Who Do You Love?


Recently I was contacted by a former client who has not worked with us in over a decade. While I was delighted for the look up, however it got me thinking about why clients return to suppliers both short term and long? So, I reached out to a few who I regularly work with (yearly last few years) and those who we would term  irregular partners.

There is definitely a pattern here. For those who we would class as “regulars”, we heard that it is a combination of quality experiences, professionalism and familiarity with our organization and how we do things topped the list of reasons on why we continue to work together. The familiarity factor I think is also an element of trust based on successful experiences and interactions. Even when key contacts moved to another organization, we were invited into the new organization based upon our previous relationship. To a business such as ours it is a great honour.

Over the years I have come to recognize another pattern. Those clients whose primary reason to buy is price often do not end up being repeat. The relationship is more transactional with more focus being placed on getting more for less, often attempting to negotiate down from the initial quote. This is perfectly within their right as a purchasing body. This result usually means something’s got to give on the supplier side. It could be in the form of less staffing, less program options, shorter delivery and many other reactions that will ultimately affect quality of delivery and the perception of value for the client.

I’ve always priced my work from what I think is a fair position. I’m up front on what a reduction will do to the quality of a delivery if a client asks for one. That way they understand and accept that they have a role in the outcome. I have also walked away from potential business where it is clear that a reduced price will clearly and negatively impact the program quality and I slept soundly.

When I asked one repeat client why they continually come back to do business their answer was blunt. “Bill, the reason we return is simple. You and I are partners. We are equally responsible for the outcome of this program.” “My organization trusts me to trust that you are going to deliver the same high-quality experience you always have.” This is a relationship I much prefer to one where it is viewed as a transaction first and foremost.

The other benefit has been the many professional friendships I have cultivated over the years based upon success, mutual respect and familiarity. For that I consider myself fortunate.   

Team Building – Why Bother?


Well here I am. A 25 – year veteran of the teambuilding industry still discussing/championing the rationale for investing in team development programs and events

Sometimes I feel like a hamster in one of those exercise wheels (I could use the workouts).

So why should an organization spend money on these team endeavours? It costs money, usually time away from work is involved, and it is difficult to measure results. Those are the usual arguments that are presented. Others include: “we did it last year and it wasn’t great”, “I had to spend time with others I don’t normally”, and “we do this, and nothing changes back at work”.

So, with these attitudes and arguments why would anyone invest their time and $$ into teambuilding?

The Construction Industry Federation, based in Dublin, Ireland does a superb job of establishing the case for investing in team building in their September 2018 newsletter, https://ciftraining.ie/2018/03/the-benefits-of-teamwork-in-the-workplace/ , citing benefits like; establishes strong relationships, improves communication skills, improves morale and promotes innovation. The historical challenge has always been “How do we measure success?”

Rise People, a Canadian HR and Training Firm identifies at least five metrics used as indicators for the effectiveness of teambuilding. In most cases it is recommended to conduct a pre and post event survey on these metrics. https://risepeople.com/blog/5-metrics-team-member-performance/

The premise that social play positively contributes to improved performance is being put to the test at the time of writing by a school just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. The experiment is in its early stages but already improvements in attention and performance, not to mention attitude towards school in general have improved. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/doubling-recess-alternative-schedule-gives-bruderheim-students-more-wiggle-time It’s not a stretch to apply these practices to the adult workplace.

Informally asking my clients why they continually invest in a team-based event has garnered a variety of responses; “a nice departure from regular office interactions – we get to know each other in a different light”, “we need to remind ourselves that we need each other’s support”, we only get together once a year so its good to have fun together and reconnect”, “not everybody plays golf so we need something that everyone can do”.

Team Building for All Seasons

Team Building for All Seasons

Often, I’m asked during a client consultation (especially from October to March) if it is feasible to conduct a team building session outside. I normally reply yes but insist upon some further discovery.

Many clients, especially those who are traveling to an out of city to a resort area want to take advantage of what the outdoor space has to offer and why not? It always seems a waste to travel to some very scenic locations and spend most of the time indoors looking out.

Some of the essential items on my client conversation checklist include:

Weather Contingency – While its great to experience an outdoor teambuilding session, mother nature doesn’t always cooperate. Years ago, we had one instance at a resort near Huntsville, Ontario where a financial institution had brought in members from their global investments group and wanted to conduct a fun and interactive team event that took place outdoors. This was late October and it snowed 20 cm the night before. Even the local group members were unprepared for the changing conditions. Luckily, we had organized a plan “B” and quickly adjusted the delivery to be mainly inside. The result was a great experience with participants still getting to spend some time outside in areas that did not compromise their footwear or safety.

Clothing List – A recommended list of clothing and personal items should accompany any communication where an outdoor team event is delivered. It shouldn’t mean that participants have to spend a lot of $$ outfitting themselves for an expedition. It should focus on what participants already have (windbreaker, hat, running shoes, water bottle) and take into account local seasonal weather conditions. A recommended list for an outdoor program in Banff in February will likely be different from on for Vancouver or Toronto at the same time.

Client Demographics – Client mobility/accessibility is a consideration in planning and delivering a team experience, especially season to season. Inclusion should be the goal of every program design. Unique roles and responsibilities allow all participants to interact while contributing to the experience and leveraging outcomes.

Venue Partners – Leveraging the knowledge and expertise of the venue partner can make the difference between an ok outcome and a great experience. I have made it a priority to invest in the relationships of our various venue partners both past and present as they are the experts on their own properties. Often times we include them in our planning process as they bring ideas and knowledge we would not otherwise know. In many cases we have designed unique experiences and utilized spaces at venues that have enhanced our clients experience.

Safety and Risk Management – When planning for an outdoor session, seasonal conditions need to be considered. An outdoor surface which is a perfect setting in milder parts of the year can become unsafe and slippery in colder weather. Providers should be able to present their risk management plan to organizations along with their program outlines. 

Team Building for all


It’s popular thinking to assume today, that inclusiveness is universal in many aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. As a Western society, we like to maintain that being inclusive is more than a trend.

Yet I have found in many recent client conversations that inclusiveness needs to extend beyond an invitation to a function. Including doesn’t just mean accommodating. It needs to be an active component in program design and delivery so that all participants feel they have an opportunity to participate and contribute.

Quality program and event designs can integrate this consideration into the planning process. Venues are chosen for their accessibility and ease of navigation. Client consultations can identify unique considerations. Activities and events can contain a combination of physical and cognitive challenges, so participants may freely choose a role that maximizes their participation/contribution.

Over the last 7 years, we have worked with a national, not for profit organization that has become our corporate charity (Children’s Wish Foundation). We have facilitated several events across the country which feature corporate sponsors raising dollars to grant children who are facing a myriad of challenges, a wish for themselves. In the beginning, we designed events that allowed the sponsoring business to get together and compete for fun as a reward for their efforts. Gradually we have been able to design and deliver the same experience and include the participation of the Wish Kids and their families. This has resulted in the Wish Kids and their families developing a closer bond with their organizational sponsors.

Inclusion can happen in many different forms and opportunities. The benefits are widely regarded; more opportunity for input, understanding, investment, and participation. Which leads to innovation, collaboration, and better solutions.

Do I leave with this question: What are you doing to promote inclusiveness?

Bill Nutter

Managing Partner