Today’s post is by Chicago-based General Administrative Assistant Sam Naishtat, who is new to the PPC scene but obviously knows his way around a writing manual.

This past weekend, the entire PPC Associates organization embarked upon a whirlwind trip to fabulous Las Vegas for a company retreat. It was an amazing opportunity not only to become intimately acquainted with the overdraft policies of all of our banks, but also to come together as a group, which afforded us some wonderful insight into the people and the principles that comprise our company.

PPC Associates group

“Positive, inspirational team-based quote!”

PPC Associates could certainly be called a far-flung organization, having a main office in California, another in Chicago, and various remote employees working from Oregon, Ohio, and Canada, among others scattered hither and yon. Being an internet search company, we are of course equipped with the resources that allow us to work effectively with one another, despite the distances separating us , but that can only go so far; at the end of the day, we’re still collaborating with e-mail addresses and emoticons. That’s why I think the greatest benefit we all reaped from this trip was the opportunity to meet our co-workers in person.

I’m a relatively new addition to the Chicago branch of PPC Associates (my six-week gold watch should be arriving in the mail any day now…) and even I felt so grateful to finally attach faces to the names I’ve been working with. Plenty of my co-workers had spent a full year working “closely” with people from across the country without ever actually meeting them. Getting everyone together in the same room and finally being able to make these human connections did so much to solidify us as a company, as a group of familiar people who have something invested in one another. And it would have happened even if we’d only met for drinks, but there was more on the agenda.

Our first night in town, after we met, ate, and said “Oh, YOU’RE Mike!” a few dozen times (PPC Associates is blessed with a multitude of Mikes), we hit the Strip for a company scavenger hunt. The group members were chosen at random, so each group was a grab bag of experience levels and geographic locations. Canadians and Americans, executives and administrative assistants, search specialists and display divas, all running around Sin City.

PPC Associates scavenger hunt

Emotions of all kinds run high at the scavenger hunt (Including “not impressed”, provided by the incomparable McKayla Maroney)

This was a brilliant real-world application of Plato’s notion that we can learn more about each other in an hour of play than in a year of conversation, especially since many of us had already had the latter. The items and objectives listed in the scavenger hunt gave us all the opportunity to get a little wacky and surprise one another with what we’d be willing to do in the name of glory and as-yet-unspecified prizes. We leapt into oversized footwear, we struggled with the finer points of lip-tattoo application, and a few of us even got up close and personal with The King. Friendships made during those two short hours lasted the duration of the trip, which we spent gambling, seeing shows, and overtaking a local Karaoke bar well into the wee hours.

brunch recovery

Recovery time at brunch.

Conspicuously absent from our trip were any mandatory business activities. An optional day trip to the Zappo’s campus was made available to those of us who were interested in learning about the company’s commitment to core values and company culture (or learning about whether they gave free shoes to tour groups), but compulsory meetings and conferences were nowhere on our wide-open itinerary. It is a rather remarkable company that  views its employees not simply as workers, but as people who work—people who need to spend time together, who need to have something in common with each other outside of their occupations, and who need to blow off a little steam after a period of major growth and client acquisition.

tour of Zappos

Touring the hallowed (and scribbled-upon) walls of the Zappos campus.

As I’m writing this, back in Chicago, we’ve returned to full steam. Client calls have resumed, and the coffee pot is getting low. The steady tattoo of keyboard taps and mouse clicks is carried to all corners of the office by the breeze from the HVAC, like the buzzing of bees on a summer zephyr, only occasionally broken by an inside joke from the return flight, or a laugh when a picture from our final night shows up in someone’s inbox.

I have no doubt that our memories, and our renewed connection to one another, will last well into the future, because while we may have returned to our same jobs, our retreat to Las Vegas has ensured that we’re no longer quite the same company. I’d put money on it. (Author’s note: When blogging about Las Vegas, it is imperative to include at least one abysmal gambling joke. For the sake of saving space, all of my others have been compiled into a 20-page appendix, available upon request.)

Sam Naishtat

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