Stress and lack of human connection is the ultimate culture-killer within the workplace, and this has worsened over the past year, due to the havoc the pandemic has wreaked on everyone’s lives. Are you struggling to stay connected with your remote working team on a fun personal level? Kristi Herold, Founder, and CEO at JAM and the Sport & Social Group (SSG) is leading the way in helping teams connect through play and laughter. Kristi has spoken around the world on how powerfully making time for play can impact productivity and foster a healthy organizational culture.
“A positive work culture improves teamwork, raises morale, increases eﬃciency and productivity, and enhances employee retention. A positive culture also helps to reduce stress amongst employees – and happier employees make for happier customers which helps to improve the bottom line for any organization”, advises Kristi Herold. At the SSG and JAM, Kristi aims to hire slowly ensuring all new teammates share the values, embrace the purpose and vision and are complimentary to her strong cohesive team.
An Energetic, Bright, and Passionate Businesswoman
A born entrepreneur, Kristi Herold was looking to meet new people after moving to the big city of Toronto in 1996. She took the opportunity to combine her passion for sport, business, and community by founding the Sport & Social Group — one of the largest adult recreational sports league providers in the world, oﬀering an incredible physical and mental health beneﬁt to over 1.3 million participants since inception.
Kristi’s passion lies in connecting people through play as she knows how powerful connecting through play can be for both our physical and mental health. Her stories include hundreds of SSG members ﬁnding their life partners and best friends through playing in the leagues, three diﬀerent members getting the SSG logo tattooed on their bodies as the leagues have been so impactful on their lives and one member sharing how the leagues literally “saved their life”.
Remote Events all Over the World
When the 2020 pandemic hit and the SSG operations (www.sportsocial.club) were mandated to pause, Kristi led her team in the creation of JAM (www.workplayjam.com) – a new service providing professionally hosted remote events helping corporate teams all over the world stay connected through play.
With the creation of JAM, Kristi and her team are now helping many corporate cultures continue to thrive by keeping employees connected through play with the company’s online remote oﬀerings like “Survey Says” (Family Feud), JAMParty (Jeopardy), Name that Tune Bingo, Trivia, Scavenger Hunts, Escape Rooms and more. The company is excited to have created some diversiﬁcation within its business, knowing that JAM will be able to continue helping corporate remote working teams, and organizations with global oﬃces, continue to connect playfully, even when the pandemic is behind us, and team sports can play again.
Continues to Focus on Being Better
Over the last 25 years there have been many ups and downs in leading the Sport & Social Group and more recently JAM. In the early years, Kristi was a one woman show, taking on all aspects of the business, including bootstrapping the funding on her own. This gave her a great handle on what customers cared most about and it is interesting to note that what was a priority for the customers 25 years ago remains similar today. As operations grew, her role became more about leading a team which added complexity, challenges and a lot of learning.
After the ﬁrst 10 years, during which time Kristi had started a family and had three young children, she stepped back to work part time in order to focus on passion projects (like starting an adult community theatre group, connecting people through playing on stage in order to raise money for charity) and child-rearing. By 2016, she had decided it was time to focus on larger growth for the SSG and thus began the vision to get 1 million people playing on an annual basis.
Extraordinary Ideas on Revolutionizing Business
Kristi and her team at JAM and the SSG, focus intensely on their core values, and they aim to make all decisions keeping them in mind. Further, Kristi regularly shares the detailed purpose and vision with her entire team (both fulltime and part-time) as to how she wants to see the organization grow, so that they feel empowered and in alignment with helping attain the goals of the company. The organization has many examples of low cost, easy to implement ideas that help its culture, like eating lunch together (now over video at least once a week), High-5 welcomes and buddy system for new employees, monthly core value awards, bi-monthly book club and veteran jersey celebrations when someone hits their 1-year anniversary, to name a few.
As the CEO of one of the largest adult recreational sport leagues in the world, a very male dominated industry, Kristi believes she’s role modelling a great example to other young women interested in the business of sports. She always encourages younger women to “own your voice” in meetings – ensuring your ideas and opinions are heard. At the SSG the company always believed strongly in hiring the best person for the job – regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation – the team has good diversity and its organizational culture feels best balanced when it has an equal split of men and women on the team.
Staying True to your Core Purpose
JAM wanted to stay true to its SSG core purpose of “connecting people through play” – yet it could not run soccer games or volleyball games online, so it was forced to look at diﬀerent ways of playing and in doing so they have been able to continue helping thousands around the world to stay connected playfully. “Follow your passion. I’ve always been passionate about connecting people in playful ways – thus it is easy for me to feel excited about the work I’m doing on a daily basis!” puts forward Kristi.
Kristi has been recognized as a Top 100 Canada’s Most Powerful Women, a top 3 ﬁnalist in the Canadian Women Entrepreneur awards, Sport & Social Industry Association’s “Industry Impact Award” winner, has earned multiple Great Places to Work certiﬁcations and is a Governor General’s “Queen’s Diamond Jubilee” recipient.
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