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.

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John Duarte

Jen Brown, executive vice president of global live, interactive and location-based entertainment, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

Jen Brown

Executive Vice President of Global Live, Interactive and Location Based Entertainment Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.

Santa Monica

Brown’s position overseeing Lions Gate’s live, interactive and location-based entertainment usually keeps her traveling all over the globe. Now she’s bringing the world into her home through virtual connections.

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Jen Brown is spending more time outside, riding a Beach Cruiser to run errands.

UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR: “I think any parent right now will acknowledge having your kids at home and playing the role of tutor, adviser and playmate is an adjustment.”

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Lionsgate Entertainment World theme park in China reopened June 24 after a Covid-19 closure. The company has other branded attractions in locations that remain active. “Many of our projects are long term; the development timeline is two to five years. We really haven’t seen a slowdown. And because our team also (oversees) interactive ventures, that business has performed incredibly well. With people at home, there has been a real growth in the games online. … I’m really hopeful (the shutdowns) are challenging us to be more creative about what the user and guest experience needs to be, virtual and digital.”

RIDING HIGH: “With options limited for entertainment at the moment, I definitely spend more time outside. I got a Beach Cruiser (bicycle), and now I’m actually getting some use out of it. I ride it around and run errands. It’s quite nice.”

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Mark Echeverria, owner and chief operating officer, Musso & Frank Grill Co.

Mark Echeverria

Proprietor & Chief Operating Officer

Musso & Frank Grill Co.

Hollywood

Classic entertainment industry hangout Musso & Frank Grill celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019. In 2020 came a new milestone: Due to Covid-19 constraints, the restaurant is offering “Musso’s To You,” a take-out and delivery service, for the first time in a century.

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Mark Echeverria likes to spend time on his woodworking projects.

FAMILY TIES: “On March 15, we went completely dark — we didn’t (go to) any delivery system. There was so much unknown about the virus back then. We paid everybody at 100% through June 5 … but as any businessperson would know that can only last for so long. … Unfortunately, we did have to furlough everybody, but we kept them on health care, and they understood. That was probably the worst day of my professional life.”

DINING OUT: Musso’s reopened June 26 for a brief period, only to see indoor dining shut down again by the state. “Then when Governor Newsom closed all indoor dining rooms again, we decided for our loyal customers, they want us, they want our food. By (going to) delivery, we were able to keep about 10% of the team on payroll.”

HOMEWORK: “It’s a little difficult to separate from work. … I like to work with my hands. When I get home, I like to put together some kind of wood project.”

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Jim Freedman, founding partner, managing director and chairman, Intrepid Investment Bankers.

Jim Freedman

Managing Director, Chairman & Founding Principal

Intrepid Investment Bankers

Brentwood

Four months into the Covid-19 crisis, Freedman said communication has actually improved at all levels of management at Intrepid, which provides merger and acquisition advisory services. He added that the company has also expanded its educational component with webinars. “We are not heads down on the desk crying about stuff; we are making a concerted effort to add new clients, and we are actually hiring a few new people,” he said. In his free time, he’s staying business-focused, reading “Guiding Principles” by investor and entrepreneur Ray Dalio.

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Jim Freedman is currently reading “Guiding Principles” by investor and entrepreneur Ray Dalio.

PANDEMIC PURPOSE: “We have signed a bunch of deals in the last 90 days, most of which are (companies) benefiting from Covid-19. These are companies that may be in technology and software, health care, ecommerce or safety products. Some businesses are seeing big spikes.”

VIRTUAL CLOSURE: “We are getting deals closed remotely by (digital platform). We never used to do this; buying companies without physically meeting people was never done before.”

MENTOR MAINTENANCE: Freeman used to hold “Fridays with Jim” office meetings with junior staff each week at 4 p.m. “It’s been expanded now with other senior bankers besides me. … Maybe now it might be called “Fridays with Senior Bankers.”

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Leslie K. Johnson, executive vice president, Skirball Cultural Center.

Leslie K. Johnson

Executive Vice President

Skirball Cultural Center

Brentwood

In early July, Johnson was announced as executive vice president of the Skirball overseeing the institution’s exhibitions, programs and a $22 million annual budget. She comes to the Skirball from Center Theatre Group, where her role included serving as CTG’s chief diversity officer.

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Leslie K. Johnson is missing dressing for the office, especially wearing her favorite shoes.

STAFF MEETING: “I would never in my wildest dreams have thought this would be my first six months. (Through Zoom) there’s no formality. That’s all gone out the door. We’re all dealing with a crisis we don’t really know how to face, and we’re doing it together.”

SOUL-SEARCHING: “We are doubling down. We are refocusing, particularly on things like showing kindness. It has a new resonance for us now, building community, honoring memory. I also think we are talking a lot about how we at the Skirball, and arts organizations in general, are going to need to be spaces of healing for people. … As I’m talking about that now, I get the chills. That feels meaningful.”

SOLE SURVIVAL: “I must say I am missing (dressing for the office). I’m a bit of a shoe show pony. Wearing flip-flops is kind of bumming me out. I’m thinking once a week I’m just going to put on a pair of shoes and sit here in my living room.”

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