Jean Gregoire is an inventor, engineer, founder, and CEO of Lovebox. He was born in France and studied engineering and entrepreneurship in Paris. After graduating with his Ph.D., he moved to Boston to join MIT as a postdoctoral researcher in robotics. He initially invented the Lovebox to stay emotionally connected with his fiance and family living in France. He quickly identified a broad need for technology solutions to nurture relationships, and he left MIT to start a company with this mission.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to Valiant CEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Jean Gregoire: I’m an inventor, engineer, founder, and CEO of Lovebox. I was born in France and studied engineering and entrepreneurship in Paris. After graduating with my Ph.D., I moved to Boston to join MIT as a postdoctoral researcher in robotics. I initially invented the Lovebox to stay emotionally connected with my fiance and family living in France. I quickly identified a broad need for technology solutions to nurture relationships, and I left MIT to start a company with this mission.
The Lovebox is a connected, messaging device that pairs with an app to go beyond regular communication and deliver special expressions of affection. Since 2016, over 150,000 devices have been sold worldwide, and 500,000+ love notes are exchanged every month. In 2021, our company launched a standalone mobile app to nudge even more people into brightening their loved ones’ days, whether they have a Lovebox device or not.
Who has been the most influential person(s) in your life and how did they impact you? How did that lead to where you are today?
Jean Gregoire: I’m fortunate that I have multiple people in my life who have impacted me and have led me to where I am today, but one who comes to mind is my mentor, Frederic Rochex. In 2018, Lovebox was close to bankruptcy. Frederic helped me realize that I was spending too much time looking for investors, and not enough time focusing on my business reaching profitability. Even though my business was growing fast, I needed to focus on running the business, instead of focusing on raising money. Soon after that realization, Lovebox started to thrive. Thanks to Frederic, I realized that I needed to spend more effort on strategies that would pay off, instead of being stubborn and spending too much time on hard things.
2020 was a challenging year for all of us, particularly for businesses. How did the pandemic impact your business? Please list some of the problems that you faced, and how you handled them.
Jean Gregoire: We’re still a relatively new company, having launched during the holiday season of 2016, so we’re still growing our company and our brand awareness. As you know, 2020 was a challenging year for businesses to grow. Most were just trying to survive. We realized that one way we could reach more customers, whether people were spending money or not, was to create a standalone mobile app. I’m proud to say that this year we did. Our free app allows people to connect with not only one person but all of their loved ones. It helps you get in the habit of brightening someone else’s day. We offer a range of heartful experiences to make your friends and family smile, and then we reward you every time you spread happiness. Despite the past challenging year and a half, we’ve managed to grow and expand by thinking outside the box.
The pandemic led to a myriad of cultural side effects, including one that was quite unexpected that is informally known as “The Great Resignation”. Did this widespread trend affect you in any way?
Jean Gregoire: We were very fortunate that “The Great Resignation” did not affect us. We grew our team during the pandemic. We’re now a tight-knit team of 15 people who have the choice to work from either home or the office. We believe flexibility, communication, trust, and empathy are key to employee retention.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. How do you feel about this trend? Explain.
Jean Gregoire: I think the pandemic has made people put things in perspective. They’re not going to stay at jobs where they’re not respected or treated well. Many employees realized they enjoy working remotely, and as companies move back to in-person, they would rather find a job that gives them the flexibility of working from home. The labor shortage is real and is difficult for a lot of industries, but maybe it will inspire businesses to value their employees and listen to the benefits and perks that are important to them.
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, Employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. That can be quite an alarming rate. What advice would you share to increase employee retention?
Jean Gregoire: We believe constant communication is key to a productive and happy workforce. We communicate all day on Slack. In addition to having professional channels open, we also utilize personal channels where we share funny pictures, DIY advice, and music suggestions. We also getaway every few months or so for a week-long work retreat in a new location. This retreat allows us to bond as a team, brainstorm new ideas, and form our goals for the year ahead. Lastly, we not only trust our employees, but we care about them as well. We trust that they’re doing their best on each project they’re working on, and we care about them outside of work. As stated previously, we allow them to choose whether they want to work from home or in the office. We value a healthy work-life balance which is essential in employee retention.
According to a Nature Human behavior study, In 2020, 80% of US workers reported feeling that they have too many things to do and not enough time to do them – a phenomenon known as “time poverty”. What is your take on the work-life balance? Explain.
Jean Gregoire: The work-life balance is very important. It’s key to remaining productive, efficient, and happy in your career. It reduces the possibility of feeling “burned out.” If you’re always working, and never taking time for yourself, you’ll eventually push yourself to your limit. To counteract that possibility, you must take time for yourself. Take a vacation or just schedule time throughout the week to go for a walk or a bike ride. Your mental and physical health is imperative for the longevity of your career.
A more recent survey by Joblist asked about 3,000 respondents if they’re actively thinking about leaving their job. That survey found that 73% of 2,099 respondents who answered this question on their employment plans are considering quitting. How are you preparing for the future to counter this potentially persistent problem?
Jean Gregoire: I think checking in with your team goes a long way in employee retention. Consistent communication is crucial for gauging your employees’ happiness. Whether you employ an in-person, remote, or hybrid workforce, it’s important to communicate. We also believe in having a fun office environment that is more than just work. Each week we have a ritual where we start with good news before introducing the week’s sprint. This allows us to connect with our teammates, but also creates a light and humorous environment. We work hard, but we also play hard. I believe that’s important when employees are considering staying or leaving their job.
Thank you for all that, our readers are grateful for your insightful comments! Now, if the Great Resignation isn’t your greatest concern, what is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Jean Gregoire: We believe in the power of technology to nudge people in brightening someone else’s day. Many apps focus on self-care, but we believe there’s a lack of apps focusing on caring for others. Our biggest challenge is showing why that is so important. We hope that our app will not only encourage others to care for their loved ones but inspire them to do so as well. Hopefully, they’ll see the powerful impact that making someone smile can do not only for them but their community at large.
Before we finish things off, we do have one last question. If you had 10 Million Dollars to spend in one day, what would you spend it on?
Jean Gregoire: While I would use a portion on my business, I would also use a portion for The Gates Foundation. At Lovebox we currently give 1% of our sales to this organization because they enhance healthcare around the globe, reduce extreme poverty, and give children access to education and technology. It would be amazing to give a large sum to a foundation that is doing so much for the world.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jean Gregoire for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jean Gregoire or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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