Why We Prioritize In-Person Team Building as a Remote Company

by Nathan Miller

Jun 2, 2023

Posted in Culture

Formada Web Designer, Vicki Tolmacheva, laughs hysterically during a team building activity.

Yes, we’re a remote team, but in-person connections are still a priority

It’s no secret that we at Formada pride ourselves in being a fully remote agency. It’s a foundational piece of our business, and it’s become a central element of our brand. Another central element? Team building.

The vast majority of us all come from more traditional corporate backgrounds. Throughout our careers, we’ve been in entry-level, middle management, and senior leadership positions. All of those experiences have all been incredibly valuable in the professional growth and perspective they’ve given us. 

Of the many things we’ve learned, one critical insight was that in order to bring on the level of talent we wanted, we really needed to put a concerted effort into building something different:

  • Different in terms of our operationally strategy
  • Different in terms of our commitment to work-life balance
  • Different in terms of how we wanted to do great work for our clients, foster professional growth for our team, and enjoy ourselves while growing the business 

Of course, it’s all a little deeper than that. A little more complicated. To some, our having these noble notions of creating a business that’s “different” might seem a little silly — businesses just exist to create profit, right? — but, to us, being able to create a business that filled the needs of our clients, supported the goals of our teammates, and allowed us to work and live the way we desire to was well worth the effort. 

Why shouldn’t we build a business with this type of vision in mind? 

Believe it or not, being a remote team is a huge part of this. We’ve been remote since the very beginning, way back in August of 2018, well before so many businesses had to adapt to remote work in 2020. In that sense, we were very lucky, because our infrastructure was already based on remote work. 

It matters to us, because we believe that it gives our team the autonomy and flexibility they deserve to do their best work, and at this point in our growth, we’ve been successful in building a healthy team culture. 

Still, having face time matters to us. That’s why we put so much effort into our bi-annual team building events. Here are just some of the reasons why they’re so important to us. 

They make in-person meetings feel genuinely special 

At Formada, we’re busy folks. Most of our calendars are filled with project work, client meetings, team or leadership meetings, and training. We really try to make our meetings count. The last thing we want to do is foster a culture of having meetings for the sake of having meetings. 

Our client meetings, typically held via Google Teams, are focused, agenda-driven, and entirely oriented around the client’s experience

Our internal meetings we try to keep a little light in tone. Yes, we always have an agenda, but we also don’t mind letting things be a bit loose so folks can connect on a more human level. 

Our team is pretty tight. And that’s especially evident when we have a bi-annual team building event. Just last week, we met at a Peerspace in North Portland, and there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air because we had the rare opportunity to be together for the day instead of communicating via Google Teams. 

While this sort of in-person interaction is quite normal for most businesses, to us, it’s special. It contributes to the success of these events. 

Would we enjoy ourselves as much if we were in an office together every day and simply attended an offsite at a different location? Maybe. But maybe not. But what I know for sure is that this team has cultivated a deep bond, and that nothing makes that more obvious than when we have the opportunity to be together in-person. 

Our in-person team buildings allow facetime with our founders

We really do have a team of builders — folks who don’t just complete tasks, but are strategic thinkers. Folks who could easily (or someday will!) start businesses of their own. 

And while each and every person on our team, regardless of position, is what we consider to be a leader, Meghan and Garrett, our founders, are the tone setters of our business. 

Their collaboration, their vision, and the way they communicate that vision deeply influences how we all perceive the business and approach our work. 

We all have one-on-ones with them, collaborate with them in team meetings, and observe their approach to client relationships, but there’s something entirely different about the way we’re all able to interact with each other at a team building. 

And I don’t mean that either one of them is getting up in front of the team so that they can give impassioned speeches a la Wolf of Wall Street, I’m talking about those seemingly small moments — chatting while waiting for a group coffee order, explaining the rules of a favorite board game, etc. where we can all see these people for who they are: regular, determined people who dream and strive just like the rest of us, but who found a way to create a space where we can all grow and thrive and feel a sense of pride in our work. 

I’ll admit, I’m biased. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. 

We get to spend time with our co-workers while not really focusing on work

So, yeah, this is a work event, but we’re not sitting around a table with our laptops focused on work projects. This isn’t a strategy session. This isn’t a meeting where we’re laying out the roadmap for the next six months of the organization. 

This is seriously a day focused on building our relationships as a team. We’re playing games, we’re learning about one another, we’re enjoying meals together. Honestly, the most stressful part of the day is probably where we’re getting our photos taken, and even that is kinda fun!

We hire a top-notch photographer, bring in a professional makeup and hair stylist, and, in the middle of our shenanigans, do our best to act normal while getting our photos taken. We’re already in a beautiful space, everyone is having a great time, and it helps us build a more cohesive visual brand for our longer-term marketing efforts. 

The day is capped off by heading to one of Portland’s many fantastic restaurants, where we all get to enjoy an incredible meal, some delicious drinks, and a few more hours of great conversation with the people that we’re lucky enough to call our colleagues. 

It’s team building, not training — these are different things with different goals!

I know that some of you might think, “You’re not bringing in a corporate trainer? You have all of your people in one room and you’re not going over your sales process or revenue targets or how you can streamline your close rate?” 

That’s just not what this is about, and in our opinion, those elements are the antithesis of what team building should be. Besides, those aspects of the business are things that we’re already frequently discussing, albeit in what we believe are the more appropriate venues. 

Our people put so much heart into their work, and they’re so dedicated to our clients’ success, that it’s important to us to make team building more of a celebration of who we are and where we’re going vs. a “synergistic deep dive into our granular data in an effort to create a massive impact on our core competencies so that we can leverage win-wins by becoming thought leaders, grabbing low-hanging fruit, and moving the needle by leaning into our customer pain points and ideating industry disruptive optimizations.”

So that’s what we do. 

Our in-person team building events send us back to our respective offices with a new sense of energy

Personally, I walk away from our in-person team building events with an increased level of respect for my colleagues and an even better attitude towards where we’re going as a business. 

I’m always impressed with the team’s work — not just how they approach completing tasks, but how thoughtful they are toward improving our approach to operations, better serving our clients, and serving one another better, too. 

Formada has been incredibly lucky to bring people on board who genuinely care. I’m at a point in my career where I think I can confidently understand just how special that is. 

And I’m also confident that as we grow, we’ll continue to attract new team members, new clients, and new opportunities that support our vision for building a different kind of business, one based on the ideals of partnership, autonomy, transparency, and simplicity.

I hope we never stray from these team building events. I’m grateful for the effort that everyone puts into making them a success. The logistics, the investments, the travel — it’s all performed seamlessly. 

This team shows up. And that’s how you flourish. You keep showing up. Over and over again. 

So, to the Formada team: Thanks for showing up, gang. You made our team building a success.

Want to learn more? Contact us today to see how the Formada team can help you achieve your goals!


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