss it.” Weiss e- mailed back, “We should do a seminar together.”

Fripp responded, “I will organize it.” There are many differences that make up the Odd Couple® Seminar’s presenters, such as transportation preferences…

When Fripp picked up Weiss at the airport in her ’88 Honda, the sparks flew.

“I normally don’t even talk to people who drive Hondas,” said Weiss.

“Well, I probably have as much money wrapped up in my wardrobe and hats as you do your Ferrari,” fired back Fripp.

Their synergy and conflict brings energy to the stage. Fripp explains, “We basically agree on values and on business. We stress our differences to teach our audiences, because there is no one way to do your business.”

Yet, she does add one other piece of pertinent advice. “Look at what’s important to you–” says Fripp. “To me, that is fun, education and profit. Education leads to profit if you use it right.”

But that’s not all that’s important to Fripp. Her voice catches as she speaks about the recent death of Marianna Nunes, a California NSA member who died the week of her 50th birthday. Fripp says, “Her death really wiped our whole chapter out and knocked us all backwards. Our chapter has been so much more aware of letting each other know how we appreciate each other’s friendship.” Again, Fripp’s thoughtful comments are right on base and offer a good reminder to all of us, as we continue to be involved with NSA.