By Gabe House
Dr. Josh Renken is a busy man.
In addition to the dental practice he founded in 2003 – aptly named Renken Dentistry – he owns Schön Dental, Renken Properties and Practice Water, which seeks to help dental practices develop without the need for a corporate takeover.
As if all this were not enough, this month, Dr. Renken will unveil his newest baby: fyv. Pronounced as “five”, it stands for “fulfill your value,” and it’s essentially an online management tool for businesses of any size.
“When people communicate at work, there can be a lot of negative or unhealthy communication,” Dr. Renken explained. “[fyv] is meant to give people the tools to self-manage, to know their roles, but to also contribute. With the idea of everyone contributing to our practice, we boiled it down to everybody being able to share in what they were noticing and learning [since] it’s one of our greatest abilities as people, to actually collectively learn together, share and discover.”
Eschewing corporate vernacular, fyv is really a social network for the workplace. It’s an online, web-based platform serving as a next-generation comment box.
The idea is that typically, as organizations grow, they add managers on top of managers, and what you do gets pretty diluted,” Dr. Renken said. “I would like to grow to where we all have the same values and we all have the same opportunity to contribute, feed ideas and have a voice. It’s a way to manage ourselves, but also lead the organization, and that’s the point of this.”
Sporting a vaguely pop aesthetic, fyv is all large icons, bright colors and is extremely easy to grasp. Employees or team members are able to contribute to the news flow with ideas, suggestions and tasks that need to be completed. Other team members can then comment and give “high fyvs” on these items. Eventually, Dr. Renken said, there will be an option to “upvote” them as well. The result is a spontaneously curated agenda for business meetings where the best ideas and suggestions naturally “rise to the top” through social interaction on fyv.
“It’s really cool, actually,” Dr. Renken said. “It saves us those manager and managers and managers. We’re able to invest more in our team members, and they are more empowered. It’s a financial win for us, but I think it’s also more fulfilling for them in being asked to contribute.”
When other businesses join the fray on fyv, they will also be able to message other organizations or individual team members. They can drop opportunities into the other news flow and then work together if the need arises. Dr. Renken, due to his other businesses and subsequent fyv membership in them, has already seen this in action.
In addition to the social networking aspects of fyv, it also serves as a human resources hub of sorts. Dr. Renken said he’s not a huge fan of binders filled with resources. Rather than a shelf of plastic and paper, he set out to implement training programs directly into fyv. Now his employees can fulfill growth plans and subsequent training from within the software. And since it’s web- (and cloud-) based it can be accessed from almost anywhere.
Also, in addition to the staid, traditional employee review forms, fyv allows for “value-based” reviews that can be catered to the needs of specific businesses. Dr. Renken and his team members can discuss which areas employees are strong in, as well as what they need to improve upon.
“And it won’t let you not select some things to work on, because we all have some things we need to work on, right?” Dr. Renken said. “This has been a nice way to filter discussions with team members.”
Naturally, fyv also functions as a basic customer relationship management (CRM) platform as well. However, Dr. Renken was quick to point out, fyv complements typical business software rather than replacing it.
“We’ve made it as safe as we can,” Dr. Renken said. “We’ve tried very hard to keep any kind of sensitive info out of here. No payment information is housed here. HR information stays off the software.”
Dr. Renken said fyv has become indispensable for his business. After years of work with MSF&W performing the software programming and HIP Advertising handling the graphic design, fyv will be released later this month as an open beta for other organizations to use. The hope, Dr. Renken said, is that other businesses and organizations – regardless of size or specialty – will find it just as vital as he and his staff now does.
“It’s one thing to build a nice product; it’s another to take people who have never heard of it before, give them exposure to it and then have it be a good experience for them and their organization,” Dr. Renken said.
As far as revenue is concerned, fyv will feature subscription models scalable directly to business size and need. The messaging platform will be free, but to use fyv “in earnest,” businesses with 10 or fewer employees can subscribe annually for $500. As the number of team members increases so too does the subscription cost.
Of course, as more businesses join fyv, more training and tutorials are required. Technical troubleshooting will be inherent as well. It’s no small undertaking. To that end, Dr. Renken said fyv has been accepted into 1871, a digital startup incubator based in Chicago.
“We’ll get extra resources and support (from 1871) in going about the next steps: marketing, technical support … so we’re looking forward to connecting with that,” Dr. Renken said. “There are a lot of mentors there.”
Dr. Renken has said there has been a good amount of interest in fyv already. He’s excited to see how others use it, and how it grows as a result. Thus far, though, Dr. Renken believes fyv is fulfilling its role.
“I always thought a good test for a tool … if there was an apocalypse tomorrow, could someone pick up an iPad and revive our organization? I think with this, they actually could. From roles to methods to sustaining the organization … I think the software does what we set out for it to do.”
Gabe House is a freelance writer in Springfield.