Beware of team building companies picking your pocket.

A month ago I attended the NCCPS conference in Boulder, CO.  This was my first time attending and it was quite good and interesting.  The conference used an “Open Space” format which is interesting because people just sort of gather and create the conference topics based on need and there is a general assumption that the needs can be met by the people in attendance.

I went to a workshop about “corporate team building” and found the general discussion was centered around how to “get into” delivering corporate programs.  As the discussion went around the room, I was beginning to connect the dots.  I realized that most (not all) of the people in the room represented organizations that were either non-profit or small organizations that had some kind of financial struggle going on.  Most organizations were trying to attract this new clientele because they believe they can charge higher fees for the services they provide.  In other words, “let’s charge them more because they can afford to pay it”.  Now, in their defense, these organizations are looking at this as a way to subsidize the programs that are barely breaking even but are having an impact on those they serve.  Is this wrong?  No, and I can think of a number or businesses that would gladly pay extra to help an organization continue to deliver their programs to those that need support.

So if it’s not wrong, why am I writing this?  Because I believe that if an organization is going to charge more for the same service they provide to others simply because they can, they should be fully transparent and let the client know that the higher fee is subsidizing other programs but the program itself and the facilitators delivering it are essentially the same.    A better solution however would be to develop a new program and train facilitators so they can deliver a program that is distinctly different, based clearly on the stated outcomes of the client, and is actually worth the money the client is paying.  This additional training and program development would also go a long way in helping the organization continue to develop, change and not become stagnant.

As an organization that does deliver corporate team building programs, I want to maintain the integrity of our industry and the work we do with our clients.  I’m a firm believer that this idea of charging more because you can will catch up with you sooner or later and it doesn’t serve our industry as a whole.  In fact, I am such a firm believer in this idea that I continually put myself out there to small and non-profit organizations in our industry to help them understand this and offer any support I can…free of charge.

I currently work with the YMCA of Honolulu and offer my time and consulting services for free.  I have worked with Sacramento State University and shared our resources with them at no charge and just last week spoke to a guy affiliated with the military in San Antonio that called, a bit worried, because he had been charged with delivering a 2-hour team building program to a group of 100 soldiers and he had never done anything like this before.  I offered to go down there and deliver the program for him for no fee and then stay an extra day and help train him and his staff so he could learn to deliver a program like this in the future but the timing didn’t work out.

So, if you are a corporate customer, you might consider asking questions to further clarify the qualifications of the organization and facilitators that will be delivering your program.  If you are non-profit or struggling organization that wants to work with more “high paying” groups, give me a call.  I’ll be happy to share my experience with you.