Team-building exercises — those company-wide events usually held offsite to nurture a sense of community among staff — have traditionally taken the shape of a corporate retreat to a spa or a visit to a local watering hole’s karaoke night. But the team building menu has expanded well beyond the mundane and several local firms are looking to take advantage of that evolution.
“What we offer is something unique and different from other places — and something that’s a lot of fun,” declared Lisa Cannon, co-owner with her husband Rob of Thrillz High Flying Adventure Park at 21 Prindle Lane in Danbury. “And team-building was one of the things we wanted to offer when we opened last year.”
Together with the long-established Bounce! Trampoline Sports facility in the same building, the Cannons can offer 70,000 square feet of space for such activities as rope courses, climbing walls, laser tag and the pause-inducing axe throwing — something NBC News tipped last year as “the new league sport.”
“We can customize team-building events to the needs of whatever companies want,” Cannon said. “The object at any of these events is to have a fun day together that can build confidence in individuals as well as from being a part of a group.”
Thrillz has also introduced gaming competitions for millennials (and the millennial-minded) featuring Super Smash Bros. and other popular video games. “It depends on how many employees want to do gaming,” Cannon allowed. “Not every company wants to do that.”
Recent clients include Ridgefield drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim, Western Connecticut State University’s field hockey team from Danbury and The Muse Brooklyn, which utilizes circus-derived exercises for therapy, fitness and as a form of play.
A team of 10, both students and teachers, many with ties to Cirque du Soleil, spent a recent day climbing, leaping, swinging and jumping among Thrillz’s themed “challenge” areas partly inspired by the “American Ninja Warrior” TV series.
“As a team-building experience, it was terrific,” said Muse Brooklyn founder Angela Buccinni. “All the challenges were new and difficult and had everyone cheering on their teammates. We felt like we were warriors in another world, maybe a video game or the outer reaches of space. And we can’t wait to return.”
Another out-of-the-ordinary company testing the team-building waters is Arthur Murray Dance Center of Danbury, which Andy Cabell has been looking at to expand its reach since buying the franchise last year.
The Danbury branch of global corporate relocation company Cartus last year hosted a lunchtime event at its 40 Apple Ridge Road offices with the dance studio, at which Cabell and one of his instructors oversaw a brief dance class and then invited employees to try their hands and feet at the cha-cha and merengue.
“We talked a little about the history and music of each dance,” Cabell said, “and then worked with different groups. They were looking to integrate something new into their ‘Lunch and Learn’ initiative and we got some really nice feedback. It was fun for them. It’s a great way of building confidence and relationships beyond who you’re sitting in a desk next to.”
Another potential client is Danbury’s Union Savings Bank, Cabell said, which again would involve a visit to its 226 Main St. headquarters. “We also have plenty of space to do team building here,” Cabell noted, “but with the time factor a lot of companies feel it’s easier for us to go to them. It can be hard to get employees to commit to traveling somewhere else after hours or on the weekends.”
But team building isn’t a side business for everybody.
Vancouver’s Outback Team Building & Training is, as its name suggests, fully invested in such exercises, with activities ranging from escape rooms and team puzzle-solving competitions to smartphone scavenger hunts, cardboard boat building challenges and “The Amazing Chase,” its own spinoff of CBS’ “The Amazing Race.”
Outback Director of Marketing Datis Mohsenipour said the firm’s Norwalk branch has hosted 10 corporate team-building events.
“Some clients know exactly what they want and request a specific event,” he said. “Some clients look for a recommendation. No matter what, we try to learn as much as we can about their program objectives, group dynamics, budget and desired outcomes before our employee engagement consultants make a recommendation.
“It’s not unheard of to have a prospective client call in with an exact idea of what they have in mind,” he continued, “but then end up signing up for a completely different solution that better meets their group’s needs, after their consultation.”
Started in 1992 as an adventure company that sold paddling and hiking expeditions, the company shifted to creating team-building events in 2000 and introduced training and development programs in 2015. Run by professional facilitators who specialize in skill development and experiential learning, those programs focus on such topics as leadership, management, sales, communication and team dynamics.
“Many corporate groups include team building and training at their offsite retreats or annual meetings. The two tend to go hand-in-hand,” Mohsenipour said. “While we offer experiential training — team building with training elements built into it — we wanted to solve the pains of our customers by offering training and consulting solutions as well. We felt that becoming a one-stop shop would enhance the overall customer experience and address a clear need in the marketplace.”
Cannon said that she anticipated adding more activities to Thrillz’s team-building menu.
“It can be ‘Color War for Big People,’ ” she said, referring to the competitions held at many summer camps nationwide. “It’s fun, it’s organized and it can help break down barriers and build confidence.”
Go Team: Companies experimenting