I just got back from lunch. Nice little deli, walking distance from the office. Half sandwich (pastrami) and salad (Chinese chicken salad). Great food, excellent service, fair prices. All made for an enjoyable lunch.
But the best part? It’s Tuesday.
Why does that matter? Because every Tuesday, the Mustang Marketing staff (currently 12, looking to add the lucky 13th) enjoys lunch together. One staff member each week picks the spot and we head over as a team. About half the time, the spot is close enough to walk to, which makes it even better.
It all started back in 2009 when Chris Barrett, our now vice president, would meet his wife for lunch every Tuesday. Eventually, they started inviting everyone from the office. Tuesday lunches became a weekly routine and continued on and off for a while until we started a new occasion on Tuesdays called “Mustang Munchies” in 2012. Every Tuesday we chose a new restaurant and blogged about it for the entire year. Last year, we started our Tuesday lunch dates back up again, and the company picks up the tab each time.
What makes these lunches so enjoyable? The camaraderie. Today’s lunch was almost 90 minutes, and I didn’t hear work discussed once. Not on the walk over or back and not during lunch. How’s the new apartment? How was Universal Studios this weekend? Did you have a great birthday? The conversations and those involved kept shifting and changing over lunch. I spent most of the lunch just listening. I am blessed with a great staff and in no small part it’s due to everyone getting along.
I can’t help but feel paternal during our weekly lunches, and not just because most of my staff is the same age as my kids. It is simply so much fun to watch each of these people grow, change and mature and in all candor, to feel that Mustang is playing a small role in that. Listening to them as they move into their new apartment, get a dog, buy a new car or their first home or, best of all, start having children is a true joy.
We made plans today, as a team and with spouses, to attend a musical theater event. It’s a couple of months out, and I’m already looking forward to it.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, at least for small business owners, it’s this: A small investment of time and money can pay huge dividends. Take opportunities to spend time with your staff – and have them spend time together – outside of work. A team breakfast. Movies. We go bowling once a year and it’s a kick. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen designers and writers with a couple of drinks under their belts try to keep the ball in the lane. We celebrate each birthday with the favorite treat of the honoree, some tales told around the conference room table and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
The staff starts out each day happier and closer than they would be otherwise and when the stress hits, as it does in every business at some point, they work together, pulling each other through – always without complaint. As the owner of the company, I can’t really ask for more than that. As keeper of the bottom line, you really can’t make a better investment than investing in your team. And simply as a human being, who is lucky enough to count his staff among his friends, it’s just plain fun.
Scott Harris is president of Mustang Marketing, an advertising and public relations firm in Thousand Oaks.