Coaching game seeks to change the rules of business, and life

Ronen Gafni sold his home to finance his vision of a better way to live and work. Now, his FreshBiz game is a hit in the corporate and educational worlds

A group in New York City participates in a FreshBiz game workshop (Photo credit: Courtesy)
A group in New York City participates in a FreshBiz game workshop (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Cornering the market, a la monopoly, is your grandfather’s game. If you want to succeed in business today, said Ronen Gafni, you need to play a different game. Specifically, the one that he invented, called FreshBiz.

If recent economic and social history has taught us anything, it’s that winning isn’t always exactly that. “There are plenty of miserable millionaires out there,” Gafni told The Times of Israel. And besides the fact that money doesn’t always buy happiness, fortune can be fleeting, as any American who thought he had it made after investing in real estate in 2006 can tell you today.

Just what does it mean to win, anyway? Many people think that business and life are zero-sum games, and that in order for them to prosper, others must lose. But in today’s interconnected world, the lone wolf method of achieving prosperity (both financial and personal) is passe. New rules that value cooperation and partnering are now in place. And Gafni believes that his game is the best way to teach people about how to learn and succeed under those new rules.

But don’t take his word for it. Currently, FreshBiz is being used by Fortune 500 companies, universities, employment placement firms, and even multimillionaires – specifically, Robert Shemin, who is Donald Trump’s go-to guy for real estate advice. Companies like IBM, KPMG, Telefonica, ManPower, and Netafim, as well as educational institutions such as NYU and Pace University, have conducted workshops on leadership and and life coaching using FreshBiz, according to the company.

The game, oddly enough in this digital age, is played with dice, cards, and an actual board (an iPad and desktop edition are on the way, Gafni said). Participants move around a board in a journey somewhat reminiscent of the Game of Life, although FreshBiz play is mostly restricted to business and career matters. Participants draw cards and land on spaces on the board providing them with opportunities for investments, business deals, loans, negotiations for assets, and more. Players often find they need to obtain resources from other participants in order to get what they want – turning their goal of winning into a win-win scenario, where they have to construct a deal that will give their negotiating partners what they need as well.

Games, which are played in a workshop setting, can take several hours, and FreshBiz coaches kibbitz, giving tips to green players on how to successfully maneuver through their career.

“FreshBiz simulates a business environment, but it’s really about life,” said Gafni. “We are teaching people principles of entrepreneurship in the modern world, and the same rules for success apply in other areas of life as well. You need to be flexible and creative in all areas of life today, and not just in business. The principles of FreshBiz recreate that experience on the board, enabling players to participate in a simulation of how they can succeed in real life.”

Gafni and his partners have been conducting FreshBiz workshops for the past two years, but the idea for the game came eight years ago, when Gafni was slogging through a daily commute and working hard to get ahead. Thinking about what he wanted out of life and why he wasn’t achieving it, Gafni began developing FreshBiz, a project that would take him six full years, he said. “I had this very clear vision of what I wanted, and I decided that, for the integrity of the game, it would be best not to include any investors who would try to tweak things to their preference.”

So in order to finance development of the game, Gafni sold his house in Binyamina and sank the proceeds into FreshBiz. “I could have just done this as a side business, and developed a game that would be sold in toy stores,” he said. “But I had a different vision of what could be accomplished with FreshBiz.” For that, he needed money, and the only asset he had that could finance such a project was his house. Although he and his wife had a successful graphics business, the money from that venture wasn’t enough to cover the costs of development for FreshBiz.

Gafni believes that the gamble seems to have paid off. “I really think that this game can change the lives of people around the world, and that is very important to me. The principles we are teaching and coaching people in have the potential to bring prosperity and peace of mind to millions.”

And when his kids ask him later in life why the family was living in rented quarters instead of a proper house, Gafni will have a ready answer. “I will tell them that owning a house is important, but developing FreshBiz to change lives is more important. I think I can be proud telling that to my kids.”

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