One of you is getting drunk in Iceland. Tomorrow!
How to turn company meetings into Oprah Moments.
At a company happy hour last fall, I learned that many Betabrand employees had never traveled abroad.
I thought: With all the money we spend on fabric and ads and other things, surely we could amass enough credit-card miles each month to send someone on a short, eye-opening trip overseas. So, we centralized spending onto a Capital One Spark card (with double miles!) and started saving up.
We’ve since sent emissaries to Iceland, Ireland, and France, all the while injecting a heaping dose of magic into our workplace.
Every 4-6 weeks, we announce our next international adventurer at an all-hands meeting. And every time we do so, the company explodes in good cheer — sometimes in tears.
One employee despaired that she’d never get to see where her grandmother came from in Ireland. We took care of that.
Another helps her mother with money she’d otherwise spend on travel, so we’re sending her to Paris — on a mission to fall in love.
We kicked this all off by sending a pair of brave Betabranders on a January bar crawl in Reykjavik, Iceland, just 24 hours after officially announcing the start of FlyAway.
Many folks have asked how they can run a program like this, so I’d like to share the following brief playbook. It’s an idea worth evangelizing, because your company can gain so much through a simple shift in spending. Feel free to borrow our ideas and make them your own. If you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: We realize companies spend differently and aren’t always located near a major international airport, like we are here in San Francisco. In any case, we hope you can take our experiences and use them to create the sort of FlyAway program that best suits your company.
1. Get a mileage card that allows for flexible travel. We use Capital One’s Spark Card, which offers double miles and the ability to book travel with no blackout dates.
2. Estimate how long it’ll take to amass enough miles to make that first trip happen. It’s best to announce the first adventure only after you’ve earned enough miles.
3. Send out a company-wide poll asking if there’s anyone who’s never traveled outside the U.S., and, if so, where would they like to go and why?
4. Award a trip to the first deserving person, then announce at your next all-hands meeting that this will be an ongoing program. By now, you’ll have an idea of how long it takes to earn award miles, so you can set expectations of how often these trips can happen.
5. Should you only reward people who’ve never travelled abroad? Not necessarily. Every third or fourth adventure can be a “next-day challenge” — i.e., a contest to see who’s willing to drop everything and fly somewhere totally unexpected tomorrow. Our first of these was actually a spontaneous photo challenge, with two winners flying to Iceland (in the dead of winter) the next day.
6. Do people get jealous? That’s not been our experience. It’s hard to feel jealous for a person who’s never traveled abroad.
7. What to cover? Again, we realize that different companies have different budgets. We cover the flight and four nights in a hotel — plus passport-renewal fees, if need be.
8. As far as additional expenses (food, drinks, tacky souvenirs), the person who traveled last is obligated to put on a “Fun Raiser” for the next adventurer, usually a few days before his or her trip. Employees and friends are invited to a bar, and the hat is passed. This way, everyone’s invested in the adventure.
9. Should you deduct vacation time? We don’t think so — seems like an unnecessary buzzkill. We like to send folks on trips Thursday through Tuesday; that way, they’re out of the office only 2-3 days.
10. Ask travelers to send dispatches throughout their trip, so friends and coworkers can live vicariously through their experiences.