Josh Middlebrooks: Tools to Solve the Engagement Problem
Prior to joining the startup world at Luxer One, Josh Middlebrooks spent time in the consulting and retail worlds — and before that in more blue-collar work like washing cars, painting houses and retrieving shopping carts from the parking lot. “The consistent theme was I always had really good managers and role models in every job I had. I was really lucky in that way,” Middlebrooks said.
“I learned the value of hard work and not making excuses when times get tough, because in blue-collar work everyone has a job to do and no one cares about excuses, they care about whether the job gets done. That’s what shaped my career path the most.” Middlebrooks currently serves as Luxer One's President.
Luxer One is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s Digital Workplace Experience Fall Event, taking place online on Oct. 14 and Oct. 15. Middlebrooks will present a session on "Making Connections in a Contactless World." We spoke with Middlebrooks to gain some insight on his session topic.
Learning Through Experience
SMG: What is some advice or wisdom you frequently share?
Josh Middlebrooks: Advice I frequently share is, do the thing that scares you the most. When you’re faced with two different options, choose the one where you will have the best chance to grow and where you will have the higher return on investment.
When I joined Luxer One six years ago, I was one of 25 people at this new startup, and that was scary! But making that jump really rounded me out. In the startup world I found that I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew about business in general and meeting business objectives and goals. But I learned from some incredible people. Now I’m the president of the company, and the rest is history.
SMG: Tell us a little about your session topic.
Middlebrooks: I’m going to talk about software solutions, physical collaboration, handoffs and bringing fun to the environment.
Now, the backstory here is that in March 2020 we opened up our brand new office, having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the investment. We were founded six years ago as a company, and were running scrappy. Two years ago we decided we needed to operate like grownups and get an office ... and then we opened the first week of March 2020 — everyone knows the story after that. This is my first time running a company, and this was a lot to have happened.
We needed to figure out what were the tools we needed to solve our problems? We needed a better way to collaborate, communicate, and get work done (the in-person meeting is over!) — but that was the easy day-to-day stuff. Peel this back a layer and it gets harder. We were hiring through the pandemic and needed to get laptops, key fobs and other physical things to our new employees, and they needed to be able to return them in a contactless way.
Now remember, we’re the biggest player in the industry for smart lockers. We have about 7,000 multi-family locations. About 5 million people each year use our services to pick up online orders at our lockers in big box retail and elsewhere. So, the solution we had to this problem was to use our own tools. We converted our locker management into the mechanism for IT repair and asynchronous handoff. Our lockers became the contactless delivery vehicle for our business. We also used the lockers for bag drop for hybrid workers. With hybrid you go into the office and there are no assigned seats. You go into your hot desk, drop off your bag in the locker, and get it at the end of the day.
The third and most important thing we needed to figure out was how to create a fun remote environment. And now that people are coming back in a hybrid way, we have to figure this out again. Does our physical environment line up with our digital environment? Does it line up with our core value of fun?
Forget the Pizza, It's All About Team-Building Experiences
SMG: Do you think the Great Resignation has exposed any particular truths about the office environment?
Middlebrooks: We were calling it The Great Resignation in July of 2020. We all knew this was coming, and our first (terrible!) reaction was, we need to throw a pizza party. That is the thing many companies go to, but no, office pizza parties are done. That is over, and what you really need are tools that actually solve the engagement problem. Your mission will be to wrangle up everyone’s pizza party budget to get these tools at your company. Let me say it again: the GenZ/Zoomers do NOT want your pizza party! The pizza party was a safety net, and I want to coach you away from that. Use your money on other, better engagement tools instead!
SMG: What will the office look like a year from now?
Middlebrooks: I really think that we will never get away from having great team-building experiences. The people that are going to survive and build environments that people flock to are the people who will figure out how to decentralize the workplace.
At Luxer One, we went through this whole cost benefit analysis of having an office and flying out sales people to talk to customers and decided the money would be better spent on digital tools and doing collaborative, team building activities together inside and outside the office.
Almost all team meetings will happen outside of the office or be digital. All the meetings and emails and the remaining 80% of your tasklist will be remote and you’ll be doing it over the tools I’m going to talk about. The physical office will just become a place where you have the option to sometimes do your work, build face-to-face trust, and pass things back and forth, like that broken laptop and swag for new employees.
Claim your free pass to the Digital Workplace Experience here and be sure to listen to the Luxer One Session, “Making Connections in a Contactless World,” for Josh Middlebrook’s punchline solution for keeping people engaged.