First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jerry Leisure: We are doing well. We are fortunate not to have been severely impacted by the virus so far. We started social distancing, wearing masks, and isolating in March. It has been an interesting 2020, to say the least. It has taught us personal and professional ways to learn, adapt, and find value and meaning in what we do.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Officium Labs.
Jerry Leisure: I started off as a customer service agent on the phones in the 90s. From the start, I could tell I had a great passion for helping and serving. As I moved into differing roles in my career, I always had the goal to lead a company, with the ultimate vision of building something that was different and could make a positive impact on the world. Officium in Latin means to serve or to help. My co-founder and I envisioned building a different type of services tech company. One that could help companies prepare for the next 20 years. One that could connect people with value. One that would help companies succeed, workers thrive, and communities grow. And, finally, one that was on-demand and had best-in-class credentials.
We started with this idea of serving and helping four people and a $150k loan in 2019. Today we have 30 people, nine clients, and are profitable.
How does Officium Labs innovate?
Jerry Leisure: Simply stated, we adopt a Steve Jobs insight: “We hire smart and experienced people with a passion for serving and let them educate us.” And then, we embody and live our core values: Delighting the Customer, Being Deliberate, Constant Curiosity, Teamwork, Inclusion, and Shared Prosperity. We find staying true to who we are, operating as a team vs. hierarchy, and taking care of each other enables innovation and creative approaches for our customers and solving industry challenges.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jerry Leisure: In general, our company is set to thrive in this environment. We are completely remote and decentralized. We have been since from our inception because we knew the world was moving to a more decentralized or distributed workforce. Covid has accelerated this. We originally expected it to transform over the next decade.
More specifically, we have seen an increased demand for our just-in-time resourcing model that connects our best-in-class workers from around the globe to companies that need their exact skillset. As industries see spikes and growth in demand, they need best-in-class services resourcing to help them achieve their goals and business impact.
Additionally, we have launched a foundation with the hope to help ease the burden of those struggling through the different challenges 2020 presents them. What a year it has been. So far, we have helped communities with education scholarships, internet access, air purification equipment, and electronic devices. Our donations have helped ease burdens across the world, and we will continue to make our small contributions to help communities where our workers live.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jerry Leisure: As a new CEO before and during the pandemic, you receive a lot of insight and feedback, which I’ve found super helpful. We find that when we consider all the experience and knowledge and make decisions that map to our vision and values, we have success.
When we get tempted to stray away or get distracted from those, we suffer and learn. Overall, we operate from Nelson Mandela’s “Win or Learn” mentality. So we don’t get bogged down by mistakes or failures. We fail fast and move forward to greater success. This probably is an approach that supports our innovation capability.
As a leader, during the pandemic, the biggest lesson I have learned is that I don’t know a lot of things. It is imperative I hire smart people who do, trust them, learn from them, and guide the company on our journey to a successful future. I consider myself more of a Yoda leader, although I have Episode 4 Luke Skywalker’s experience.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Officium Labs in the future?
Jerry Leisure: What a great question. At the company level, we value fully rested and focused team members. To this end, we give a three-day holiday each month. This ensures all team members can rest, rejuvenate, and give their best.
We also focus on outcomes. This enables team members to flexibly manage their day and create a more stable work/life harmony.
Personally, I also have an executive coach, whom I engage with every week. Working with a coach gives me an outside point of view on the work I am doing as a CEO and leader. It also gives me perspective and context and helps me avoid getting emotionally hijacked, which ultimately helps me bring my best self to my team. Additionally, all of my leaders have an executive coach. Mentorship and unbiased coaching are things I believe in as a leader and are imperative to our team’s success.
For the company, at least at this stage, I work hard to keep us focused on the present. The few times I have attempted to lay out a future, it has created unnecessary stress for my team and myself. At a future stage, we will have to think three to five years out. At our current startup stage, we will stay focused on the next three to twelve months. This will enable us to achieve our mission and stay true to our purpose and ultimately build the foundation on which we can build a five-year plan.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jerry Leisure: Today, we are a very small fish in a very large pond, a market size that exceeds $100B in cap. We are focused on doing things differently that can serve and help our customers succeed. Our two main services today, TalentPlace and Experience Matters, cover resourcing from frontline customer service all the way through to transformation consulting. We have different fish we see along the way, such as Arise, Limitless, 5CA, or Accenture. Sometimes we work together, sometimes we are friendly rivals, and rarely are we brutal competitors.
As we grow, I hope we can maintain such an amicable approach. However, I expect as we start to move up the fish food chain, we will have to draw more specific lines.
We stay in the game by hiring super smart, talented, and experienced team members and living our values. I expect this will enable us to stay on the cutting edge and to continue to delight and intrigue our current and future customers.
Your final thoughts?
Jerry Leisure: Our current products, TalentPlace and ExperienceMatters, are innovative and are perfect for the next decade. We have other products in the pipeline and funding to bring them to the market.
However, I want to share a lesson I learned when I lived in Europe: “People do business with people.” If we hire super talented people, with services and help mentality in their DNA; if we treat them right, respect them, and help them find purpose and meaning; and if we enable them to treat our customers in a like fashion, we will do great things. If, on the other hand, we stray away from our core values and purpose for creating Officium, we will be just another fish in the CX sea and eventually struggle to survive. I don’t intend to let that happen!
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