Lisa Friedrich tells us about her role at TikTok, moving her family to Ireland and how she looks for opportunities with space for growth.
Lisa Friedrich is the head of SMB for EMEA at TikTok, leading a team that supports small and medium-sized businesses advertising on the video platform. The team is based in Dublin but works across the region with brands looking to build relationships with customers.
“I truly believe that SMBs are the backbone of the Irish economy, as they are in many other EMEA countries, and my team is committed to helping SMBs expand by building real and long-lasting connections with their community,” Friedrich told SiliconRepublic.com.
She previously held roles in the US at companies such as Facebook and Bank of America, before moving to Ireland and joining TikTok just over two years ago.
‘When I had the opportunity to move to Dublin and join TikTok, it felt like the perfect intersection of my experience’
– LISA FRIEDRICH
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
Despite the many challenges SMEs faced during and beyond the pandemic, in conjunction with the crowded and competitive online retail landscape, we have seen some amazing resilience from SMBs and are constantly inspired by their creative ways of using TikTok to support or grow their businesses.
There are many examples of where a business starts off using TikTok to demonstrate a product or service and, before you know it, they are investing in a warehouse and hiring staff. Recent research we did found that one in 10 SMBs on TikTok say they have had a product or service sell out as a direct result of advertising on the platform.
One of the challenges I witnessed personally was when I first stepped into my role back in the summer of 2020 – there was a perception that making content on TikTok was overly complicated and required specialised expertise. For small business owners, who typically wear many hats, I can see how this might have been a barrier!
There is definitely a lot more understanding now about how accessible the creative tools are, but we continue to support SMEs in maximising their use.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
TikTok presents opportunities for businesses of all sizes to reach new audiences and drive customer action through short, engaging content that is authentic and doesn’t feel like traditional advertising.
For example, recent research has shown that 57pc of people on TikTok who have come across SMB content on the platform have gone on to make a purchase. Additionally, 36pc of SMBs on the platform say that they have increased sales of their products and services as a direct result of advertising on TikTok.
I always advise SMEs that are new to TikTok to play around with the platform first to get a feel for it, and find and then follow other small business creators to engage with. We have seen that SMBs very quickly get up to speed and are soon using TikTok’s creative tools to share fun, authentic and engaging content that drives results for SMBs.
We are continually expanding our support to the SME community to find new things. For example, last year we established the Small Business Hub in Ireland to support SME growth.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
Over the course of my career, I have held leadership roles at both start-ups and Fortune 100 companies, including Facebook and Bank of America. I have also run my own business, so I truly understand the highs and lows that come with running a business and I have huge respect for the journey that our SMB clients are on.
Early in my career, I discovered that I enjoyed the challenge of developing and growing teams, so I have always sought out opportunities that allowed me to operate in this kind of ‘white space’.
When I had the opportunity to move to Dublin and join TikTok, it felt like the perfect intersection of my experience that brings together working for high-growth companies, developing teams, and supporting the SMB community.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
There are probably a few things to pick from, but I would start with my decision to move our entire family to Ireland!
I spent time getting to know the city and looking for an opportunity that would allow me to leverage my experience. What I found was a truly extraordinary team and the opportunity to be part of something special.
What one work skill do you wish you had?
I would love to be naturally artistic. I am creative but when I look through my TikTok feed, which is full of the most incredibly artistic individuals, I am totally in awe of their talent.
How do you get the best out of your team?
One of the things I am most proud of is the team morale that we have fostered at TikTok. My approach to my team is that I am a safety net but not a ceiling. I am there to be a sounding board, to offer guidance and to be a support when they need me.
If we hire smart and capable people who want to be challenged, then we have to get out of their way to allow them to thrive. I truly believe that you get the best out of your team when you are transparent and trust and empower them.
Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?
When it comes to asking ourselves if we are doing enough for inclusion, the answer is always no. However, within the tech sector, I believe that TikTok has raised the bar for inclusion.
TikTok amplifies diverse voices and promotes inclusive storytelling, and is a home for people all over the world to be themselves, express themselves, and find connection and joy. Inclusivity isn’t just a brand attribute, it’s the foundation of TikTok’s DNA.
To reflect our global community, we’re continually working to build a diverse and inclusive team. We want all our employees to feel seen, accepted and appreciated for their unique skills and talents. Across our business functions, our teams embrace and celebrate the differences and uniqueness that make up our community of creators and employees.
What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
I have what I call a ‘life board of directors’ and they are a mix of people that have played various roles in my life, whether personally or professionally.
I think the common career advice from them would be to find the ‘white space’ – find that place where you can grow. If you, like me, love a fast-moving environment, then don’t settle for a job that is not going to give you that or confine you into a very set structure. Some people really need that structure while others thrive outside of it.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
There are two books that I tend to go back to from time to time. The first is The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization by Thomas Friedman. I read it in business school and it is about globalism, which is interesting now at a time where globalism has probably never felt more challenged.
The other one is Freakonomics by Stephen J Dubner and Steven Levitt, and I think the reason I like this is because in every chapter they use data to view things through another lens and perceptive. It has always reminded me that different perspectives are important to consider and incorporate into almost every situation.
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