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The Case for Building Your Employees a Tree House

Rope bridge? Check. Slide? Check. This CEO went out on a limb to foster creativity and innovation at his company. Here's what he gained from creating a zany work environment.
GO CLIMB A TREE: At the Chicago office of Red Frog Events, employees can hold a meeting in one of two elevated conference rooms in an in-office tree house. And it's done wonders for the company's bottom line.
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One of the best investments I've ever made for my business was building a tree house in the middle of our office.

It wasn't an insignificant investment: It cost more than $100,000.

The tree house and its slide, rope bridge, and two meeting rooms is the stand-out fixture in our office space. As soon as we had the tree house installed, my team backed it up by filling our entire 17,000-square-foot office with other assorted camp-themed fun that includes a zipline, a rock climbing wall, and a conference table made of 50,000 Legos. There's something surprising and fun at almost every turn.

Why invest so much in a workspace? First of all, for us, it just felt right. We're a young, creative, and fast-growing company. We pride ourselves on constant innovation. Camp Red Frog—what we call our unique office environment—fits our culture while also providing a comfortable place to call our home away from home.

There are direct benefits we've experienced since building a creative work environment:

  1. Easier recruitment. We've touted our creative work environment at more than 100 job fairs at universities across the country and now receive more than 2,000 resumes from eager applicants every single month. Camp Red Frog attracts top talent.

  2. Increased happiness. Happy and appreciative employees are productive employees. How do you get happy employees? Let them take breaks at the company bar, play an arcade game, or brainstorm in a room full of swings. It's pretty hard not to be happy when you're on a swing.

  3. Elevated creativity. One of Red Frog's core values is fostering innovation and creativity, and when you mix creative people in a creative environment, everyone’s creativity is elevated.

  4. Mutual appreciation. When company leaders invest so much in an office space, it sends a message to all the employees that we care, and it signals that we’re investing in the long-term health of the company.

  5. Media attention. Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce named us the "United States Small Business of the Year" and we recently followed that up with being named the Chicago Tribune's "Best Small Company to Work For." Camp Red Frog helped us win these awards and get the media attention that followed.

We're in the beginning phases of building 19,000 square feet of additional office space in our same building in Chicago, and I'm doubling down. The biggest challenge will be figuring out how to crane in the RV.

IMAGE: Torchia Associates, architect, and photo by Padgett and Company
Last updated: Dec 1, 2011

JOE REYNOLDS | Columnist | Founder, Red Frog Events

Joe Reynolds turned a $5,000 investment in an event production business called Red Frog into a thriving $45 million company in just four years. Red Frog Events was named the 2011 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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