Jon Colby is putting his improvisational skills to good use.
“I’m finally my own boss,” he said.
The Fishers resident left his job at Fishers High School to start his own business, giving motivational training and running workshops.
Colby spent seven years as a theater and video production teacher before resigning at the end of the 2018-19 school year. He helped direct plays and musicals at FHS.
Previously, Colby worked at Shortridge High School for three years.
“I lived in Chicago and was doing improv,” Colby said. “I did ComedySportz there, which I still do here in Indianapolis. Through ComedySportz, I would fly out to Southern California and do improv training for AT&T employees for a week and fly back and do it with a different group. I moved up to Chicago in 2007, and that’s when the Recession hit.”
That slowed the corporate training, naturally.
But during his last two years at FHS, he began conducting corporate training again.
“Two years ago, I spoke at the Century 21 national convention in Utah, and the CEO of Century 21 said that was perfect,” Colby said. “The woman who hired me said you should quit your job and you should be doing this full time. It scared me because the idea of not having consistent money always made me nervous, but it made a light go off in my head.”
In the summer of 2018, he spoke at a Charles Schwab gathering. He was again encouraged to pursue it full time, so decided to give it a go.
“I ripped the Band-Aid off,” said Colby, who also performs at Red Curb comedy in Avon.
Colby had eight engagements in August, five in September and four in each October and November. The gigs have been all across the U.S., including Florida, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
One of his presentations in August was a one-hour presentation on “Don’t Worry…Work Happy!” at the annual Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit. He used improv to promote a positive mindset using positive psychology, said Karen McGrail, director of The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham (Mass.) State University.
Colby also conducted a four-hour workshop for her team using improv to promote strong communication, making choices and celebrating those choices.
“Jon entertained and engaged us with fun, get-out-of-your-seat improv activities,” McGrail said. “He is genuinely interested in helping others to be their best and is impressively talented in the art of improv. Jon takes the time on the front end to understand the needs of the audience and how his contribution fits into the purpose of the event.
“He conveys his message in an interactive and entertaining way that leaves the audience asking for more.”
The occasion was the second time McGrail has used Colby.
“Jon is a master improv artist and effortlessly applies his talent to create an energetic, positive and humorous learning environment with relevant takeaways,” he said.
Colby said the takeaway is whatever the company needs it to be. He talks for five minutes and then people get up and interact.
“Some people think improv and say they don’t want it to be goofy,” he said. “The biggest struggle I have is making people understand I’m going to make your whole company better communicators and better leaders. I talk about how you make your clients and staff feel valued. It’s easier than you think.
“You don’t have to put doughnuts in the break room or give people bonuses because you can’t always do that. It’s simple things to make people feel they matter, and when people feel they matter, they stay.”
Some of Colby’s workshops address how to deal with change.
For more, visit joncolby.com.