Meet Feet First Team Building Facilitators, Justin and Sarah

Meet Justin and Sarah, two of the Feet First event facilitators. Below, we ask them to share some of their thoughts on Team Building and working at Feet First.

Justin: A native of Pennsylvania, Justin ended up in San Diego after high school by way of the US Marine Corps. After several years of active duty overseas, Justin settled into California life with a wife and a child. While attending an UCLA alumni summer camp, Feet First co-owner Kevin Cloutier spotted a great fit in Justin. He trained extensively, then began working as a facilitator, eventually becoming an MC, and he’s been heading the San Diego office since 2014.

Sarah: From Graduate degrees in Physical Education and Recreation Administration to hands on experience as a teacher and a Camp Director, Sarah has always been pulled towards group activities and challenges. Having always been drawn to California, she’s been a popular facilitator for Feet First’s Northern California team building events for over four years now.

What attracted you to Team Building?

Justin: I instantly fell in love with the work, the company and the people. When I took part in my first Feet First event, I thought to myself, “Wait, I can get paid to do this?” Eventually when Kevin offered me the opportunity to open an office in San Diego I instantly jumped at the chance.

Sarah: I have always been an outgoing person who loves to meet new people and can (and will) talk to just about anyone. As a teacher, a big part of the job was teaching kids how to interact with others in addition to helping them grow in mind and spirit. Already being involved in team building in this respect , I fell in love with Feet First from the moment I met them while helping out with a scavenger hunt at Great America. Ultimately, it’s the people that make the organization for me.

What should a client look for in a Team Building experience?

Justin: A client should look for the right fit. They should know what their goal is for the Team Building event. Although everything is related, it’s good to have an idea of whether they want to focus on communication, collaboration, or even just ice breaking. Sure, a lot of our events can just be seen as fun activities that get people out of the office, but all of our events are designed to bring out important interpersonal skills. We have over 15 different events that offer a wide array of different activities and can appeal to any group or demographic. Ultimately it’s important that clients communicate as much as possible with sales staff and event managers to ensure the best fit for the group.

Sarah: I agree and want to emphasize that choosing the right “event” or challenge is a big part of finding the right team building experience. Each of our events has the same ultimate goal to promote teamwork, but they all take different ways of getting there. For example, there’s a big difference between a company-wide outing where everyone is already familiar with one another and a new-hire event, where creating that familiarity is the main goal. I agree that the best thing a client can do is give as much information as possible when trying to see what a team building organization can do for them.

What do you see as the most rewarding aspect of your teambuilding events for your clients?

Justin: Where to start? I’ll often see some individuals that aren’t entirely excited to be at the event. Maybe they’re worried about all of the work they’re missing while out of the office, or whatever the case is. I make it one of my goals to ensure that these people are the ones having the most fun by the end of the event.
Also hugely rewarding are our Community Service Relations (CSR) events. After a day of fun it’s really great to see a group come together and make a contribution to an organization or cause – it adds a special element to the event for everyone. Being in the military for over 12 years now, I find it especially rewarding when we have a group that chooses to donate to a military organization or nonprofit. I have great relationships with the San Diego USO and other organizations so it means a great deal to me on a personal level when groups want to recognize the military.

Sarah: Wow, that is such a great question. I love watching participants get excited over “spirit” coins [awards given in challenges]. I also love how the quietest individuals will often be the the quickest to really come out of their shell.
The great thing about our job is we get to have fun because we love what we do. We are dancing, laughing, mingling… We make fun of ourselves which really helps clients break out of their shells and start to engage.
And, of course, it’s a great feeling to have groups come up to you personally and say thanks.

Do you ever encounter any difficulties with integrating groups?

Justin: One of the most interesting challenges we face is when we get an international group. It’s not only potential language barriers that you have to take into account but also cultural differences. For example, we held one event for a large international company with employees from Japan, China, France, and South America. We needed to create an event that everyone would be able to understand, participate in and, above all, have fun with. We ended up doing a Game Show with customized Jeopardy categories that focused on trivia that is known around the world. It was something different and a fun challenge for us to tackle.

Sarah: I agree with Justin the international groups can present a unique challenge. Another difficulty is when you get some individuals who’re almost determined not to let loose, for whatever reason. We are aware that a number of people may have an idea of team building as being a little bit corny, probably from a past experience (not with Feet First!). These people may be a little more of a challenge but we’ve had enough experience that we’re almost always able to get them to drop any preconceived notions and have a good time.

What can someone expect from a Feet First team building outing?

Justin: What makes Feet First stand above the rest is really our people. From our sales staff to our MCs and facilitators, we employ a wide range of people from all different backgrounds and personalities. The one thing that they all have in common is that they know how to have fun and make fun contagious.

Sarah: Many Team Building companies will provide a good time for their clients. Where we’re a bit different is the degree to which we actually try to bond with our clients. By getting personal
and connecting with everyone, we as facilitators can really move the event to the next level.
Basically, as long as one comes in with a relatively open mind, the facilitators and the activities themselves should take care of the rest. 

How do you measure the success of a team building exercise?

Sarah: Since such a large part of our approach is based on being able to establish a personal connection with our clients, a large measure of success is the quality of our interaction with clients at the end of the event. Do they feel comfortable approaching you, joking with you.. maybe even giving you a hug? A huge part of the job is breaking down barriers, so having these kind of interactions is a really great indicator of success.

Justin: As a facilitator, it’s really easy to observe the moment when the group clicks, when they lose some of their inhibitions and really throw themselves into the challenge.
And, as Sarah says, it’s always great when people come up to you, shake your hand, and tell you what a great time they’ve had. 

What’s your favorite team building game / exercise?

Justin: One of my favorite events is our Game Show. It’s just a really fun event that includes some physical challenges. I’ve had a lot of clients give us great feedback about that one.
Another one of my favorite events is our Lego Challenge. It’s a great event in itself, but when the participants see that they are playing with Legos, it ignites this inner child in them and they remember the days of playing with Legos as a kid. It’s amazing to me to see how excited adults get about playing with Legos.

Sarah: This is a great question. I don’t have a favorite game/exercise because to me it all depends upon the group; I think we enjoy the events to the extent that our clients are enjoying them. That said, I really enjoy the give back [charitable] events. They’re the ones that encompass everything that we’re about: working together, having fun and giving back.
I also love the fact every event is different. We have such a great time coming up with new ideas and games, as well as incorporating new locations and elements according to different client’s ideas and goals.

Any other thoughts on Team Building?

Justin: I absolutely love my job and fully believe in what we do. I think it is vital to a company’s success and happiness of employees to have these types of events. Call it an incentive or a team building event, either way, it’s important. Regardless of whether a group has been working together for years, or they’re all new to each other, it can be really hard to make that essential connection with each other throughout the course of a day in the office. As the Plato quote on our website states, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Sarah: Feet First is such a great company to work with and for. We are a small company and we are a close family. Like any other company, what we do starts with our staff and how we work together. In this regard I couldn’t ask for a better company than Feet First.