Many of today’s
entrepreneurs have a healthy aversion to the status quo
when it comes to business, and, it turns out, corporate meetings.
“FeedBurner has about 35 employees, and we all sit in a big open
room for the purpose of not having to take a lot of meetings,” says
Traci Hailpern, director of marketing for the Chicago-based tech
firm, which helps bloggers and podcasters publish and manage
content on the web. Apparently, this dearth of formal gatherings
hasn’t hurt the company: FeedBurner was acquired in June by
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google for a purchase price rumored to
be $100 million.
Despite their best efforts, young, hip
startups like FeedBurner can’t eliminate all meetings from their
operations, while others say they simply don’t have the time or
resources to get too creative with their meetings programs. But
some new, fast-growing companies have discovered that meetings can
create a sense of corporate identity, advance the evolving
corporate culture and support the company’s growth in surprising
Following is a glimpse at six
forward-thinking firms that don’t go the traditional route -- in
business or in meetings.
Ocean is hip, like the
he first thing new hires receive at
Helio, a mobile phone company based in the Westwood section of Los
Angeles, is a parking garage pass inscribed with the phrase,
“Innovate or die.”
“That sets the tone for everything that
goes on here,” says Courtney Carlisle, who works on a three-person
team that handles all communications for Helio and plans its
Right now, the company is sizzling
about as hot as the sun itself. Sky Dayton, director and CEO, whose
resume includes founding EarthLink, Helio’s parent entity, in 1994
at age 23, launched the offshoot publicly in May 2006. Since then,
Helio, which offers its own phone service and exclusive handsets,
including the new Ocean, has grown from 70 employees to 500. The
company’s mission is simple: to provide a young, tech-savvy
demographic with snazzy devices and simply priced phone plans, with
all text messages, photos and video included.
Helio is all about creating an image of
cool. Its retail stores, for example, are half lounge, half art
gallery; selling products in those spaces is almost an
afterthought. Occasionally, the stores literally are transformed
into nightclubs for special events.
That party spirit pervades the
company’s meetings. “Whether it’s meetings or evening events, we
try to keep it very similar,” Carlisle says.
When Helio attends trade shows, for
instance, Carlisle’s team makes a point of not purchasing exhibit
booth space. Instead, they set up an invitation-only lounge in a
meeting room and hold closed-door appointments with key opinion
leaders in additional breakouts. “By doing it this way, we built a
lot of buzz,” Carlisle notes.
Helio generates positive internal
hubbub by holding its quarterly meetings in an independent movie
theater across the street from its corporate office. Employees grab
popcorn and fountain drinks and settle in to watch short videos and
public relations spots about the company and listen to
presentations from various executives.
Twice now the company has ended its
quarterly meetings with a cocktail party on the roof of the parking
garage, the same one unlocked by the security pass that’s a
directive to innovate.