There is a moment of stunned silence, then the room roars! It is pandemonium as those with team numbers stand on chairs holding their signs overhead.
- SUN Microsystems
Sales Kickoff 2003
This years kickoff started last Wednesday and I've been here from 8:00am
until 10:00pm most days. Tomorrow and Monday will be the same. We meet
in various hotel conference rooms and listen to sales pitches, legal
issues, competitive analysis, product overviews, and for us technical
folks, hours of nitty-gritty product feature/functionality. I'm grumpy
that this year we're working on a weekend and grumpier still because
it's my 12th wedding anniversary on Sunday. I'm miffed that the quality
of food changes when the sales execs arrive or depart. I'm also very
Tonight was the night for our "team building" activity. The larger group
is broken into teams of 5 or so for these exercises. Last years "team
building" activity was constructing rafts out of inflatable boat
bumpers, PVC, and twine, then racing these dubious crafts around a closed
course much to the merriment of those on shore. Our boat survived the
rigors of voyage, but we did not win. These "team builders" are
not, you should know, my favorite activities.
This year, as most years, the team building activity is mandatory. We're
told that this year we are going to find parts and tools and that we are
then going to build a "product" which we would bring back to the
conference room to "sell" to a neighboring team. We're been earning
"currency" all week which we assume is to be used for this purpose.
It's 7:30pm. It's well beyond my usual dinnertime. There is no food.
It's cold. It's windy. We're on the exposed top floor of the hotels
parking structure. Did I mention there is no food? There is not even
There are 120 sealed boxes and a bag of tools by each. There are 120
We open the boxes - bicycles!?
Our team has a small pink and purple girls bike with tassels that stream
from the handlebars. For this we take much ribbing from the other teams,
many of whom have bicycle kits more suited to the mostly male attendees.
Nonetheless we build our bike with care and attention, then dutifully
assist other teams in a fashion viewed with much approval by management.
At last all the teams have finished assembling their bicycles, which, by
the way, we are forbidden to ride. We walk the bicycles back to the
conference room for their "sale". The regular hotel guests quizzically
watch the parade.
Back in the conference room we dutifully compile lists of feature
functionality, return on investment, value proposition, whatever, then
execute a ten minute sales pitch to, and receive feedback from, our
"customers". The other team reciprocates. I silently note that their
bike is large and colored a rugged black and grey. They note that ours
is small and pink.
So now we're done and an hour early by the schedule. There is still no
food. At least it's not windy here in the conference room although the
HVAC whines mournfully as it struggles to maintain the commanded 65
Suddenly the house lights come up and we are told to look to the back of
the room for our real customers.
A dozen doors are thrown open simultaneously and 120 disadvantaged
children from neighboring communities peer into the room.
There is a moment of stunned silence, then the room roars! It is
pandemonium as those with team numbers stand on chairs holding their
signs overhead. Everyone applauds wildly as we wait for our customers to
arrive. My team's special customer is a cute third grade girl with eyes
as big as saucers. Her twin sister is given an identical bike by the
team next to us. This is a surprise for the children as well. I don't
know what they were told when they got on that bus, but it was a
complete and total surprise. I doubt there is a dry eye in the room.
We spend the next hour adjusting the bike to fit our customer,
buying/installing accessories such as helmets and baskets with our
"currency", and describing how to best use our "product" to an
overwhelmed third grader. She is shy at first but soon warms up and
tells us a little bit about herself and what she is going to do with her
new bike. One of my teammates quizes her on the multiplication tables.
She is just adorable.
All too soon the children have to leave with their new treasures (whose
assembly the company prudently has checked by experts before they are
I'm still choked up.
I'm glad my team received a small pink and purple bike...