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Author Biography:

Stephanie Taylor Christensen  is a freelance writer who covers personal finance, career, health,and small business news. She is the founder of Indebtedless and Om for Mom prenatal yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter.@STCWriting or www.stephanietaylorchristensen.com

Creative Ways To Build Relationships With Your Business VIPs
By Stephanie Taylor Christensen Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Happy customers are key to keeping your business afloat but creating a sense of unity among the other “VIPs” in your business (like employees, and vendors) can be the real “glue” that allows you to deliver exceptional products, promotions, and service. 

Here are a few simple teambuilding ideas business owners of any size (and budget) can put into action to promote an internal culture of teamwork and goodwill. 

Get to their hearts through their stomachs. Traditional “appreciation” lunches and dinners can feel awkward but they become an excellent ice breaker when you allow your attendees to get creative in the kitchen with your own spin on “Cupcake Wars.” Start the event as a mini-mixer while entertaining guests with upbeat bakery demonstrations from a local chef that invite “crowd participation.” Then, deliver the surprise news that your guests are the real stars of the show! Place attendees into small teams, provide each with the same “base” cupcake ingredients, and task them to get creative with toppings, additional flavors, and presentation for a fun, lighthearted “dessert showdown.”

Be a cheering section.  You don’t have to live in a city with a big name sports team to reap the team building benefits attending sporting events can offer. Reserve a section of lawn space or seating to facilitate interaction, and conversation. Try to arrange a “special shout out” to your group with the event announcer, or an image of your team over the JumboTron to facilitate a sense of “team pride.”  Prepare a “goody bag” for each of your attendees that showcases your brand appropriate to the event. (For example, a branded mini handheld motorized fan or insulated drink holder would be a great compliment to an event held on a hot sunny day). 

Support a community cause. Ask your employees, top clients and vendors for their input on a local community non-profit or fundraising event they would be interested in supporting as a team on behalf of your business. Develop “unifying” apparel, like shirts, hats, or pins that create a sense of “same-ness” among participants (and promotes your brand at the event itself). If the event’s a success, make it a quarterly activity for different local groups. Not only is such participation a great way to instill your small businesses’ presence in the community, it gives those important to your business the opportunity to connect on a human level, by learning what causes various individuals champion-- and why. 

Break through stereotypes. Putting a lighthearted spin on traditionally “serious” activities can be another effective way to break through the stereotypes that can hinder connections, either due to a person’s age, gender, title, or their relationship with your business. Instead of a golf outing, for example, which tends to create a sense of separateness, reserve a small block of time at a local driving range. Let the team spend some time hitting balls and easing into a sense of comfort—then, add a silly spin that fosters group interaction. For example, take turns blind folding each golfer so that he or she must rely on the instructions of others to identify where to swing, and aim. 

You don’t have to throw a budget-busting bash to recognize the people who are pivotal to your business, but it’s important to your business on so many levels. Not does work simply feel less like work when you’re amongst friends, you’ll likely find that productivity increases, customers are treated better, and any disagreements or conflicts that do arise are resolved more seamlessly. 

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