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Entrepreneurs are discovering team-building can be child's play. The latest bonding activity: scavenger hunts that send employees out with only cryptic clues and their collaboration skills to guide them.
"We decided to do this not only for fun but to have some cross-functional interaction," says Jerry Shafir, founder of Chelsea, Massachusetts-based Kettle Cuisine, a maker of natural and organic soups that hired hunt organizer Teambonding to plan an event. "People were very stimulated. It really brought out the competitive part of [our] salespeople."
Many business owners are following suit. Teambonding founder David Goldstein says his Canton, Massachusetts, company is on pace to reach sales of $2 million this year, up from $1.6 million in 2004. "Hunts seem to be very popular now because of reality TV shows," he says. Indeed, New York City's Paint the Town Red, which will manage more than $12 million in events this year, has seen a 30 percent increase in its hunt business from 2004 to 2005.
Teambonding's most popular offering is Urban Scaventure. Teams of six to eight people go out on foot to photograph as many items on a preset list as possible. "It's fun, but it requires people to strategize, to negotiate, to gain the cooperation of people who have no interest in winning," says Goldstein.
Scavenger hunt companies charge $50 to $100 per person, depending on whether a meal is included and whether particpants are on foot or in limousines. Possible hunting grounds are almost limitless--New York City-based City Hunt followed a client to Shanghai. And Dr. Clue Treasure Hunts, a San Francisco outfit, counts Las Vegas, New Orleans and New York City among its most popular destinations.
"You can have all the meetings you want," says Howard Givner, founder of Paint the Town Red. "But it's games like this that get people really excited about an organization."