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Cultivating Your Company’s Culture

Author: Marisa M. Manna
July, 2012 Issue

What do you consider your most valuable business asset? Is it your industry knowledge, killer website or even your brilliant tagline? No—it’s your people! In a world where “best” isn’t always good enough, beating out the competition requires constant innovation and reinvention of your products, ideas, customer service and community involvement. The secret Fortune 500 companies already know is that their people are—and always will be—their strongest advantage. Cultivating a community of trust and open communication in the workplace and leveraging each of your team members' best assets is the current trend. It builds supportive, happy employees who feel appreciated, contributive and empowered by their employer. These are key to a winning edge in business.

Royal Caribbean, AT&T, Sprint, True Value Hardware and other “biggies” have all been hot in the news lately, getting high praise for promoting change, innovation and increased sales by incorporating (way) out-of-the-box team-building events. According to Businessweek, companies are now holding what are called “innovation camps” to come up with the next “big idea.” Using your staff’s knowledge and talent is a perfect fit, and purpose-driven events have proven to deliver results.

How to start?

Determine clear objectives. First and foremost, when planning any retreat or workshop, is to tie your event to specific goals. This will shape and determine everything you plan. What challenges do you need to resolve or address and what results do you desire: increased sales, new ideas, team building, think tanks for problem solving? Either way, a company-wide thank-you is an ideal place to start. Corporations like Rodney Strong Vineyards execute a thank-you and inspiration program to show gratitude to their team. Since you want valuable, honest input, candid collaboration and a free-flowing stream of sharing, telling your team how much you appreciate them goes a long way.
As your best asset, the people at your firm can make or break your success, so why not build each event around first repaying, supporting and then using their expertise? Together, you can shape and build new ideas and projects, assess how things have been going and gain vital feedback to move forward. The type of event you throw is limited only by your imagination. Features range from incentive programs, musical productions, theme parties, hands-on cooking classes, VIP customer events, motivational speakers, sporting events, live entertainment, wine tasting, catered dinners, or holiday or themed parties. Once you’ve defined the “psychology” of your corporate event, you can focus on logistics like transport, accommodations, meals, entertainment, activities and break times. The most powerful element is really the team building, which is the foundation on which every other outcome can build.

One example is a company that needed to build healthier relationships between management and staff. Morale was at an all-time low, mainly due to flawed communication. We based their event on building relationships between groups/departments that were struggling, strategically predetermining group effort activities and assignments, using formal seating charts for meals, and placing guests using random criteria such as birth dates to break up preexisting “cliques.” Once boundaries are broken down, cooperation and communication can begin.

Brainstorming with your team will yield valuable outcomes: problem solving, innovation, organizational strategies and answering questions the company desires to solve. To promote this think-tank atmosphere, create as relaxed an environment as possible, offer wonderful snacks and plenty of treats and swag, make sure the venue is inspirational and build a forum for an open exchange of ideas supported in a positive way. Think social settings.

Another trend is that employers now understand the need for the team to get smarter faster to keep up with technology, which means events have to constantly evolve technologically. You can get the information to the group in a way that keeps them on the cutting edge, including using social media, three-dimensional learning, pod casts (reinstating the highlights of the event) and materials and tools that are learner-driven.

Leverage milestones. Royal Caribbean’s CEO, Richard Fain, recognizes the power of milestones to keep projects on track and to empower employees. In recent New York Times and articles, he was quoted saying that this is a vital team-building tool for leaders. Actually, ship builders have been celebrating the emotional impact of milestones for ages; from naming new ships, christening by breaking a bottle over the bow and the particularly fun-loving “over-boarding the new captain.” These build camaraderie and confidence, and encourage a personal buy-in to being part of a community working together on a project. Fain says, “Letting people know you care is of surpassing value.” He’s built a team of people who try to surpass expectations and he gives them milestones to beat. He notes, “My experience is that people love to be challenged. If the challenge is reasonable, or even only slightly unreasonable, they love it and rise to the occasion. There’s just no question. People love to show off their skills and talents.”

The power of pride

The happier the employees are, the more they’ll promote your brand both in and out of the office. After participation in an inspiring event, people feel invested and revved up. Staff and management eagerly share their excitement with the public in meetings, talks, videos, blogs and social media outlets. To keep the momentum going, create and talk up the next big party or happening with real objectives stated. Be sure to reiterate your unending appreciation and gratitude to both staff and their families for the continued support.


Marisa M. Manna is owner and founder of the award-winning, So-Eventful. You can see her on and her company has received accolades from ABC7 - SF Bay Area A-List, North Bay Bohemian, Wedding Wire, SF Bay List and more. Her insider connections make her the secret weapon for the perfect Wine Country event. For more information, see or call (707) 385-9632.



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