Current conditions in both the meetings industry and corporate America demand an inspiring break from traditional team building.
Chico, Calif.-based Odyssey Teams has attained that higher ground by offering programs ranging from an oft-copied Life Cycles program that has constructed more than 10,000 bikes for deserving children to a Helping Hands build that assembles prosthetic hands for donation to amputees in developing countries.
"Even the internal customer—the participant—is looking at the way their own company is spending money with a more critical eye," says Lain Hensley, COO of Odyssey Teams. "Event planners are in a critical point in that we know that it will drive the bottom line if our teams are stronger. We know the truth of the market but we have to point toward hope.
"You can’t question the value to the market, and the optics are wonderful," Hensley continues. "No one can say we shouldn’t have built a hundred bikes for kids—no one can say that."
Although the leadership team at Odyssey Teams has always been keen on philanthropy—President Bill John organized a running event to fight Lou Gehrig’s Disease more than 20 years ago—the company started off by offering traditional team-building programs that incorporated balloon towers, paper horses, Flintstones-style cars, paper towers and the like.
"Event planners still do them, but I think, what a waste of potential—all this creativity, energy and enthusiasm, and in the end the event planners say, "Now we have to throw it all away," Hensley offers. "In the end, instead of us wadding up a paper horse and putting it in a dumpster, why don’t we create something we can use?"
Hensley says Odyssey Teams, which has been in business since 1991, can also customize programs after meeting with clients to learn about their organizations. Past customers have included eBay, Wells Fargo, Pfizer, Kinko’s and Hilton Hotels.
"We have a background as speakers, so we can customize the training outcomes," he says, "but we’re not in the just-giggle and just-fun business—that’s not us. And I don’t think the market is about that now."
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