Businesses across the country have been closing due to the pandemic, but there is a small percentage that have grown!
In this series we take you behind the scenes in those businesses to empower you to apply the same strategies to your business, whether you’re in growth mode, or recovering!
In general, we ask three specific questions of our interviewees. Because of the unique nature of this interview, we’re breaking it up into two segments: (1)the story of success in the face of the impossible, and (2)the keys that created that success.
This Week’s Interview Guest:
Luke took a complete shutdown and turned it around to create an insanely successful business! Stephanie was stoked to sit down, and we’re excited to bring y’all Luke’s story because his work is touted as the “Most impactful” exercise experienced in corporate America.
If you prefer to watch or listen to the whole interview, check it out on youtube here.
Behind the Scenes Part 1:
The Story of Success in the Face of the Impossible
A little backstory first…
I run Compass Outdoor Adventures, just outside Seattle Washington. And Pre-Pandemic, we were doing our best ever!
Our company takes people outside for team building type activities. We take companies and groups for mountain bike trips, giant scavenger hunts, and amazing races. Everyone has an amazing time because we’re all about getting folks outdoors, active, and engaged so that at the end of the day we can high five and have a beer over a laugh together. It’s a great way to connect and build community, especially in an office.
- We were working with a company that was super invested in their employees last year. Once a month they had a random drawing and selected 25 people to have a whole day excused from the office to go out with our company and have an adventure connecting and relaxing together. This company is actually how I got connected to Stephanie, because one of our mutual connections went indoor rock climbing with us one day.
- For the first half of the day, we took the group to an indoor rock climbing spot and taught them all the different aspects of holding each other up and working as a team to get to the top. We all had lunch together, had beers, enjoyed laughing with one another, and spent the afternoon putting together bikes for a non-profit organization which we delivered them to on the way back to the office.
- The whole experience was about connecting to each other and learning to work together on fun, active projects.
At the beginning of 2020, we were doing literally our best out of the past 15 years. We were up 20% over last year: we had a quarter million dollars by February, and we had signed contracts for the rest of the year.
Then COVID hit…
We literally lost a quarter million dollars in a day.
As every small business knows, a quarter million dollars is a lot of money! And it just went away.
For me, Compass Outdoor Adventures had been an amazing way of not having to get a “grown up” job. So suddenly the kinds of group activities we thrived off of were prohibited due to social distancing. I had to lay off my whole staff because we just couldn’t make the large group activities happen anymore, and I had to start looking for that “grown up” job. My wife had started working from home, my kids obviously started doing school from home, the whole world was in chaos, and I was looking for a job.
I was doing a bunch of interviews until early April, and something I really noticed was that nobody was having a good time. It was all stressful mitigation plans and everyone trying to figure out how to go day to day. So we came up with the crazy idea!
The Crazy Idea…
I called one of my guys that I’d been forced to lay off in March and said “Hey Thomas, we did scavenger hunts in person. What if we tried to make it virtual and build an experience for everyone who is stuck at home right now?”
So early April, a month after the chaos hit, we launched this online scavenger hunt. We planned it for a Saturday, and did the virtual marketing launch on the Thursday before. I got online and started making a ton of noise about it to get families to sign up, because we were looking at the suffering family and saying “we’ve got to get you guys playing and enjoying each other again.” And, I kid you not, 1K people showed up online!
So 1,000 people showed up and ran around acting crazy for an hour and a half of an online scavenger hunt. At the end we came back and did an award show and gave out some prizes, and everyone was just stoked! Because in a pandemic, in a chaotic time, we were able to be the agent of laughter for 1K people: moms, dads, kids, people who were previously ready to kill each other were enjoying things and having a fun time.
The Turning Point...
I know a few people in Seattle news, so I called around and got us on the news because I knew nobody had anything positive to say and I wanted to put this positive story out there. We got on the news with this story, and the next weekend so many people showed up for the scavenger hunt that it crashed the server!
The first weekend, we had roughly 250 families show up (1K people). The second weekend, we had 1,000 families show (which was like, 4K people!). It was awesome!
Fast forward a couple months, and we’ve been putting one of these on every Saturday for about six to eight weeks. So our next thought is “Can we monetize this? Can we make a product like this work?”
So we gave it some thought and figured out a way to make it into a paid event for companies, similar to what we did before.
We reached out to our contacts at Google, Microsoft, and a few other businesses about hosting these for the companies. A few people jumped in immediately because they were tired of the horrible virtual happy hours. After a few of those, our contacts spread the word about us to a bunch of business managers around the world, and now we’re running these events on a regular basis! We ran 23 of these in October alone.
The Awesome Expansion…
Pre-Pandemic, we were a geographically constrained business.
We might do programs a couple hours away, but we were packing up 50 bikes and driving 4 hours round trip to make it happen. But now we’re routinely working in Asia, Europe, Poland, Manhattan, Florida, and wherever else: all the places we wouldn’t have been able to do before!
Instead of lugging 50 bikes around for 4 hours, I’m just getting up at three in the morning to hop in a room in Poland and play with 150 people.
The more awesome thing is that we’re facilitating team building exercises for these teams that are staying in business.
Because if you’re staying in business, everyone is working themselves to death. If you have a job, there’s no slowdown or break or time to relax. Everyone is working as fast as they can. So we’re bringing teams together in an usual and different way that supports the people who are working themselves to death, and offers an hour to 90 minutes of relaxation and de-stressing. And even if people are too tired to participate, we send them away from their computers to go relax away from their work for an hour so that everyone comes back to work after getting what they’ve needed.
Because we’re missing connection...
The whole idea is that we used to sell engagement. And that’s transformed a bit, but it’s still all about creating some kind of lasting bond between people. The word I use every day is connection, because we’re missing those connections with our friends, our families, and at the local “watering hole” so to speak.
People are striving to find those fun, interactive connections. So that’s what we’re offering, and it’s working so far. We took our product, our sale point, and we pivoted it a bit and ended up back in business after going completely out of business in March!
To discover the tools and active steps that Luke took, Read Part 2! (Coming out next week!)
Aiming to grow your business next year and take a step forward to adapt like Luke did? Check out the upcoming Grow Retreat! This retreat (with COVID safety precautions) offers you the opportunity to connect to other like-minded business owners while also receiving strategies to implement right away in your business!