Have Fun While You Grow

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Chris McCann is Director of Human Resources at Ahead, the #2-ranked company on CRN's Fast Growth 2011 list.

With today’s 24x7 connectivity and difficult business environment, fun is frequently a word that’s not in a CEO’s vocabulary. Sometimes we forget to let our employees – and ourselves – stop and smell the proverbial roses.

That’s a mistake that can stunt your business growth. You can have the best products, people, business model and operational systems in the world, but you will fail if your employees don’t enjoy working for you. That, at least, is our philosophy at Ahead.

While we easily spend more than half our life at work, it should not be what defines us as people. In a small growing company, there are uncommon demands put on employees, who are asked to push the envelope on a consistent basis. This, unfortunately, means long hours and sometimes high stress. We’ve recognized that and attempt to ease the pressure by providing opportunities for employees to engage as a team, share stories and relax.

For example, twice a month everyone gathers in our reception area for socializing, appetizers, and relaxation. There’s a different theme every time, from miniature golf (with a mini-course set up throughout the office) to the TV series ‘Cheers’ (with lead characters played by company executives). It’s a way for salespeople, engineers, back-office, delivery and other staffers to mingle and build a team mentality.

Beside these typical employee-only events, we are planning family-oriented company outings—including picnics and holiday parties—intended to not only reward the employees, but to acknowledge their lives outside the office.

Creating an environment where people are recognized as individuals, and not just job titles, cultivates the work-life balance everyone seeks. Ultimately, being respected and feeling part of a team—something greater than one’s self—is, in fact, FUN. Any company can throw parties or have a ping-pong table in the lunch room, but fostering the work-life balance will bring a smile to everyone’s face—long after the ping-pong table gets lost.

Last week, in Spend Money to Make Money, Ahead VP Sean Burns discussed how building an onsite lab helped boost revenue and credibility.

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