TeamSnap’s All-Company Meeting is the Antidote to the Typical ‘Offsite’

Last winter I was working at a job I hated when I serendipitously came across a Craigslist posting for a marketing manager position at TeamSnap. After a six-week, extremely thorough application process that involved five interviews and two writing assignments, I was hired and invited to begin my new position by flying to Denver, getting picked up by my new boss and driving 3.5 hours to Steamboat Springs for the company’s twice-yearly all-company meeting.

I had no idea what to expect. I was jumping in not with both feet or head first but in what felt like a belly flop.

That April meeting was simultaneously exhausting and refreshing. I met about 50 new people, learned a ton and had a blast. The belly flop turned out to be a swan dive, and I realized why TeamSnap was so exhaustive in the interview process. What struck me most was how invested in culture everyone was, and that’s not something you can figure out on paper.

This meeting was unlike any other “offsite” I’d ever experienced. Senior management didn’t hole up in a cave, plotting their next move. Instead, everyone stayed mostly together, discussing the direction of the company and the product, with managers taking notes on suggestions for improvements and changes. We didn’t go out to overpriced, stuffy dinners at steakhouses. Instead, everyone helped prepare family-style meals, and we all ate (and cleaned up) together. Despite the fact that everyone was tired after dinner, groups broke out to play games, chat or hit the hot tub. It didn’t feel like a company meeting, it felt like going back to summer camp with 50 of the best friends I never knew I had.

At our most recent all-company meeting I got to see others experience the same thing I experienced at my first meeting. This meeting was even more important to me than the first one, where I was meeting my new co-workers and hearing about my job for the first time, because I felt like I was now responsible for carrying on the TeamSnap Torch of Awesomeness.

Fast forward six months later, and I’m no longer a n00b at this quickly growing company. In fact, another employee had his first day at our October all-company meeting last week. One of the things that resonated most with me during this latest meeting was that now I was one of the employees evangelizing and exemplifying that TeamSnap culture. Here are just a few of the statements I heard from new employees at the recent meeting:

  • “I love how there are no cliques. Everyone talks to everyone.”
  • “I’m still finding it hard to believe that we really have flexible hours and unlimited vacation time.”
  • “There is a level of trust right off the bat that I’ve never seen in any other company.”
  • “I love how open to collaboration people are, even in a remote work environment.”
  • “I would stab someone for the last of Jacob’s chocolate chip cookies.”

We get a lot done at these meetings. We solve process problems, we brainstorm new features, we even held a hackathon this time around. But because we’re so regularly collaborative, there are usually no surprise announcements when we get together. And although the meetings are productive, most employees will tell you that the best reason for having them is to emphasize togetherness and our culture of humor, teamwork, investment, responsibility and ownership.

Sure, it’s easy to dismiss this as simply “drinking the Kool-Aid,” but the reality is that when people like their job and like their coworkers, they become more invested in their company. They want it to succeed. They want to be part of the reason it succeeds.

Never in my career have I witnessed that more than at a TeamSnap all-company meeting. Whether you’ve been at TeamSnap since Day 1 or it is your personal Day 1, you’re immediately invested, and it shows.

Stephanie Myers is the Content Manager for TeamSnap, managing such content as this blog, the TeamSnap newsletter and much more. When she’s not being the boss of content, you can find Stephanie playing in a competitive skee-ball league in Austin, Texas.

 

 

RAISE THE GAME™ Success Story: How To Raise Over $2,000 in 45 Days

“Practice? We talkin’ bout practice?” … No, we’re talking about fundraising!

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Craig de Blois is a dedicated hockey parent. He wants the best for his son and his son’s hockey team. So in addition to being the coach of the team, he joined the committee that no one puts their hand up for — the fundraising committee. But like so many other parents, he is frustrated with traditional fundraising, so he set out to make a difference.

While looking for easy fundraising ideas, he came across RAISE THE GAME™ powered by Under Armour. In 45 days, the Whitby Wildcats Minor Atom AE team raised over $2,000. We sat down with Craig and asked him to share his team’s experiences with us:

  • What is your fundraising goal for this year?

Our fundraising budget for this year is $20,000. We typically raise half of this amount through corporate sponsorships, which leaves about $10,000 for fundraising programs. In the past, we’ve organized around 10 fundraising programs for the year with a goal of raising an average of $1,000 each.

  • What types of fundraising programs has your team participated in the past to help you reach your fundraising goal?

Anything you can think about, we’ve done it! We’ve gone door-to-door selling chocolate bars and calendars, collected beer bottles, sold meat, raffle tickets and entries to NHL pools. Some help us raise more money than others, but it is typically difficult to get the whole team involved with all of these programs and the effort most often outweighs the return unfortunately.

  • What was the one feature of RAISE THE GAME™ that helped your team surpass its fundraising goal?

I really liked the feature that allowed me to build a fundraising team online. It was really easy to get all the parents involved with this program because all they had to do was sign up online and sell the offers by email. We had 27 parents sign up and even had some fun with it. We created a group challenge that pitted moms versus dads to see who could raise more money. The losing team had to sing a karaoke song at the team Halloween party, and the winning team got to pick the song. It looked like the dads really didn’t want to sing because they beat the moms handily!

  • Did your perspective of fundraising change after your campaign?

Absolutely. Fundraising will always be an unfortunate reality we must face if we want to travel for tournaments or get extra ice-time for practice but RAISE THE GAME™ made it much easier and more enjoyable than ever before. Our family and friends shopped with Under Armour and other retailers that people actually wanted to buy from and we earned great commissions off each sale. It was also very effortless because the entire program was online. We didn’t have to stand outside collecting bottles or go door-to-door selling anything, that was a major benefit.

  • What does the rest of the season look like for fundraising?

Because we raised more than double our average fundraiser with RAISE THE GAME™, we can afford to sit out some of the other fundraising programs we had planned. We’re already planning another RAISE THE GAME™ campaign leading up to Christmas to take advantage of the holiday shopping season!

Brian is the Fundraising Experience Manager at FlipGive. He spends each day speaking with fundraisers and trying to find solutions to make fundraising not suck anymore! In his spare time, Brian is busy being the best uncle ever!

 

In Support of Excellence: Single-Sport Focus Isn’t a Bad Thing

For some time now, we’ve been reading articles, blogs and op-eds about kids (and their parents) spending an inordinate amount of time and money on a single sport, obsessing about Johnny’s batting average or Ashley’s first touch on the ball. We read stories about crass behavior and excessive demands exhibited by parents of children participating in youth sports — the sideline coaching, the game postmortems on the way home, discussions about college scholarships when the kids are on the Pop Warner Mighty-Mites, and so forth.

As a soccer parent for the past 17 years, I have seen it all. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am also one of “those” offenders, and I’m here to explain why, in the proper context, it’s not such a bad thing.

A natural athletic ability is actually very easy to identify in a child. Speed, agility, balance, and competitiveness are things we are pretty much born with (or not). Stardom may not be predictable, but potential is identifiable. This is never a problem with individual sports: I have not read any blog complaining about how much parents spend on budding tennis champions, PGA golfers or Olympian ice skaters. From a young age, these athletes are expected to focus on their sport in a very intense and expensive manner. For some reason though, this same approach is considered anathema by many in a team-sport setting.

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On any team, at any age, there is great variability in skill-set. These differences materialize rapidly, and we usually quickly see who’s the “star” on the field — the softball pitcher who strikes out everybody, the blazingly fast wide receiver, the soccer goalkeeper who seems to simply pull balls out of the air. These kids all have a shot at taking their skill to the next level, be it on a top club team, the high school varsity team and, perhaps, in the collegiate arena. However, these top youth athletes are still in an environment that frowns on the effort, focus and determination required to excel in their sport. Those who say, “Let them be kids,” are oblivious to what it takes to achieve greatness, and its value to the child’s development.

If a 6-year-old child displays glimmerings of genius in chess or on the violin, we wouldn’t think twice about an intense pursuit of their gifts. But try to do that in a team-sport setting, and you’re accused of “robbing your kid’s childhood,” instead of encouraging them to maximize their God-given potential.

Ours is a “pay-to-play” society. Children typically don’t leave home at age 8 to join club-funded or state-supported residential athletic programs. So it is important that we realize our community athletic programs, while being “fun” for all, are also the fertile grounds from which our superstars emerge. Let’s recognize that and cheer both the athletes and their committed parents as they journey onwards to excellence.

Adee Feinstein is a professional soccer dad and Founder and Mad Hatter at PassHat, the private group collection and gift company.

 

 

TeamSnap 3.0.1 for iOS is Here!

ScheduleWe’re super-excited today to take the wraps off the latest and greatest version of TeamSnap for your iOS device. Version 3.0.1 (code name: “Version 3.0.1″) has a beautiful new design that looks great on iOS 8, as well as a bunch of improvements we think you’re going to love.

The first thing you’ll notice is that we’ve refined the look and feel. As much as we dig TeamSnap orange, we’ve gone for a look that uses orange as an accent instead of ORANGE-ALL-THE-THINGS! We think the new design looks modern, inviting and (dare we say) snappy. The new look matches our recently released Android update, and we’ll be bringing this to the web as well in the coming months.

You’ll also notice our all-new Availability widget right on the Schedule page. Setting availability from the mobile app is now lightning fast as you can just cruise through the list of games and set your availability with a tap-tap-tap. At a glance, you can see which games and practices you’ll be attending. We’ve also made Team Availability easier to find and easier to use, so coaches have a better picture of who’s in and who’s out.

We’ve redesigned the schedule detail page to make it easier to see all the details you need to know about your upcoming game — maps, availability, refreshments and more, all in one place. And we’ve redesigned the Overview page so you can see what’s coming up.

Finally, if you signed up for early access to our upcoming TeamSnap Live! feature, you can take a sneak peek in version 3.0.1 of TeamSnap for iOS — this is the first version with beta access to our all-new live chat and score updating feature that lets you keep up with the game even if you can’t be at the game. Don’t have TeamSnap Live? Sign up for early access.

And we’ve only scratched the surface. Version 3.0.1 of TeamSnap for iOS lays the groundwork for some exciting things to come on mobile. We think you’re going to love it, but we’re also eager to hear your feedback so we can make TeamSnap even more useful for you.

Note: Make sure you update your device to version 3.0.1. Version 3.0.0 had a few pesky bugs that have now been fixed.

 

Why the Best Vacation Policy is No Policy At All

A few days after a recent new hire started at TeamSnap, the two of us had this conversation:

EMPLOYEE: “I’m so sorry … I have to run out for a half hour to pick up a sick kid.”

ME: “Why are you telling me this?”

And then a few days later:

EMPLOYEE: “I need to leave a couple hours early today for a doctor’s appointment … I hope that’s not a problem.”

ME: “I don’t have any idea what hours you work, so I wouldn’t even know if you left early.”

And then after another week:

EMPLOYEE: “Would it be OK if I took Friday morning off to go to a park with my family? I’ll take my laptop and work as soon as I get there.”

ME: “No, it’s not OK. If you’re going to the park with your family you should spend time having fun.”

It usually takes a few more conversations like this until new employees truly believe what we say — TeamSnap really doesn’t have set hours or a vacation policy. We trust you to get your work done. And we’re dead serious about work-life balance.

Maybe it’s because I went to an alternative high school where students were treated like adults (open campus, no hall passes, calling teachers by their first names), but I have always had a visceral aversion to the idea that employees of a company should have to ask permission to live their lives. I remember in my very first job at an advertising agency, the company president suggested that we should restrict our extracurricular activities outside of the office so as not to tire ourselves for the work week. Needless to say, I didn’t last long there.

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Judging people on the work they produce and not on when their butt is in a specific chair at a specific time makes all kinds of sense. Our customers care about the features they see when they open the TeamSnap app; they care very little about whether the guy who designed those features was in the office at 3:20 p.m.

This kind of work flexibility is a big change for those who are used to playing corporate games or office politics. Being the first person at your desk and the last to leave means absolutely nothing at TeamSnap. Playing the “I worked on this all weekend” card is going to fall on deaf ears. We care only about the work you produce, not how you got there. Those who excel are rewarded — those who don’t quickly find themselves shown the door.

Flexible work hours make logical sense in a mostly distributed company like TeamSnap. Since we span every time zone in the USA (and some in Europe), the concept of “business hours” makes little sense. But even people at our HQ in Boulder play by the same rules. Some people come into the office every day. Some work from home half the time or drop in for the afternoon once in a while. And even the office manager sometimes works from home. We’re not tracking anyone’s hours and we don’t confuse being in the office (wherever that is) for “working.” Working is producing work. That’s the only thing that counts.

How and when you produce work at TeamSnap is entirely up to you. You can work mornings or nights or weekends. You can work from your home office or a coffee shop or a beach in Argentina. A few crazy people come into the Boulder office every day and maintain a strict 9-5 schedule. We don’t judge.

Of course this doesn’t mean you have unlimited license to disappear into a black hole. We’re split into teams and each team has regular (and irregular) meetings. We collaborate extensively via chat and email and Google Hangouts, and it’s not cool to vanish off the radar without being reachable if needed. With flexibility comes the responsibility to communicate and collaborate — be available when your team needs you and communicate clearly when you won’t be.

The TeamSnap Vacation Policy

For years, our vacation policy was basically “take whatever vacation you need.” In recent years, we’d refined that to suggesting “about three weeks per year” before opting for an unlimited vacation time policy. That basically means that if your workload allows, and you clear it with your team, you can take off as much time as you need. Nobody’s counting. As a manager, I’ve spent far more time badgering my employees to take time off than worrying about someone taking too much vacation.

Our flexible working model often blurs the line between vacation and working anyway. Employees will sometimes work part-time during a family vacation instead of checking out entirely. Would I rather have someone completely offline for three weeks or partly available for six weeks? Honestly, as long as they get their work done and coordinate with their team, I don’t care. The only thing I do care about is that people fully unplug occasionally. Everyone needs a break to recharge, and I will not hesitate to tell someone to take a real, non-working vacation.

By not having a formal vacation policy we get away from the time-wasting overhead of tracking, approving and reimbursing for vacation hours accrued, used and unspent. We do away with the ridiculous charade of calling in “sick” or taking personal days. We simply trust people to do what’s right.

But most importantly, when companies stop counting work hours and vacation days, employees stop counting those things too. So when the server suddenly blows up at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, everyone dives in to fix the problem instead of throwing up their hands and saying “I’m not at work.”

And when the Android app needs last minute QA and bug fixes on a Friday night, nobody cries that they’re putting in a 16-hour day. Flexible hours isn’t a perk we give to our employees; it’s a shared responsibility that benefits the people and the company equally.

Last week I had this conversation with that new employee:

EMPLOYEE: “Is it OK for me to take vacation the first week in October?”

ME: “Why in the world are you asking me? Coordinate with your team.”

And the beat goes on. Old corporate habits die hard. Luckily, by treating TeamSnap’s employees as responsible adults who are partners in building our company, my biggest worry as a manager is convincing people that they really have this kind of freedom to work their best way.

P.S. We’re hiring.