Starting with a small story in our local paper, it was then picked up by five major newspapers, international news sites and even Ladbible. I have been dubbed the ‘best boss in Britain’ and the last time we checked, the story had been shared more than 25,000 times. Although we’re pleased (and a little gob-smacked) to have had so much exposure of the experience, I feel compelled to add a little more texture to the story.
We are certainly not the first business to take their team away for a staff party, and while our story somehow caught wind due to its timely nature and feel-good factor, there is a more poignant element to it.
We, like any business, but especially agencies, are the sum of our parts. So looking after our people is quite simply good business. Yes, a 3-day trip was absolutely an opportunity for us to celebrate the success of the year and reward the team for their hard work, but in truth – it was about more than that.
There are countless benefits of a happy team. Our Christmas party is a chance for us to show how much we value our people, and make memories that will instill positive associations with their time and commitment to Salad.
The benefits don’t stop with the team because (just as importantly) the business benefits too. It’s a truth well known that you get out what you put in, and the same rule applies to our people. By treating the team to something special to them, we will benefit from a happier and more satisfied crew who feel valued and appreciated. And it doesn’t take too much imagination to understand how this has a knock-on effect to productivity and staff retention for the business.
So let’s talk about money. Despite The Daily Mail reaching for the calculator to guesstimate our bill at the first available opportunity, our trip was not about ‘splashing out’ and we put a lot of effort into booking everything frugally and with due care.
Madrid was about everyone spending time together and doing things that they usually wouldn’t get the chance to do. We curated the weekend to allow space for everyone to explore the city however they wished but also bring everyone back together to break bread, play games and connect.
I’m not writing this because I think you should take your team to Madrid for a party. What worked for us isn’t necessarily right for another business. In order to create something suited to your team, you need to be sensitive and in-tune with your unique business makeup. Ultimately whatever your culture, it will be enhanced by adding in the excitement of a new/ interesting/ glamorous location and quite possibly some alcohol.
For me, the curation of these activities is intuitive and something I care and think a lot about. Although producing beautiful work has always been my passion, the truth is it’s the people at Salad that bring me to work everyday. And I think that’s the Salad way – we are as dedicated to our craft as we are about being nice people to work with (whether you’re a client or an employee).
I’m extremely lucky. While I take my role and responsibilities very seriously, I don’t feel like a 'boss' at all. I love the people I work with and I want to spend time with them. I’m not Salad – we are all Salad. I think that a distinctive lack of greed in our business is also part of the parcel when it came to Madrid. If I wanted to, I could have awarded myself a Christmas bonus and dish out a bottle of wine to everyone else for their efforts. But I wouldn’t do that because I value our shared experiences so much more and frankly I’d rather share our success.
When you think about it, we spend half of our waking hours with people we work with. So to take one weekend out of 52 to spend time together ‘off the clock’ feels like a worthwhile thing to do. With Salad sponsoring the trip, it was done in knowing that it would improve each of our lives both in and outside of work.
Agency life is never dull and it has its challenges. Experiences like these will help us to build a stronger team who will rally together and dig deeper when they need to. The more we get to know one another, the more empathetic we become when times get tough.
The business case for a party like Christmas in Madrid is significant. It’s not about making a flashy statement that grabs the headlines; it’s about creating the right type of experience to facilitates the time and space your team needs to make long-lasting connections. As far as we’re concerned it will pay for itself in the months and years to come, by encouraging an already hard-working team.
If conversations like this interest you, we’re hosting a series of events next year entitled 'Building a Beautiful Business'. We’ll be inviting some of the brands we love to share their stories of ambition, craftsmanship, authenticity and innovation in order to inspire like-minded people to build their business more beautifully.
Keep your eyes peeled.
Arabella Lewis-Smith is founder and managing director at Salad.