1) How did Feet First get started?
We started in 1988 with Dave and Kevin (the Cloutier brothers) organizing intramural competitions on the UCLA campus. They became known within the student body for creating games that were original and innovative. Instead of focusing solely on “winning” the game, their games were designed to get people to work together. They focused on team-building, with the motto “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as everyone plays the game.” That motto is still in effect with our team building games today.
After graduation a number of UCLA alumni started asking Kevin and Dave to bring their expertise in team-building to their corporations.
Since those early days, we have helped thousands of companies strengthen camaraderie, improve communication, and build morale. We’ve also created games and challenges for some “reality” television shows, such as Survivor and Endurance.
2) Roughly how many people work for Feet First? Which areas do you serve?
Our main offices are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego. We also have satellite offices in Dallas, Phoenix and Seattle. There are about a dozen full time employees and 30 facilitators who currently work for us in the various locales.
3) Your slogan is a quote from Plato – “You can learn more about a person in an hour’s worth of play than in an entire year of conversation.” Can you elaborate on what that means?
Participating in one of our events is completely different from having the usual conversations at work such as “How was your weekend?” or “How are the kids?” When people participate in one of our events, they become fully immersed in a competitive or creative situation. Skill sets that may never come into play at work get thrust into the forefront. For example, imagine a quiet, seemingly shy engineer suddenly running up to strangers and convincing them to play Duck, Duck Goose with them during a scavenger hunt in order to score extra points. Or, a very serious attorney choreographing his teammates in an epic ninja battle. After participating in one of our events, people often see their fellow coworkers in a completely different light — one that is more positive and well-rounded.
4) You’ve built up an impressive list of clients over the years, including such household names as Toyota, Pepsi and Apple. What is it that attracts clients to your events?
The majority of our events are for returning clients, or clients who heard of us through word of mouth, so we must be doing something right! The most rewarding part of my job is speaking to our clients after the event, and hearing what a great time their group had, and how hilarious and energetic our facilitators are.
We know that a lot of people roll their eyes at the thought of team building because they’ve experienced a hokey event with facilitators that were trying too hard, or trying to get them to do something inane. We work hard to ensure that the activities are fun and creative, so people actually want to participate. Also, our staff never try to be the center of attention. We have about a minute or two at the start of the event to ease the group into the event and make sure they are invested in it, and after that, they have a great time!
5) On any given day, how many events could you be running?
We produce anywhere between 20 to 35 events each month, so it’s highly likely that we are playing with a group somewhere on any given day.
6) What is a typical reaction from one of your clients, after participating in one of your events for the first time?
At the risk of sounding boastful, we typically hear about how much fun the group had. This is particularly gratifying given the skepticism that some people inevitably start out with.
7) What do you feel are the long-term benefits for companies and organizations that participate in one of your events?
A countless number of clients have told us that our events boost morale in the office. Better morale leads to a happy workforce, and any study on relationships between employer and employee will tell you that a happy staff will work harder and be more loyal to their employer. I think that’s the reason that most of our clients come back to us year after year — because they can see the direct benefits from our programs.
8) Which of your events are most popular?
We do our Amazing Race scavenger hunt more than any other activity because it gives people a chance to get outside and explore a city center, while also being an extremely engaging competition. We also produce our Survivor Games a lot (one of the owners of the company used to work for the TV show, creating their challenges), so it’s a lot of fun to see them in live events. Also, our charity-related events have been extremely popular over the past few years, as companies get an opportunity to give back to the local community while also giving their staff a chance to bond with one another.
8) Are there any events that you feel get overlooked, and that more clients should try?
Our “Make Your Own Movies” and “Music Videos” events are an incredible way for groups to work together and be extremely creative. I think a lot of groups are a bit intimidated at the thought of it, but the reaction to the event afterward is pretty hard to beat!
9) Imagine someone who is about to participate in one of your events for the very first time. Do you have any advice for that person on how to prepare him or herself?
Don’t have any preconceived ideas. Just allow yourself to have fun! We are frequently hired by assistants or admins who are incredibly worried — they feel that their job is on the line if the CEO doesn’t like the event. However, it’s usually the CEO or the CFO who is the most boisterous person, having the most fun! We don’t get many opportunities to play as adults. As the name of our company implies, just jump in (Feet First) and enjoy yourself!