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thinkspace Year in Review 2015

The only time you should look back is to see how far you’ve come. I’m grateful for this team and I’m looking forward to connecting the dots forward in 2016!

thinkspace 2015 by Slidely Slideshow

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Work/Life Integration: Where Relationships are King

 

A famous African proverb states, “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” This proverb captures how important relationships are to getting things done. Relationships are at the core of all the activities that bring value to our work and our lives. Many times, relationships overlap in both areas. A colleague becomes a friend or a friend becomes a professional mentor. When we observe relationships integrating seamlessly between our work and our personal lives we have the opportunity to more effectively leverage the unlimited value that relationships offer in multiple areas of our lives.

As humans, we love to put everything into categories, yet relationships provide more value when they can remain fluid, flowing in and out of different areas of our lives. For example, today, I had breakfast with a guy who used to be my competitor. He’s now a friend, neighbor, and a client. He’s also given me valuable coaching on various aspects of my personal life. We are both one another’s customers. If I thought of my work and personal life as separate categories, I would have trouble figuring out which bucket to put him in. Would he be considered a customer or client? Or maybe I should view him as a friend and neighbor? Attempting to categorize our relationship into one of these buckets would actually limit the rich experience and expertise we bring to one another’s lives. Our relationship overlaps seamlessly in both professional and personal ways, which brings tremendous value to us in both areas.

Likewise, non-work settings can also be a source for cultivating valuable professional relationships. I attend bible study with a guy who happens to be the president of one of the largest private land holding companies in the country. As someone who curious about the trend of converting biomass into fuel, I immediately thought about my bible-study friend. Thanks to his expertise and experience in the land business, I bet he could offer insight into how to approach investing in this new technology. Again, if I siloed my friend into merely a Church friend, I would have missed out on the opportunity for us both to connect and benefit in a professional capacity. Chances are, you too belong to communities, groups, or participate in activities that offer many symbiotic friendships in both work and life.

The lesson here is that each person we meet in any setting, whether it be work or personal, provides us with the opportunity to add and take value regardless of whether we have clocked in or not.

Holiday Party Ideas for Startups

Big, lavish corporate holiday parties are a great way to help startups and teams unwind after a very busy and stressful year. This is the one time of year where winding down is acceptable for startups, though investors are understandably very alert to overspending on holiday festivities and other non-critical tasks.

So, what do you do when you want to throw a holiday party for your startup? Do you throw caution to the wind and break out the credit cards, or do you attempt instead to take the moreconservative route and keep it simple and casual?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: A holiday party is not something you want to use as a
promotional tool for your business. No matter how great the party might have been, history shows that startups with large party budgets tend to turn out to be bad investments in the long
run.

Back in the late ‘90s, the startup world was high on the dotcom bubble. Companies like Razorfish, a web design and marketing startup with clients that included Charles Schwab, went the lavish route and dropped five figures on a holiday party that included bellydancers, copious amounts of free food and beverages, and a line around the block. The party was seen as a tremendous publicity boost as stories of strippers and excessive drinking (likely just made up) became the buzz around town for several months after the party took place.

A little over a year later, the founding partners stepped down from senior management positions after several quarters of reported loss. The company eventually sold under new management.

Planning on a Budget

So, what can you do to make a budget-conscious holiday party work for your startup? First, be sure about how many people you’re throwing it for. Unless you are in the party business, it might not be the wisest idea to throw a major bash for the entire world to come and enjoy an open bar. Instead, consider your staff and their families the guests of honor. Here at thinkspace, we think planning a party for around 60 people with a budget of around $5k is ideal. This breaks down to about $80/person, but smaller companies have been known to spend as much as $100/person for a holiday party.

Depending on your budget, renting out a banquet hall and handling everything yourself allows you a bit more freedom to make the party match your particular company’s style, but this could also be an expensive and time-consuming option. Not all startups may have these resources, so you may want to think about renting a large meeting room inside a popular restaurant instead. This frees you up from cleanup, makes catering costs more predictable, and might even cover the issue of decoration. Sometimes, the best decorations are the ones that slowly disappear throughout the night. Jars filled with candy make an excellent and enjoyable centerpiece for any table, and anything left over can easily be trucked over to the office and made available to staff during the following workweek.

If you happen to be the in Seattle area, some great venues that fit into any startup’s holiday budget might include a party at the Garage, a night out at Teatro Zinzanni, a Christmas Cruise, or renting out Dilettantes on Broadway. (What’s better than celebrating the holidays than with chocolate and drinks?)

Combine Forces With Other Startups

As we all know, startups can’t exist without the rest of the community. You may be located in a building shared by other startups (such as thinkspace), or part of a collective that would be open to planning a join holiday party in which costsare split between the businesses involved. This would enable you to easily scale a cozy and intimate party up to a more lavish and open one where attendees can meet new people with similar backgrounds.

Everything is less expensive when its costs are distributed. A joint holiday party may even make it easier to justify the costs involved with an open bar, band, or who knows… maybe even some bellydancers…(just kidding, of course.)

If you’re in charge of organizing your startup’s holiday party,  how are you planning to celebrate? Share your ideas & advice in the comments!

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Why Having A Social Media Department Is A Bad Idea

When you think about the rise of social media and it’s prevalence in today’s business world, you would think that a company with the right resources should have their own social media department, if not only as a part of the marketing team.

That’s just plain wrong. A dedicated team for social is not the way to go about it and the numbers prove it. The idea is to create a social culture with people who have the tools and knowledge to drive authentic sharing, blogging, and a lively community without it being a huge burden on any one person or group.

The existence and adoption of social media platforms proves that humans by nature, want to share. Your employees are no different. Train them to do social regardless of the department they may work in and you’ll end up with a diverse group creating content that is going to appeal to a wide range of people. Not only that, you automatically get access to the combined social networks of all your employees because they want to share what they are up to and what they create with their friends and family.

Don’t departmentalize, teach everyone to socialize. You will find that you have a treasure trove of hidden talent and social superstars at your disposal. The authentic content that they create will drive traffic, brand recognition, culture, moral, and yes, fans, friends, followers and sales.

[Click to enlarge]

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Does Your Office Play Fantasy Football?

office fantasy footballOn Monday, July 25th the NFL Players Association signed a new collective bargaining agreement to end the 2011 NFL season lockout. For professional football fans, this is a huge sigh of relief. However, this announcement is also a celebration for the 15 million+ fantasy football participants. Are you one of them?

 

According to the Internet’s most credible source, the Urban Dictionary– fantasy football is defined as, “Dungeons and Dragons for meatheads,” and “a game for grown men that makes them regress back to childhood wherein they will turn on their best friends, argue to the death about anything, and become lifeless shells of their former selves.” –sounds like a healthy competitive outlet, right?

 

A more practical definition being, fantasy football is “a football competition with imaginary teams which the participants own, manage, and coach and with the games based on statistics generated by actual players or teams of a professional sport.”

For those of you who play fantasy football, have you integrated your fantasy football obsession into your workplace?

In order to stay competitive, fantasy football participants spend hours upon hours researching, studying, and analyzing the NFL. For some, fantasy football can be an awful distraction and an anti-productivity suck at the office. Essentially, fantasy football is a project manager’s worst nightmare.

NCAA March Madness pools are more commonly accepted and encouraged in the workplace- mostly because March Madness brackets are locked at the start of the tournament, and it’s only an office distraction for a couple of weeks. On the other hand, fantasy football leagues require active weekly participation, and a much longer time commitment for the 17-week season (not including playoffs). Employers may want to consider the implications of prohibiting fantasy sports in the workplace, and instead use fantasy sports as a tool to improve morale between coworkers, and to liven up the office chatter.

Why not start a fantasy league for your office? Here at thinkspace, we’re well aware that the word “office” means something different for everyone. Whether it’s your floor of coworkers, network of virtual employees, desk mates at your coworking space, or your fellow coffee shop entrepreneurs- you may want to consider starting a league at work.

Potential benefits of an office fantasy football league:
1.     Fun non-sales related competition
2.     Have something to talk about with people you usually have nothing in common with
3.     Fix your fantasy football addiction in healthy doses without having to go undercover
4.     Prize money
5.     Office Superbowl Parties

What do you think? Would you participate in a fantasy football league with your office? Employers, would you allow your employees to participate in a office fantasy league?

Most importantly, are you ready for some football?