Dr. Janice Presser and Teamability Profiled on Keystone Edge
From the beginning of her professional career, Janice Presser had an intense desire to learn what really happens when people team up. She believes that when that process is optimized, good things happen that go well beyond the workplace.
When she met Dr. Jack Gerber, a fellow behavioral scientist with an interest in applying physical science concepts to the measurement of human interaction, an entrepreneurial team was made.
They began in 1984 with an in-depth analysis of anything related to intelligence testing, personality traits tests, values tests and other psychometric methods. They found no instruments designed specifically to measure ‘teaming.’ They spent the next 25 years developing, testing and validating in the field the critical metrics of teaming, launching The Gabriel Institute as a vehicle for creating a technology of teaming that would operate as a web app.
The five-person company recently passed the 150-customer milestone at the end of last year and are adding them now at a clip of eight per month, with hopes of achieving profitability later this year.
What was the biggest challenge in getting The Gabriel Institute off the ground?
Jack had no business experience, and mine was limited to having been president of a family-owned manufacturing company, as well as running a professional consulting practice. But I had an American Express card, faith in what we were being called upon to do, and the energy and willingness to do whatever it would take to make this vision a reality.
How is The Gabriel Institute growing (revenue, staff, etc)?
We’re lucky in that business volume can grow a lot before we will need to hire many more people. We used our own technology and its related management methods to identify the ‘missing pieces’ on our team. This enabled us to recognize the precise fit of Mark Talaba (our EVP) and two young people who had been working as interns. We were very proud the day we granted them membership in the LLC and made them owners. They repay us every day with dedication and flexibility, and they manage all of our client and partner-facing activities and myriad other details.
What resources did you take advantage of to grow The Gabriel Institute?
We have the most wonderful banking relationship with Lynn Ozer of Susquehanna Bank. We had heard her described as the Queen of SBA Lending, and we totally agree. Because Lynn took the time to fully understand our business and its potential, she was able to provide more than an SBA application. Her guidance through the process and her advocacy really helped. Not only that, the people in her support staff are amazing.
We also launched an open-ended ‘friends & family’ fundraise which has brought us nine investors to date. Based on average investment size thus far, the offering will probably top out at 15 investors. Most of them started with us as users of Teamability, and after seeing the results, they approached us about acquiring equity. These relationships have been terrific, because they are tremendously supportive partners, and are actively advocating for us in the markets where they operate.
And we recently had a small, successful crowdfunding campaign which was profiled on Forbes.com.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome, personally or professionally?
I had come through many challenges in the past, but when you start a business at 55, getting perspective is a lot easier. And when you have partners who are great at doing the things you don’t personally do well, you just give it over to them. It takes great mutual trust, respect, and faith that the team will prosper. Once you’re there, the whole process is self-renewing.
But looking back, my biggest challenge consisted of maintaining focus and making steady progress on this mission, as my personal and working life went through some pretty wild changes. That’s why, without Jack (Dr. Gerber) as my collaborator, I don’t think I could have done this. I suppose he might say the same about me, and there’s a sort of rightness about that. As soon as you have two people, you have ‘teaming’, and it took some extraordinary teamwork to create Teamability.
Talk about the moment where you knew you made the right decision in starting this company?
I never thought I was wrong to start the company, but since the commercial launch of the product late in 2009, I have had a succession of ‘moments’ when it felt more and more ‘right’. The launch itself comes to mind first, followed closely by each of the commitments made by our ‘family’ of investors. But the biggest of all was the time in mid-2012 when be began calling our technology of teaming “Teamability.” That’s when I knew we could not miss, and within a matter of weeks, TGI moved to a whole new level of activity and growth. Receiving U.S. Trademark recognition for Teamability this year was the icing on the cake.
Where does your region need to improve in terms of support for entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs often have brilliant innovative ideas for improving the environment and the general quality of life. Unfortunately, in Philadelphia and the surrounding region there are multiple layers organizations and agencies with overlapping missions and responsibilities. Consequently, attempts to be heard, or to drive a change for the better tend to get lost in the shuffle. It’s frustrating and a waste of effort, and entrepreneurs can’t afford to waste their time.
But this may be changing. I recently attended the first meeting of the regional branch of CleanTech Open, which is a national organization dedicated to furthering the interests of inventors, entrepreneurs, and entities that are bringing green technologies to market. Many good things were said about Philadelphia’s commitment to innovation and positive change, including better coordination of agencies and resources, so I hope that is actually what happens.
What’s the big differentiator for The Gabriel Institute?
What makes us different isn’t so much about TGI, but rather, about our product. On the surface, people tend to confuse it with things like IQ or EQ tests, personality traits tests, and other familiar tools. In reality, Teamability is not an adaptation or ‘new version’ of any of those. It is completely new and highly sophisticated technology that was engineered to elicit and identify teaming behaviors in a holistic way.
We’re not saying that Teamability is a replacement for other methods. Just that if adds new information that is important to the overall understanding of a candidate for hire or promotion, or of people who are being selected for a team with a specific mission. And because the technology that underlies Teamability is fundamentally about the quality of team interaction, a Teamability report also provides highly relevant and useful information on developing, managing, and motivating both individuals and teams.
What’s next for The Gabriel Institute? Any new products/services, focus or expansion?
I’m happiest when I’m inventing, so I have a lot of sandboxes for experimentation. Our next product will be an entrepreneurs’ version of Teamability. After that, we’ll release something that can identify the right person for a specific selling situation. That’s needed because there are many different types of ‘selling’ challenges, and succeeding at one doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be good at others. Beyond that, well, I have to respect the wishes of my team and just say that there are ‘next big things’ coming that can make Teamability very useful, and exciting, outside of the business world.
Joe Petrucci, KeystoneEdge.com