Is it “Viva Las Vegas” for the next meeting?

Dear Ken Keller,

Around this time of the year we have a company retreat. We review how the year has gone, work to set goals for next year and try to do some fun stuff as a team.

During the recession we stayed local but it has been a good year and my people have worked hard, so I want to reward their loyalty and results by going out of town. When I brought this topic up at the last management meeting, everyone told me they wanted to go to Las Vegas .

I’m not opposed to going there because I understand the attraction but I don’t want it to be one big party on the company; meaning my dime.

Care to weigh in?

Pat D.

Dear Pat:

It’s no surprise that Las Vegas is a place where your people want to go; the place is a playground for adults. From your budget perspective, keep in mind that sleeping and meeting rooms are generally reasonable, airplane flights are frequent and not over the top expensive, and many different types of team building activities are available.

During my tenure in Corporate America and as a CEO I have participated, produced and facilitated many retreats for employees and clients. The question that has to be answered is: what is the purpose for having this meeting and what are the goals (deliverables)?

You’ve been pretty clear about your purpose which is to reward your people. You wish to thank them for their efforts, for sticking with you as an employer and for the financial and other results they have generated.

But the protein question is when the meeting is over, what are the tangible results you want to have?

Do you want the operating plan to be completed? Do you want a stronger, more unified team? Do you want clarity of company purpose, mission, and vision? Do you want everyone to be clear about their role and responsibilities in execution, support, growth and service?

Perhaps you could challenge your management team to answering the question, without your input, of: what does a successful meeting in Las Vegas look like as we depart and head home?

This will keep the team focused on what issues are at hand, address your concern that the managers present will be having one big, non-stop party and will reinforce the business nature of the trip.

You should be clear in your own mind that the best retreats end with no less than three and not more than five goals and completed action plans for each laid out. If your team can do this, you’ll be in the top tier.

As for the party animals you think you have on staff, you know who they are. Simply need to tell them that you expect them to behave in a mature and responsible manner while on company business.


Dear Ken Keller,

One area I struggle with as a leader is to define our Competitive Advantage. Do you have any suggested resources to help me learn more about this?

Fred D.

Dear Fred:

Your issue was highlighted in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. About half of the CEOs surveyed have trouble identifying and communicating the competitive advantage of their companies.

Blue Ocean Strategy would be a helpful place for you to start. Written by W. Chan Kimand and Renee Mauborgne, the book is laid out in an easy to understand way and provides tools for any business owner to address their competitive situation through use of strategy maps.