Game-based software helps with training

Small Business Inside Track Jo Brennan, founder of Jam-Jou

Jo Brennan: ‘Building small blocks of the business up while paying bills by doing consultancy work was tough.’

Jo Brennan: ‘Building small blocks of the business up while paying bills by doing consultancy work was tough.’

 

Inspired by her sons’ love of video games, Jo Brennan founded JamJou, with the intention of providing training and support to frontline staff and managers.

Tell me about your business? JamJou is an innovative game-based training software, specifically aimed at frontline staff in the hospitality sector, contact centres and retail. The staff member or manager logs in and gains access to the content, which is divided into various sections, such as “upselling”, “building rapport” and “product information”.

If they earn enough points from correct answers, they earn a star, and the star brings them onto the next level or topic. They also can get immediate feedback from their answers and managers can log in to check these.

This works well because many frontline staff are at the beginning of their careers, so this kind of game-based software appeals to a younger audience. It’s proven to decrease customer complaints and staff turnover, and the data analytics side of gaming is huge and gives great instant information on their players – which is what companies are after.

What sets your business apart from the competition? The mobile-enabled element is so relevant to the workforce today. Instead of reading a PDF or scrolling through a PowerPoint, people can respond to real-life situations, as well as getting immediate feedback.

There’s also a leaderboard, which encourages a bit of friendly competition between staff and managers. Although there are one or two competitors in the UK, none is focused on frontline staff, who are really the brand ambassadors for their companies.

What has been your greatest success to date? We recently signed a deal with Jurys Inn, so our software will be training staff in 36 hotels across Ireland and Britain. We have gotten great feedback from them in how it has increased their sales, and how our product is adding value. We have also been nominated for a number of awards lately, including the Accenture Digital Media Awards and IITD National Training Awards. What is the biggest mistake you have made? In the beginning, we envisioned there to be much more gaming and, although people were getting really excited about it, they weren’t signing the dotted line. So we changed the front-end visuals, keeping the analytics and functioning at the back the same.

What is the biggest challenge you have had to face? Building those small blocks of the business up all the time while paying bills by doing consultancy work at the same time was tough, and software development isn’t cheap. You have to go back and constantly make improvements, which is something a lot of people don’t realise.

Are the banks open for business? Not back when I was starting off, no. Since then, we have been talking and got funding from them. But they are still quite cautious, and take no risks.

Who do you admire in business and why? I have a lot of female role models. Anne Heraty, chief executive of Clinical Professionals Limited, would be one example of a woman moving her business into being the number one player in her industry.

Sarah Bourke of SkyTek is also succeeding in a male-dominated industry; her software is being used by Nasa and she has been named as one of the winners of the EU Prize for Women Innovators.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received? Go with your gut instinct. It always works, but it’s hard to do especially in a start-up! I think women especially have a very good gut instinct, and they need to be more confident and trust themselves, even though it can be painful!

What advice would you give to the Government to help stimulate the economy? We’ve had great support from them through Enterprise Ireland. But the Government could still help businesses by reducing capital gains tax, which would go a long way towards helping small businesses.

If they could look at introducing an investment scheme such as the EII [the employment investment incentive tax relief incentive scheme on business investment which replaced the business expansion scheme] at an earlier stage in a start-up’s life cycle, that would help as well.

What does the future hold for your business? This year we’ll be focusing on the UK market and working to push further into the UK. We also are looking at building our product and platform and looking at making it more personalised, with more custom options available.

How much is your business worth and would you sell it? I still want to put value into this business for both customers and the team, and I’m enjoying that too much at the moment! But if the right buyer came at the right time, I’d consider it.