Karen Z. Gifford
Karen Gifford has helped hundreds of organizations grow, teams excel, and people transition since launching Gifford Management in 1987. Her focus then was providing executive sales and marketing management and capital-raising services on an interim basis for start-up and emerging technology and entertainment companies, often on the path to seeking venture capital. This was very different than the organic growth she knew well from cutting her professional teeth 10 years earlier in sales and marketing line positions working with recognized Fortune 500 technology, aerospace, and entertainment brands. In nearly all cases, these companies were pioneers in creating innovative, disruptive, bleeding/leading-edge technologies and new categories of industries. Change, transition, pivoting, and resiliency became familiar themes. In the early 1990s, she was curious about why some companies were funded and others weren’t. Leadership and the willingness by entrepreneurs and their teams to listen and be coached were integral to the success of getting financed and, more importantly, taking them to an exit. That inspired Karen to continue trailblazing into yet another new industry: coaching.
Her degree in Psychology and her background and experience in business were useful foundations for starting her journey to becoming an executive, leadership, team, career, and life coach. With over 28 years in the field, Karen is also an Integral Coach©, a PQ COACH™, and a CCE-Board-Certified Coach with many other coach and training certifications. Following one certification, and eager to apply lessons learned, Karen, co-founded, recruited, and led 40+ highly-skilled consultants and selected five to be trained as coaches. The team created a vision and developed a coaching model for engaging an SBA-led, public-private partnership to successfully accelerate the growth of over 450 entrepreneurs and their high-tech/growth companies. She continues her work with entrepreneurs, business owners, C-Suite/Executive leaders and their teams in innovative or disruptive industries as well as those who are being disrupted. In May of 2020, as COVID was beginning its global disruption, Karen received a grant for a pioneer group of coaches to learn about a new, mental fitness training program. It changed her life and now she wants to help others. She believes mental fitness will be the competitive edge of the future. For leaders who attend the SISO Women’s SIG 2022 Summer Conference, Karen hopes to ignite a flame that will inspire a yearning to learn how becoming more mentally fit can be a professional and personal game-changer. For ambitious women on the rise to the C-Suite and the Boardroom, like many of Karen’s clients, mental fitness training could more easily pave the way to the values-aligned cultures they desire for the teams they lead and the stakeholders they serve.
Karen lives in Southern California with her husband, Doug Gifford, an international, award-winning, commercial photographer. Together, they’ve traveled to over 60 countries and 43 states in their 46 years together - often working with clients and their teams on global events in the arts, entertainment, and sports such as America’s Cup and Transpac Yacht Racing and Grand Prix Motor Racing. They enjoy giving back to their community, spending time with family and friends, and doing the meaningful work they both love.