A Word from Doug
When we started Portland Internetworks back in 1997, it was natural that we’d spend a lot of “extra-curricular” time together. Sure, we had LAN parties and went to plenty of hockey games and happy hours, but we also shot a lot of pool, threw a lot of darts, and even played a bit of poker. Initially, it just seemed natural as several of us were friends before joining together to grow Portland Internetworks. But, later we consciously decided that if all our teammates knew each other as sentient humans outside the office, the instances of misunderstandings, jumps to negative conclusions or frayed nerves might be reduced.
So, several years ago, we instituted the first of many annual “-athlons” (e.g. decathlon, octathlon, pentathlon, dodecathlon). Several times per year, we’d organize all-employee tournaments for bowling, darts, go-kart racing, spelling bees, cornhole, pinball, shuffleboard, bocce and even BBQ sauce creation and chili-making. For the truly competitive amongst us, points are awarded for placing high in each event with a tournament trophy handed down to each year’s overall winner. For those of us happy just to participate and enjoy each other’s company, participation points are awarded along with plenty of food and beverages.
The tradition has built great cohesion in our team such that I feel strongly that we have closer relationships, better communication, and better friendships than so many companies in our business. In fact, getting together outside the office has spurred all sorts of new, non-“athlon”, non-company initiated role-playing game groups, community garden plots, book clubs, B-Movie Bingo nights, online gaming squads, and sports teams.
My CEO responsibilities include discussing the challenges facing the businesses of our customers, prospects, vendors, and peers. Among the top struggles I always hear about are the difficulties in attracting, engaging, and retaining high performing employees. I believe that we do a better job of attracting and retaining superstar leaders at Portland Internetworks, and our emphasis on engaging our team outside the confines of our office is a key part of our success.
If your team rarely gets together outside the office, consider starting small and letting it build. I’d love to talk with you about how we got started if you need a boost. Drop me a line and let’s grab coffee together!