Maureen Ennis owns Thrive, a Belmar-based business that helps businesses develop teamwork, sometimes by using Lego bricks.
When did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I loved the work I did in corporate, but as I started to grow my family, I became hungry for more autonomy and a chance to integrate life and work more seamlessly.
Why did you start this business?
I wanted to help great leaders move their organizations forward. Whether it’s connecting people for improved collaboration, aligning them to company strategies or identifying new ways of working, I get a great sense of accomplishment from being the catalyst that helps businesses and teams be successful.
Were there any challenges that made you think twice about striking out on your own?
There probably should have been, but I was confident and ready to make a difference! Not having the daily commute was a nice benefit.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken advantage of the certifications and opportunities offered to women-owned businesses earlier on. Thrive recently was honored as a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certified business and I am looking forward to working with the diversity community to grow my company and help other diversity suppliers.
What’s the best business advice you have ever received?
My husband and I were at a dinner with author Brian Tracy and he made us all stand up and practice saying, “I could be wrong… I sometimes am…” He was teaching us a key practice for getting along and being willing to admit mistakes. Some of our best strategic decisions have stemmed from zero-based thinking, imagining yourself at the point of the original decision and making the decision without the influence of all the effort you have invested since then.
What personality trait helps you the most?
In my younger years I would have said my ability to talk and present to groups. Now I believe it is my ability to ask good questions that get people talking to each other.
What’s the hardest part of the job?
Balancing customer engagements with all of the other business concerns that come with being an entrepreneur: finance, management, sales, marketing and so on.
Engaging a group of people in meaningful conversation, helping them build connections and shed some of the toxic buildup that often comes with relationships.
What surprised you the most about running the business?
I was happily surprised at the real opportunity to compete with traditional businesses and corporations by running virtual teams. Assembling a talented team of independent resources is made possible with tools and services like ELance and Basecamp. We are truly in the age of small business; digital tools level the playing field.
Describe your most unusual customer, job or work experience.
Facilitating workshops utilizing the Lego Serious Play methodology is without a doubt my most unusual and fulfilling experience. It starts with the participants getting comfortable with Lego bricks, and learning to make meaning through metaphor. Some questions we might ask as a warmup include, “What was your best customer service experience?” or “What would your nightmare teammate look like?”
Each person reflects, builds a model to fit their answer, and then shares with a small group of six to eight others. Every time I facilitate one of these sessions I am amazed at how the physicality of working with your hands enhances creative thinking. As a facilitator I work to keep everyone in flow: increasing the challenge as the participants get the hang of it, without causing frustration. It’s an “all-in” methodology; everyone shares their thinking in every round. Throughout the workshop we cover questions that are relevant to the team, business and purpose of the session. The experience and output is exhilarating.
How would you like the business to grow and change?
I would like to build a national reputation as the agency with the go-to facilitators for increasing engagement and creativity at work. In addition, we are building out some great offerings that help businesses understand what the future of work will require, as well as help them shift to new ways of working in the digital age that bring growth and competitive advantage.
In one sentence, tell us why customers should go there.
Let us spend some time with your team, and we will leave you more connected, engaged and prepared for the future!
What do you love about the community where your business is located?
I love the quality of life we have here at the Jersey Shore. We have the best of several worlds: nearby cities for fun and business opportunities, the joy of the ocean and beautiful marinas.
When you leave work, do you leave the office behind, or are you always in contact?
For as much as I advocate for technology, I definitely turn off at home and on weekends.
What do you do in your off time?
Travel with family, facilitate Lego Robotics classes for schools and sail.
Small Business Spotlight runs Mondays. If you’re a small-business owner in Monmouth and Ocean counties interested in taking part in this Q&A, contact business producer Dennis P. Carmody at email@example.com.
Describe your business: We help businesses and teams grow and flourish in the digital age. One of our specialties is facilitating engaging and innovative team events using the Lego Serious Play process.
Owner: Maureen Ennis
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays