If there's a more fun-obsessed CEO than Greg Wittstock, we haven't met him. Join us on a tour of his pleasure dome.
Wallyball Anyone“The company that sweats together stays together,” says Greg Wittstock, CEO of the pond-supply company Aquascape.
Is Everybody Happy? Greg Wittstock in a company training room
Plenty of Play Sports facilities to match employee passions
Once upon a time, there was a company called Aquascape, which was known throughout the kingdom for its pond-building supplies. Long ago--in the early '90s--Aquascape's CEO and founder, Greg Wittstock, dubbed himself "The Pond Guy" and guardian of the company culture. Under his rule, the business grew and grew. The CEO was able to buy many beanbag chairs for his office. And all was well.
But one day the employees came to him with a problem.
"Alas," cried the employees, "we have no soccer field. When we play in the parking lot after work, our shins, they get scraped, and we cannot do our sweet moves."
"If I built you a soccer field, would that make you happy?" the CEO asked.
"Almost," answered the employees. "We could use a hot tub."
"I will see what I can do," the CEO said.
As he was walking away, the employees added, "Oh, and if we could have a place to nap in the afternoons, that would be great. Thanks!"
The CEO scoured the land of St. Charles, Illinois, for the fairest of sites and piled together the company's gold--$19 million--to build a new home for Aquascape. It was decreed that about 20 percent of the new 250,000-square-foot fortress, which was to be called Aqualand, would be dedicated to the highest purpose: horsing around. The company built a racquetball court, an indoor soccer field, a batting cage, and other places of merriment. Then the CEO asked for a magical security system that would allow access to just the fun stuff, so that the employees and their friends could play in Aqualand on the weekends too.
Construction went on day after day, until five seasons had passed. At last, the building was finished, and the 140 employees rejoiced. They played air hockey, and Ping-Pong, and billiards, and wallyball, and soccer, and racquetball, and basketball, and dodgeball. They took naps and frolicked in the hot tub. Oh, and they did some work too. The company grew to $56 million in annual sales.
And they all lived happily after.
The managers and the wallyball princess
Aquascape's indoor racquetball court doubles as a space for wallyball games (it's like volleyball, but you can bounce the ball off the walls). The company's managers (here they are) have regularly scheduled games every Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon, and many of them also play on their lunch hours. "We've gotten very good," says Ben Cruz, the HR director (shown third from the left). "We've all developed skills, like putting spin on the ball so that it goes over the net and drops quicker into the court." Maybe so, but this spring the managers were served a dose of humility by Cindy Yuan-Suger, who works in the IT department and used to play on a city volleyball team in Beijing. She single-handedly bested a team of four managers, 15--0. Cruz says they'll be ready to beat Yuan-Suger soon. Her response: "That's what they think."
Just like Rapunzel
Aquascape's employees have always let down their hair by playing sports. Now they have facilities worthy of their passion. They can sign up for weekly yoga and aerobics classes, and anyone can schedule time on the courts or in the batting cage. Pickup games happen all the time, too. Aquascape even has a fitness committee, the Fit Crew, to schedule events such as the company 5K race and the office Olympics, which includes some less strenuous events like the paper-airplane-making contest and the toilet paper shot put.
This one's just right
The part of Aqualand that probably inspires the most oohs and aahs from visitors is the hot tub, but it's not quite as crowded as you might expect. Yes, there are employees who like to end every single workday with a soak, but others are averse to the idea of sauntering in front of their co-workers in a bathing suit. And Wittstock has been able to persuade only a small percentage of workers to take a dip in the adjacent pool of chilly water, the cold plunge, which happens to be his favorite part of the whole building.
And they fell into a deep sleep
Wittstock gave the employees $16,000 to decorate the eight nap rooms. Among the themes the employees came up with are the bug bungalow (center left), the Native American room (upper left), and an Ohio State room (lower right)--a tribute to Wittstock's alma mater. Any employee can use the rooms for a little quiet time or a catnap. Expectant mother Mary Troyak helped design the summer porch room (she is pictured appreciating it on the lower left). Troyak, whose baby is due this month, says that when she feels exhausted in the afternoons, she'll head to the nap room for 30 minutes. "I don't know of any of my friends who have the opportunity to lie down in the middle of the day and for it to be okay," she says.