I predict that “teamwork” will be the small business mantra for 2006. Everything old is new again (if you wait a few years), and in the early 1990s, teamwork was the name of the game for start-ups.
Back then, enterprising entrepreneurs created mini-businesses around the premise that they could teach “team-building.” They marketed themselves to all types of businesses and all sizes, from corporations to mom-and-pop-just-the-two-of-us-plus-the-kids stores. Off-site retreats were viewed as opportunities not to plan the next quarter but to unite the team. Rah, rah.
I worked for a company in Santa Cruz, California, a town famed for its beach blanket bingo, let-it-all-hang-out mentality, and uber-liberal politics. When time for the department’s annual retreat rolled around, we were informed that we constituted a democracy and therefore were invited to vote on our options: a learn-to-drum team-building day, a learn-to-clown team-building experience, or a play-bocce-ball excursion. Drumming won (by three votes — the rest of us abstained). And off we marched, on a cold, blustery day in January, to the beach. Gathered in a circle, each given a somewhat tattered-looking drum (“Germs,” shuddered one of my colleagues), we were instructed in the supposedly-team-building art of drumming. Bang, bang, bang. Two of us asked for Advil. The rest just resigned themselves to getting through it.
“Now, all together,” cheered on the drum guru, who had the requisite long hair, headband, and somewhat glazed eyes of an escapee from the 60s. “We’ll go around in a circle and each in turn, rap three times on your drum.” Round we went until we got to one large gentleman (let’s call him Howard). He rapped four times. “Try again,” said the guru. Howard rapped two-and-a-half-times. “I can’t do this,” he said icily, tossing the drumsticks and drum on the sand, standing up, and dusting himself off. “Let’s just go eat.” So much for the drumming.
If team building is on your start-up’s agenda for 2006, here’s a tip: make it fun, yet practical. For example, at TriActive America and Triactive Kids, our retreat did bolster the team spirit. We met at an elegant hotel, nibbled on a fruit platter, and mixed laughter with plans for the coming year. We felt a sense of accomplishment about what we had built together — and a renewed desire to make our company one of the nation’s biggest success stories. And that’s what team-building is all about.