WHY SHE’S TOP 40: She runs a very successful communications business, while volunteering to help non-profit organizations reach their goals.
KEY TO SUCCESS: “I’m really good at creating order where none exists. When the shit hits the fan, I’m the girl to call.”
Jennifer Fisk speaks softly but purposefully. As founder of Freestone Communications, a public relations firm, it’s surprising that Fisk says she is “inherently shy.”
“Big networking group situations can be stressful for me, but I’ve figured out how to do them because, in my business, I can’t just shut myself in my office and never interact,” she says.
In 1995, Fisk started her communications career with the Canadian Bankers Association where she took on several issues, including a stint as acting director during B.C.’s leaky condominium crisis in the late ’90s. She was also a spokesperson on the Y2K scare. These two issues had the potential to have significant impacts on Canadian banks, and it was Fisk’s job to ensure that communication lines remained open between senior bankers, the government and the public.
From 2001 to 2005, Fisk worked as an executive editor for the magazine, Food for Thought, then left to start Freestone. Now she’s helping companies develop internal commuication strategies as strong as their external ones. Employees can be huge advocates for a company, she says, an oft-overlooked point that has impressed her clients, which include the Canadian Western Bank Group, Habitat for Humanity Edmonton and the National Farm Animal Care Council.
Although she says Edmonton is a nurturing place for independent entrepreneurs, she also recognizes the need to work hard. “If you are afforded an opportunity to have a seat at the table, it’s your responsibility to be prepared and smart and deliver thoughtful, relevant contributions.”
In addition to running her own business, Fisk puts in more than 400 volunteer hours a year, serving on many boards, including Northlands, Live Local and Valour Place, a temporary home for injured soldiers and their families while they receive medical treatment.
Through her community involvement, Fisk pushes the boundaries of her introversion, but she’s frustrated with those who don’t think shy people make effective leaders. “The powers of observation and being thoughtful when you speak and engage with people often makes for a better leader.”