For the past eight years I have hosted a barbecue cooking competition at my home for all of our employees. There are a lot of components of the competition including the development of a logo and T-Shirt design each year, how the teams are structured and even the categories which are unique each year. All in all the annual investment is approximately $3,000 including category and grand prize awards, production of T-shirts, food, a keg of beer and everyone’s favorite; the margarita machine.
So, why do we host this annual event and what is the true value to the agency and our employees? We are in a creative business that is very competitive and requires a great deal of teamwork. Everything about this event supports our core values as a company while allowing everyone to let their hair down a little.
CREATIVITY: This is not your run of the mill BBQ competition that you might see on Food Network. People use every creative cell in their body to win, place or show. Not everyone is a culinary genius so they use online resources to come up with something unique. Others really do have the talent and expertise to create unique and crowd pleasing dishes that people would pay good money to experience. At yesterday’s event the judges commented that if local restaurants served this level of cuisine they would never have to write a negative review. Who would think that these amateur chefs would create items like baby back ribs that were dry rubbed then finished off by tossing them in a buffalo sauce or scallop and bacon lollipops, tofu sliders and brussel sprouts with bacon and cranberries. And how many people do you know that would stay up half the night infusing vodka with fresh bacon. These are all perfect examples of creativity and passion, the same talents we need to succeed in the marketing world.
COMPETITION: I often get negative feedback from some members of the agency that nine out of ten of our recreational events involve some sort of competition. Guess what? This is our life. If we want to succeed and keep moving the needle we must be prepared to compete at the highest level. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Competition is fun if you put your heart and soul into it. For this year’s Q, I was told that some people didn’t like to present their dishes to the judges so we had the judges visit each station, which was fine but I feel like we compromised to a certain degree. It was kind of like doing a new business presentation and asking the prospect to come to us or e-mailing concepts instead of presenting them in person. We also take the competition to a new level by inviting some of the most respected food industry professionals in the area to judge. Lorraine Eaton and Judy Crowling from Virginian Pilot, Patrick Evans-Hylton from HR Monthly, Debi Gray from Johnson & Wales, Sam and Cindy McGann, Jennie Capps from CBWC, Yiannis and John Milleson. Every year the judges are blown away by the quality of the event and promise to steal or “borrow” a few nuggets to share with the world.
TEAMWORK: If you are going to take home any money from the Q, you better work as a team. We do not reveal the teams or the categories until late afternoon the day before the event. Each team is comprised of people from teams that they don’t necessarily work with every day. They have less than 24 hours to develop a menu, determine responsibilities and action plans and to execute the dishes in a four hour period the day of the event. Some people prefer to work in a vacuum but over my 30 years in this business they never reach the top unless they know how to play in the sandbox. This is typically the result at the Q as well.
So, call it what you will – an excuse not to work, a blatant waste of company money, a good excuse to imbibe in the middle of the afternoon. I call it an exercise in life that will help us be a better agency.
We will post many of the recipes and photos from this year’s event on Monday.