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The New Rules of Team-Building Activities

Here are 10 ideas for budget-friendly start-up outings that are a little more modern (and functional) than trust falls and weekends on the golf course.
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Trust falls and golf outings don't strike the right note for most young start-up teams today--especially if they're on a tight budget. We asked 10 successful founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council to share their advice for planning employee outings and retreats that are fun, functional, and wallet-friendly. Their best answers are below.

1. Try Mini Outings Instead

We host regular happy hours and mini outings to keep our team refreshed and connected. Twice a month, we budget $100-$200 for half-price happy hour appetizers or even just a pizza party. When you're busy grinding, it can be difficult to justify an hour of fun--but it's completely worth it. You'll return more relaxed and ready to get stuff done. --Justin Beck, PerBlue


2. Go Off the Beaten Path

Rent a house in an area that is rustic and pleasant, and only an hour or so away by car. It will feel like a getaway, but the cost will be astronomically less than in any major city or popular tourist destination. Assign a few cooks on your team to grocery shop, and accomplish your agenda over a couple of home-cooked meals. --Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work


3. Delegate Planning to Your Employees

Once an overall objective and budget is in place, assign different segments or days of the retreat to specific teams in the office. Sometimes it's also good if the assigned teammates have never worked with one another before; it can be an office culture-strengthening exercise. Getting people involved in the final plan creates accountability and anticipation--and an event most will look forward to. --Kent Healy, The Uncommon Life

4. Get Active

Some of our best corporate retreats have been based around team building through physical activity. We have played football, soccer, volleyball, and softball over the years. It's very interesting to see the types of different team dynamics that are generated on a field versus what happens in the office. It's a healthy evolution that also stresses the importance of exercise and competition. --Logan Lenz, Endagon

5. Use Your Points

Because the IRS will only let you write off 50 percent of entertainment and meals as a business expense, use your credit card points to pay for team retreats. American Express, in particular, has great perks for travel and dining. By using your points, you are able to do more with less, which is a must for any cost-conscious business today. --Robert Sofia, Platinum Advisor Strategies

6. Keep It in the Family

We always look for locations that aren't going to cost us. Nine times out of 10, we can get our location paid for because someone either owns it or their family does. We also revolve our retreats around cool lodging. This keeps people happy in that location and allows for optimal bonding. We cook, clean, eat, work together. (If a free location isn't in the cards, try Airbnb.com.) --David Cohen, Round Table Companies

7. Organize a Group Scavenger Hunt

Go somewhere green and sunny, and create a group scavenger hunt. People who aren't always buddy-buddy usually interact, and small tokens earned along the way (like 10-packs of movie tickets or Starbucks gift cards) make it memorable. --Ziver Birg, Zivelo


8. Host Cocktails and Dodgeball

It's not about where you go necessarily; it's more about what you do. We played dodgeball at our office and had pizza and drinks. It just cost us a few rubber balls and a few cases of beer, but it was a fun and relaxed time for everyone to enjoy. --John Hall, Digital Talent Agents


9. Take Trips to Conventions

We have virtual teams, and so far it's worked well to fly designated team members to a convention that is related to a project they're working on. We give them a few days on the front or back end, so we can have a retreat to work on company-related tasks--but still get to have fun being participants of the convention. --Benji Rabhan, MorrisCore


10. Feed the People

Getting together around a great meal is a simple and effective way to bond with your employees in a low-key environment. You don't need to go off to a secluded campground to have a great retreat. Just get your employees together around great food and start talking. --Alex Lorton, Cater2.me










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