The Annual Kickoff Meeting

I attended the annual kickoff meeting for one of my portfolio companies recently. The company is called Spredfast and they did an absolutely fantastic job with their meeting. For a fast growing company establishing an annual kickoff meeting is a huge opportunity to create a strong culture and establish positive momentum for the new year.

Here were the key aspects of the meeting that I attended that I would recommend other companies establish as part of an annual tradition:

1) Educate — In any rapidly growing company, at least half of the people in the room each year will be new employees. A company kickoff is a perfect opportunity to educate employees about the market opportunity and the company’s positioning. In particular, give a product demo and describe the vision for future products. Get them on board with that vision and make sure each employee can give the company pitch.

2) Create Enthusiasm — Get the employees excited by sharing details about the company’s momentum. Whether it is new customers, revenue, competitive wins, new hires or whatever, just make sure they know they are doing something important and it is working.

3) Build Culture — Make sure to plan a team building activity that EVERYONE can participate in. No golf! Not enough people are comfortable playing golf and it isolates employees into small groups. Spredfast decided to play a casual kickball tournament. Everyone was able to participate and even those taking breaks were able to consume adult beverages :)

4) Celebrate & Reward — Celebrate the successes to date, no matter how small. But, most importantly, celebrate and recognize those employees who have been with the company longest. Establish annual awards for top performers that new employees can strive for during the year.

One final note about Location: I would recommend a venue far enough away that people need to spend the night, but still a reasonbly short drive (and appropriate accomodations). In the Bay Area, Half Moon Bay is perfect (but stay at the Beach House, not the Ritz). Just enough of a trip to change people’s frame of mind and allow for creative thinking. But, importantly, far enough away so that employees stay the night after having a company dinner.

Also, a note for any investors reading this. I am a new investor in Spredfast. There was simply no better way for me to get to know the entire extended team and more deeply appreciate the culture and vision of the company than by attending this offsite. I even had the opportunity to do a Q&A session for the employees so it was a good way for them to get to know me too. I would encourage investors to attend as many of these meetings as possible.

What other recommendations do you have for companies that want to establish an annual company kickoff tradition?

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