The FORT Podcast: Will Friend

Will Friend is the CEO of Bisnow, an online real estate publication and event firm, where he has implemented an incredible culture through Bisnow’s Mission, Vision, and Values. Will and Chris discuss the journey of becoming the CEO of a company and why there’s no “step-by-step” process, company structure as a family versus a team, why it is important to love what you do, and Chris reflects on this conversation and his role at Fort Capital.

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01:50 — Will’s Journey Before Bisnow, Growing Up in the UK, The Desire for the American Dream, and Moving to America
09:23 — The Journey to Becoming a CEO at 27 Years Old
16:50 — How do you see your experience as CEO so far?
19:33 — What did you expect to be part of the role as CEO that actually are not?
22:22 — Level Up Talent
23:20 — How can you know if you’ll keep the role? How do you evaluate yourself and the organization?
24:10 — Team vs. Family
26:40 — Were these values already set or was it an “ah-ha!” moment?
31:05 — Deciding on a Vision and Values for Bisnow
40:50 — How do you make your Vision and Values a habit?
46:15 — Are these open to be debated and changed?
47:54 — How is a private equity buy-out a learning experience for everyone? Is this the right thing for everyone?
52:40 — What do private equity firms do for family-owned businesses?
53:04 — 3 Failures That Changed the Way Will Thinks
1:00:50 — How does culture affect a company’s bottom line?
1:04:00 — Hitting a Sales Mark
1:08:50 — What does it take for an issue to make it to your desk?
1:12:42 — What is it like to run a sales team? What makes a successful salesperson?
1:16:46 — What do you say to people who are not doing what they love?
1:19:49 — What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self? What is your favorite interview question?
1:27:20 — How Chris Critiques Himself and What Makes a Company’s Mission, Vision, and Values Work


Will was one of Bisnow’s first employees and has had hands on experience in all of the Company’s key roles, including being made Chief Operating Officer in 2012, prior to his appointment as CEO in late 2014. Will has been instrumental in Bisnow’s extraordinary growth; moving the head office to New York and building the firm to become one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies. Under Will’s leadership, the current management team, backed by The Wicks Group of companies, bought out the original founders in April 2016, setting the strategy for international expansion and the next chapter of Bisnow’s growth plan.

Episode Summary

Will, with his extensive experience and insightful perspectives, provided a wealth of knowledge, shedding light on the challenges, expectations, and the journey towards finding passion in one’s work.

As the conversation commenced, Will Friend opened up about the daunting realities of stepping into a high-ranking executive role. He vividly depicted the unrealistic expectations and the presumed omnipotence that come with titles adorned with the prestigious ‘C’. Highlighting a common misconception, he stressed that possessing a high-ranking title does not equate to having all the answers, and that admitting one’s limitations is a crucial aspect of effective leadership. He underscored the importance of vulnerability and the willingness to learn, as these traits pave the way for authentic and impactful leadership.

Will further elaborated on the internal turmoil and self-doubt that can plague individuals in executive positions, emphasizing the necessity for better orientation and preparation. He shared personal anecdotes, illustrating the weight of responsibility and the internal questioning that accompanies new leadership roles. His reflections served as a stark reminder of the human aspect of leadership, encouraging aspiring leaders to embrace their journey, with all its uncertainties and challenges.

The dialogue transitioned to the mission and vision of his company, highlighting a clear and pragmatic approach to facilitating business and deal-making opportunities. Will delineated the difference between the company’s straightforward mission and its aspirational vision, showcasing a commitment to innovation and technological advancements. He conveyed the company’s dedication to being a data-driven and technologically enabled platform, aiming to revolutionize the commercial real estate industry.

Emphasizing the significance of emotional intelligence in leadership, Will shared insights on recognizing personal limitations and the importance of hiring individuals who excel in areas where one might not. He advocated for a high EQ, citing self-awareness and the ability to handle confrontations with emotional intelligence as pivotal traits for any leader. His discourse underscored the transformative power of emotional intelligence, portraying it as an indispensable asset in the arsenal of effective leadership.

As the conversation reached its crescendo, Will addressed the quest for passion and fulfillment in one’s professional life. He spoke fervently about the importance of gratitude and aligning one’s role with personal values and interests. He provided guidance for those seeking satisfaction in their work, encouraging them to find roles that resonate with their core values and passions.

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