The Best $477 I’ll Spend This Month (And Probably This Year)

This week, two new people start at GAN. For a current team of seven people, this is a big deal.

So of course, we have to onboard them.

Unfortunately, when I think about onboarding and the HR process for new employees, what normally comes to mind are PowerPoint presentations, cringe-worthy videos from CEOs, nondescript rooms with fluorescent lighting, or forced trust-building exercises.

So when new people join our team, we think really intentionally about how we might best welcome them to the GAN family in ways that don’t either bore them to tears or force intimacy but don’t actually build any real connection. Specifically, we know we want to accomplish a handful of things:

  1. We want to know a bit about the personal and professional stories of the people we are about to work with—what brought them to this point in their lives and what motivated them to work with GAN.
  2. We want to build a sense of trust (as much as you can build by the end of an eight-hour day together).
  3. We want to understand what could piss each other off.
  4. And we just generally want to enjoy each other.

How We Do It

Breakfast Together
To accomplish these goals, we get the entire team together in the morning—including all of our contractors—so that everyone can meet each other in person. After I make a series of ridiculous jokes over a bullhorn, we immediately head to breakfast somewhere nearby. Then, instead of just chatting and bonding as you normally would over breakfast, we actually take it a small step further. After we get our food, everyone goes around the table and shares their stories—weaving together a narrative about their personal and professional lives that explains how they’ve arrived at this moment.

It might seem simple, but what happens is amazing. Employees, both new and old, share the stories that define them as people. We hear about their spouses, their parents, the cities where they grew up, who their best (or worst) bosses were, and—of course—what brought them to GAN. And even though I’ve now heard Dani tell her story more than a dozen times over the past four years, it’s a great reminder of who she is, where she came from, and what continues to get her excited about GAN. And, naturally, we spend half the time making fun of each other when pieces of our stories are fun and interesting and unique. Spent time as a TV broadcaster? Met your wife when she was working across the street from you in a little thing called The White House? Yep—we’re going to poke at you.

The whole breakfast takes about two hours.

Cost for breakfast: $135

Group Activity & Lunch
After breakfast, we hop in one of our cars and drive. Because we’re in Colorado, we’re obviously heading straight to the mountains, so the ride lasts about 90 minutes. But, as you might have guessed, our time in the car isn’t just unstructured chatting. Instead, I ask everyone to bring up two questions: One related to work and another unrelated to work that they want to know about everyone else on the team.

The questions that come up are better and more interesting than anything I could ever dream of.

Dani always asks, “What keeps you up at night?”

Last year, Brandi asked, “If we could live on the moon, and all of our basic needs were met (breathing included), what would be the one ‘luxury’ item you’d bring?”

I normally ask, “What’s your favorite thing about working for me?” This, as intended, causes everyone to roll their eyes. And then I ask my actual question: “What one thing annoys you most about specific colleagues?”

By the time we’re wrapping up this round of questions, we’ve usually arrived at our destination.

I love the idea of doing something unique where a special memory can be made. In this week’s case, we hopped on a pontoon boat and spent two hours hanging out on a lake in the middle of the mountains. Here’s a picture of us from Tuesday:

While on the boat, we have no set agenda. It’s a great time to just hang out, share some stories and enjoy each others’ company.

Cost for the boat: $189
Cost for lunch: $108

Closing Out the Day
Once we’re done with our afternoon activity, we get back in the car and head back to Denver. Again, this conversation is more structured. I’ll bring up one or two questions for the group and then we’ll have the newbies ask any questions they want of the rest of us. It’s a great time for them to start seeing the values most dear to us, both as people and as a company.

Cost for gas: $45

Why We Do It

By the end of the day, we accomplish our four goals in a way that doesn’t feel forced—no PowerPoints, no trust falls, no ropes courses. We share real, honest conversation and time spent together. More importantly, people leave feeling like we care about them. Because we truly do.

What happens as a result of all of this? We start Day #2 alongside colleagues who we actually enjoy and trust. We have a better sense of what makes someone tick. And we might even gain a greater sense of empathy for them because we’ve heard their stories. Not a bad day’s work, especially when we gain all of that and have a good time doing it. It’s easy and fun, and we do a lot of laughing.

In total, all it takes is around $500 and losing track of our emails for a day. This week, it was just $477. And I think it’s worth every penny.

Not because we’re out of contact with our global community for a day, but because having a team that feels connected makes us more present to our community on every other day of the year. We’re more able to cope when things don’t go according to plan, or to pick each other up and support one other when our colleagues need us most. And that not only makes GAN a better place to work, it makes us better equipped to support this incredible network of accelerators, partners, and investors—who support founders all over the world, every day.

So this week, we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Dina Samra, who will build new relationships with corporate partners, and Nick Zasowski, who will build new relationships with accelerators in the Americas.