Building teams in Startups : On and off site

Posted on March 20, 2013

From time to time, it’s good to try to take a bit of distance of the product development, and do something else with the team instead.

It does not always have to be a carefully organized team event: just taking a bit of casual time is enough to keep the culture and environment great.

The past year has been amazing for Ovelin. We have had a lot of changes, a lot of new people joining the team and of course, overall in new situation as company. To get everyone on the same page on the new phase that the company moved after securing funding, we decided to take the whole team offsite to a trip to Switzerland. This trip worked well on both getting new people familiarized with the old team members and on the other hand it offered chance to also look critically through our product roadmap. Some startups like Expensify actually take their team once a year to extended off site working and I can really why. As a team we got a lot out from the trip….and the skiing wasn’t too bad either 🙂

Of course you cant do this all the time, so what about rest of the year then?  I personally think that the more simpler the better the activity often is. Booking a sauna space for evening or then just grabbing beers on Friday gives at least for me much more than fine dining & program. When the sun is out and the weather nice, we often just enjoyed the Finnish summer Fridays in nearby park, playing guitar (that is the benefits of a music startup:  that you always have someone playing guitar and singing), having a few refreshing beverages and playing outdoor games.

We had a trip to the local zoo to check in real life if the animals really could be hypnotized with guitar playing as in our game Wildchords. Results? Well let’s just say that we definitely got reactions, both animals & humans.

So what is my point (in addition of sharing some cool pics about our trips) with this post? Before Ovelin, I used to work in a big >2000 person organization and I remember hating almost all the company events. Even if you worked in a great team, the company policies and hierarchies often play their role in everything you try to organize. Working together in small startup brings the benefit of being able to interact closer and being able to do what feels right instead of what is the common practice. So do grab those Friday beers, do sports or just hang out playing games if you feel like it, but the main thing is to spend some quality time with your teammates!

– Mikko

Mikko Kaipainen is the co-founder and COO of Ovelin. He likes sticking quotes of company employees on office walls to ensure their place in history for all eternity.

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