Interviews with prominent business leaders. This is Practical Matters.

Practical Matters: Jeffrey Fermin, from Officevibe

Posted September 13, 2013 by Jenn Youn in Running a Business 101
We spoke with Jeffrey Fermin of Officevibe about building good vibes (sorry, we had to) in the workplace.

We caught up with the Director of Good Vibes, Jeffrey Fermin, who is an enthusiastic entrepreneur and a co-founder to Officevibe, a web platform that boosts employee engagement by focusing on company culture and employee motivation.

He enjoys conceptualizing new ways to create fun workplaces through gamification. Jeffrey's goals always involve tackling problems that exist in the modern day workplace.

Want more ideas for motivating your team? Get our how-to guide on employee incentive programs

Tell us what Officevibe is in one sentence.

JF: It's an all-in-one employee recognition platform that rewards participation in daily activities with your colleagues.

What makes Officevibe relevant in the workplace?

JF: Employees are stressed, now, more than ever before. We're looking at high turnover rates, high stress levels, and over $350B is being lost, every year, due to low employee engagement-- meaning that low-engaged employees would rather sit in front of a desk, look into a computer and wait for the day to be over. We think it's entirely possible to actively collaborate with colleagues, while having fun, in the workplace.

We our positioning ourselves to be the cure for stress at work and low employee engagement. Senior members of an organization will be able to see what their employees want, need, and like doing. For an employee, it's just a great way to communicate and have fun with other colleagues .

I was going through the tour and found that there's a gamification component to this where you would rack up points for doing daily activities like meeting a colleague, recycling, wearing a company T-shirt, and etc. Can you tell us a little more about where you're going with that idea?

JF: We did a lot of research on gamification (we're also avid gamers) and we thought it was a perfect way to engage people on the platform while motivating them to do cool things. The goal is to encourage good behaviors by gamifying it via points, levels, badges, and achievements. Even commenting and high fiving after completing an activity will earn you points.

People who are experienced in bringing "good vibes" to their office will definitely dominate. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself in terms of what the app will do with points, but I definitely could see companies rewarding their employees in creative ways.

Company culture is obviously integral to any startup, was that your motivation for building this or was there a particular vision behind what you wanted accomplish through Officevibe?

JF: This app is an extension of our personalities, which makes it easier to integrate our regular lives with our work life.

This app is designed to make people healthier, eco-friendly, giving, social, and productive - all within the workplace. Good behaviors are encouraged, and rewarded by managers and colleagues, which would make someone a better employee. More importantly, I think it makes you a better person. The vision (aside from creating engaged workplaces) is to inspire people to do great things in and outside of their workplace.

Can you tell us more about how "weekly missions" and "monthly challenges" work? How does this differ from a traditional team building activity?

JF: We felt like the missions would be a wonderful idea for the app because it allows a person to do something that they've never tried before.

To give you a personal example, I gave out a micro-loan after seeing that I have completed all of my activities, and assignments, within my network except for the micro-loan. I had no idea what it was at the time (my co-founder input this action on the platform) so I read the description and clicked on the Kiva link without thinking about it. It turns out, I gave a donation to a school teacher who needed funds for school supplies so I thought that was really awesome.

The monthly challenge is a way for people to challenge each other on the leaderboard. One of our goals is to reinvent the way leaderboards are displayed, so people don't feel discouraged and always feel motivated to work harder.

It differs from the usual team building activity because it doesn't feel forced. People feel intrinsically motivated to do these actions at their own time. We hear great stories and feedback from people after having completed activities/tasks which ultimately makes them work and feel better. A lot of the team activities (eat with colleagues, phoneless meetings, etc) are things that don't require a lot of planning and it can bring the team together. To give you a recent example, right before this interview, I had a quick midday yoga session with 3 other colleagues - it was awesome and unplanned!

This might be a tough one but would Officevibe work for a place that might not be as "liberal" as a startup? What's the flexibility there?

JF: Well, we're going to have to adapt. We know that not every company is cool with having beers at the office, so to speak. We're still in phase 1 (launch) of the project. In our roadmap, we're planning to tailor the app toward the company that's using it. So we want this to be an app that can be used. Whether you're an intern or CEO, a startup or a big enterprise, we want to be there.

What's your favorite feature about Officevibe? And why?

JF: I'm really excited for what we have coming. I wish I can say more, but I'm sworn to secrecy. My favorite feature is a simple one– the company balance meter/score. Based on the "good vibes" a company builds, they're able to receive an accurate measurement of where the company stands in relation to The Big 5. I alluded to it earlier but the Big 5 is really the core of our platform. We did a lot of research on amazing companies to find that they all have healthy, eco-friendly, generous, productive,and social atmospheres.

When was your first "Oh S$%&" moment when starting the company? Where did you find the most resistance? Take us through what was going through your mind at that time.

JF: My first "OH S$%&" moment was when I saw people at the office actually use the app and fall in love with it. Everyone was doing all sorts of activities that I've never seen them do before thanks to the app.

We actually didn't get too much resistance because our partners and investors are very positive about this project. We have a "nothing is impossible" mentality so things get done– it's just a matter of time. If anything, it's my own personal insecurity. The early months of starting a project is rough, especially targeting a market that we know has never been exposed to apps for employee engagement and company culture building. Other than that, good ol' fashion hard work and confidence is the best way to get through it.

What would be the biggest advice you can lend to a twenty-something something entrepreneur bootstrapping to launch their product/service?

JP: Don't be cocky. You don't know it all. Learn more, hear out others and make strong connections. Always have a clear goals, from a personal and business standpoint. Also, have fun. Lots of it.

Last but not least, do you believe in luck or is that something you make yourself?

JP: You have to make things happen– if you work hard and position yourself in the right place to succeed it'll happen. Remember it's not about luck, it's about making it happen.

You can follow him on Twitter @JeffFermin.

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