Please state your name and a little about your current status.
I’m Jade Tremblay, co-founder, and CEO of Totem Team, Inc. I’m also a husband and father of a wonderful 4-year-old son. I run three times a week and I’ve been pursuing self-development with a life coach for 15 years. I believe we can change the world by helping people change from within.
What exactly does your company do?
Totem makes people connect and shine … for real! We created a card game that enables people to hear what others are thinking about them in a positive way. Totem, the feel-good game, helps players discover their qualities and strengths in the eyes of others. Insightful, simple, and unique, Totem has been proven to lower barriers to communication and bind people together deeply.
With 20,000 games sold in 33 countries, we continue to be surprised by the touching testimonials we receive and the steady growth of our ever-expanding community.
Counselors and therapists use Totem to break down barriers of communication, establish a therapeutic alliance with kids, explore coping strategies, and build their patients’ confidence.
Teachers and school professionals help kids connect with their classmates, build self-esteem, and deepen their understanding of the impact their words can have on others.
Managers, coaches, and HR staff members see Totem as an opportunity to remind your team members of their strengths and make them feel appreciated by their colleagues. A bonded team, in which everyone is more aware of their strengths is a high-performance team.
Finally, family members and friends can stop the timer, leave the screen and tell each other what they love the most about them. With our busy lives, taking time to form deep bonds with people you love the most is a need that a lot of people seem to value.
Again, Totem makes people connect and shine … for real!
How did you start your company/business as a startup?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for the past 15 years and passionate about self-development for the same amount of time. Back in 2004, I had the idea to create self-development tools that would be easy, fun, and accessible to everyone. In 2015, we combined the ideas of our three founders to create Totem, the feel-good game. Our founding team was able to create the game in a cost- and time-effective way. That allowed us to self-fund the creation and first impression with $15,000. At first, Totem was more of a side project – until we met a researcher and Ph.D. in psychology who lit the path ahead.
He shared with us the latest research on Self Determination Theory (SDT) and strength-based approaches. We discovered that a huge number of businesses would be inspired by that research and that our product, even if it were not scientifically proven, was in line with the research findings which stated that knowing your strengths and being connected to others were vital parts of the recipe for being more performant and experiencing more well-being at work. When this researcher shared Totem on his LinkedIn profile, sales started immediately. We ended up garnering visibility in the European magazine Psychologie, reaching their two million+ readers and being featured with a whole page in a scientific psychology book where Totem is presented as a card game that helps people become more aware of their own strengths and qualities while having fun with colleagues (*ref: 1).
At that time, I was doing software development as a freelancer. For two years, we didn’t pay ourselves salaries out of the Totem revenues. Instead, we invested in PR and product development. We took a 25K loan to help with this, but it was the Amazon.com platform that enabled us to take off and leave the ground. Since May 2018, I have been dedicated full time to grow our company, and we now have 12 collaborators who help us exert a positive impact on people’s lives.
*ref 1: Dubreuil, P., & Forest, J. (2017). Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life: A strengths-based leadership approach to optimal functioning at work. In K. Kelloway, K., Nielsen, & J. Dimoff (Eds.), Leading to Occupational Health and Safety (pp. 281-306). Wiley.
What struggle did you go through to reach your current status now?
Not paying ourselves for the hard work we did during the first two years was, for sure, a struggle. We had to invest our time and effort on other projects and jobs to help our new company take off. Tessa, my wife, is the graphic designer behind our brand and product. She is also one of the co-founders of the Totem Team. After five years of intense ups and downs, our in-vitro baby boy was born on October 15, 2016. The company was officially registered the next day, October 16, 2016. We were at the point of being parents while simultaneously starting a new business. I remember Tessa signing legal papers while lying in her hospital bed the day after she gave birth to our son. The following months were extremely hard because she wanted to focus on her new role as a mother and I was asking her to do some things for Totem because we didn’t have the cash flow to hire someone else at the time.
After two years of being unpaid and facing serious personal challenges, our other partner decided to invest his energy elsewhere. This led to an eight-month discussion and we finally agreed on a share buyback plan that was acceptable to everyone. Those kinds of events are emotional and can create uncertainty.
Personally, the biggest struggle I’ve faced was “dreaming the right dream.” I wanted to have a global impact and monetary freedom, and I thought I would accomplish this by creating an online employee recognition service (SaaS) based on the Totem concept. I had spent enormous quantities of both energy and money, only to finally accept that creating an online system wasn’t the proper dream at that time because I was involved in too many projects at the same time. With deep regrets, I had to completely stop working on the software development project and focus my energy on the card game. From that moment, Totem hasn’t stopped growing. So, in short, maintaining a clear focus was one of my main struggles.
How did you manage to cope up with those struggles?
I believe that our personal “protection mechanisms” can often get in the way of our business decisions and that this all happens unconsciously. As an example, I was raised in a family with “humble revenues.” My father was an unconventional entrepreneur. Part of his job was being a public entertainer, or, in other words, a clown. When he was surrounded by hundreds of people listening to him, he was clearly in his zone of genius, but he had his own struggles. Part of that was having enough money to take care of his family. I suffered a lot from that and ended up making business decisions fueled by my fear of being unable to take care of my family. I had an intense desire to be extremely rich and successful in my efforts to shut down that fear. I was constantly dissatisfied with the evolution of the business while I was pursuing what I would call “the wrong dream” for me.
Working with my personal life coach twice a month really helped me accept the path I had chosen. As that work progressed, I felt that my life priorities were taking their respective places. My top two were being close to people I love and having a positive impact on people I don’t know personally. All of a sudden, I began to feel satisfied with both my business and my life in general. I started to enjoy going forward one step after the other without thinking too much about the result.
Within the past two years, I have also found a business mentor with whom I speak once a month. During our discussions, we really tackle business challenges together, including maintaining a good focus, proper planning of Totem’s evolution, deciding which skills we need to go forward, etc.
Who inspired you to move forward and influenced you in all your achievements now?
As an entrepreneur, I would say that my father was a great inspiration. When he had new ideas or opportunities, he was very quick to say, “let’s try this and we will see.” He was always starting, exploring, and investigating new opportunities easily. Because of his influence, I never learned to be afraid of trying something I had never done before. Instead, I’ve learned to take the first step quickly and explore as I learn new things. The dark side of going into action quickly is the potential to lose focus but, in the end, I feel that my father had a big impact by teaching me to move forward.
I want to highlight the fact that, when a was a young kid, my mother consistently worked miracles with our humble family incomes. She is good with numbers, is very down to earth, and she always had a plan to ensure that her child would not miss out on the basics. I don’t take risks that could jeopardize the future of our business.
What piece of advice will you share with those who would like to follow your footsteps?
On a personal level, you must know your actual life goals and periodically review them to make sure you feel they are still good. Monitor where your business is standing according to those goals and seek out resources to help it grow from within. Discover your unconscious patterns and heal the emotions that trigger all this. This is a long journey, so start now.
On a business level, know your numbers, plan with cash flow budgets, have a clear vision of your business why surround yourself with the proper people and find a good business mentor who has gone through the entrepreneurial journey and with whom you feel comfortable.
Have fun now. Enjoy your life.
How can people follow your journey? Please list your social media URLs
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