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Let's Have A Party!

By Cherri Gann

Many years ago when I started work at a Texas-based engineering firm, it was in the midst of building a large, state-of-the-art electrical power plant, destined to supply electrical power to millions of consumers in the Midwestern United States. This enormous and complicated task was projected to take two years from start to finish. The plans included the implementation of several cutting-edge (at the time) technological advancements with promising records of performance in the industry, but such plans hadn't been attempted on a project of this magnitude.

Although the firm had some 200 experienced engineers in multiple disciplines with dozens of successful projects under its belt, this job entailed new technology, designs, installation and testing techniques with which they weren't entirely familiar. Nobody expected a cakewalk, but they were eager to take on the challenge.

From conception to completion there were dozens of delays due to modifications, weather issues, complex analysis, re-designs, tests and re-tests, as well as a lot of nail biting, praying and finger crossing. And, since the plant was being built out of state, that also meant separating or relocating families for as long as 18 months at a time. In spite of the initial excitement at winning the contract and gaining this new experience, the mounting complications and time away from home took a toll on the team of engineers, architects, drafters and building site crews. Although they received a lot of support from their managers and the client, at times morale ran very low.

The good news is that the plant was eventually completed; and just 11 days past the scheduled completion date, it went into smooth production with very few glitches. By all accounts, it was a resounding success. Both the firm's management and the client wanted to recognize the hard work and sacrifice of all involved with more than just a pat on the back-so they decided to throw a party.

Three months later, they did-and a big one, too. The guest list included all company employees with spouses, vendors and other clients. The party was held in a long-ago vacated power plant building, and its theme made light of all the difficulties along the project's journey and highlighted the creative and ingenious ways many of the problems were approached and solved.

Hung throughout the room were huge posters of the job site in various completion stages including pencil sketches, mathematical equations, physics principles, geometric theorems, blueprints, computer-generated diagrams, and finally, actual work-site photos from groundbreaking to grand opening and all stages in between. These same images were also printed on cups, napkins, notepads, playing cards, hats and puzzles. Almost everything attendees saw or touched triggered stories about building or designing the plant-and members of the project team were happy to recount them over and over again.

The showstopper for this event was a heartfelt congratulatory speech from the company president and the presentation of spectacular gift bags to all members of the project team present at the party. Inside were coffee mugs, caps, polo shirts, pen and pencil sets and a lovely leather photo album filled with the same photos, diagrams and sketches. But the best item was a decorated folder containing a personalized congratulatory letter outlining the individual recipient's professional contribution to the project-penned and signed by his or her direct supervisor and suitable for use as a personal letter of reference for any future career aspirations.

Looking back, it seems the promotional products distributor working with the party organizers must have either had inside knowledge of that industry or a very, very good relationship with his contact person at the company. Either way, back then I didn't fully appreciate those impressive attentions to detail as I do now.

The long, difficult undertaking tested the organization on many levels but was successful in the end. Seeing the components and team assembled underneath one roof brought home what a truly huge and awesome accomplishment this was for everyone. The project team and the firm deserved to feel pride in the accomplishment. This party was a celebration of their hard work-and they would remember it for a long time.

Party On
From a holiday observance, graduation banquet, anniversary party or wedding to a grand opening, new product rollout or a successful year, all celebrations have a common core-the commemoration of an accomplishment or the observance of feeling thankful for what we have, where we are and whom we're with.

Celebrations help to foster camaraderie and connections. They strengthen relationships between companies and their employees and clients. Such events can even turn acquaintances into new clients or current ones into long-term partners.

Perhaps things have been tough for some of your clients for a while, but ask them these questions. Have you been able to avoid massive layoffs and keep your good employees? Are you still here to celebrate another year in business? Shouldn't you honor your employees for continuing to do a great job with fewer resources? Should you say thanks to your customers for ongoing patronage? There's always something to celebrate, so put on your party hats and have a good time!

COPYRIGHT © 2005 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Cherri Gann is an associate editor for PPB.

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