Building company culture from day one
Can we all agree that the first day of a new job is exciting but also a risk as you plunge into the unknown? That’s how I was feeling as I was getting ready to start at Enplug. So imagine how I felt when our CEO, Nanxi, asked if I would be up for joining the team on an all-inclusive trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, just two weeks into the job.
The company had hit its annual goals and this was the reward. At first, a trip with flights, food and hotel rooms paid for seemed like a no-brainer, but then I thought, “hold up, what’s the catch?” Would we have intense product deep dives with nobody ever leaving the conference rooms? Would it be strange to go because I hadn’t contributed yet? Well, now that I’m back, I’m glad to say there was no reason for me to worry.
Ingredients of a successful team trip
Before accepting the position of Growth Manager, I did my research into Enplug and saw that culture was a priority (we even have a popular ebook on company culture). But I also knew that what a company says doesn’t always match up with what it does. Nanxi and the team could have delayed my first day on the job until after the trip, so the fact that they chose to invite me to Mexico not only meant a lot to me, but also helped grow my trust in Enplug’s leadership and priorities.
In this blog post I want to share the ingredients that I think made this experience such a success, even for a brand new employee, and point out a few of the planning details that made the trip go smoothly.
First off, we were lucky to have our CTO, Tina, act as the cruise director in organizing everything. She had made some great choices, starting with the destination. Puerto Vallarta is a three-hour flight from Los Angeles. The flight wasn’t painfully long, and the drive from the airport to the hotel was only 15 minutes. With a company-chartered bus to take everyone and their luggage to the hotel, there was no need to get multiple taxis and deal with the chaos of rental cars and driving on foreign roads.
Takeaway: For company trips, pick a destination that isn’t more than a 2 hour drive from the airport. And upon arrival, travel together by van or bus.
Another reason Puerto Vallarta ended up being a good destination is that it offered many all-inclusive resorts to choose from. None of our team members had to pay for food or drinks once we got to the resort. It was all priced into the cost of the rooms. Everyone got ocean views and all-you-can-eat from the hotel restaurants and room service. Truly a magical feeling.
We also invited family and friends on the trip. With the trip free for team members, and family members included if they covered the airfare and a room supplement, it was a great way to ensure no one felt like they had to choose between family and work.
Takeaway: Let everyone bring family members or friends. An all-inclusive resort made it easy for everyone to have the same experience without any hidden costs. Be generous without blowing the bank.
Tina and Nanxi also did a great job of setting up the itinerary for the trip way in advance. Everyone was able to get all the important team dinners onto their calendar before the trip. Once the trip started, the itinerary stayed pretty locked, which made it easy for everyone to plan individual activities for themselves and make time for any team events.
The dinners were essential for team building. I got to know a lot of the Polish development team over meals, and sat with a different group of people each day. Nanxi would share some thought exercises that sparked conversation and helped us get to know each other’s personalities. Without it feeling forced, we shared stories of the day’s activities of exploring the city, scuba diving, and off-roading, as well as product insights and processes for further collaboration.
Takeaway: We use a ton of tools at Enplug to collaborate. Shared Google Docs, Slack, Trello boards, and more. However, with an international team, there is still a lot to be gained in team-building from face-to-face interactions.
On the bus ride back, I got feedback from others to see how their trip went. Everyone was excited to see what the next year would bring. If the execs of Enplug had goals of building a stronger team, those goals were definitely achieved.
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