Jan 20, 2009 David Lang

OakTree "Family" Dinner

Last Friday night, all the staff of OakTree software who are located here in the Orlando area, along with our spouses, enjoyed a company dinner together. As I mentioned in my A-Team post, only our sales and support staff works in a central office, while the application and module developers all work from their own homes. Consequently, these kinds of get-togethers help us connect with each other in ways we're not able to on a day-to-day basis.

We don't really have any set schedule for these. We try to organize them at times when no one is traveling to do a seminar or show, and if some of our more far-flung staff members happen to be in town, we're even more motivated to try and get everyone together. This time, our meeting happened to coincide with a visit from a renowned scholar we're working with.

In the past, we've done these dinners at someone's house or we've taken over large portions of a restaurant, but we've grown so much in the past year that those options were no longer very feasible. So this time we met in the fellowship hall of a local church. Now, I knew this location would be good from the standpoint of giving us ample room, but I've been in this fellowship hall before. Like many church fellowship halls, it's a windowless room with fluorescent lights, offering very little in the way of "ambience." Yet somehow, the ladies who organized the dinner managed to transform this designed-to-be-functional room into a romantically-lit and beautifully-decorated place to dine. I was stunned when my wife, Lisa, and I walked in.

After we mingled for a while and munched on appetizers, we were encouraged to take our seats. Then we each stood up for a moment, introduced ourselves, and explained generally what our position is and what it entails. If we were too brief or too modest, someone else would inevitably chime in to give a fuller picture of our value to the company. This, of course, was at once embarrassing and encouraging.

That's one of the things I really appreciate about the people I work with. There's a great deal of mutual admiration and cheerleading going on, with none of the sniping and competition often found between other companies' employees. After observing the way we interact with each other for most of the evening, the visiting scholar I mentioned described us as a "family." I think he's right. It really did feel more like a "family dinner" than a "company dinner."

Speaking of the visiting scholar, he fit right in. First, his academic accomplishments are matched only by his humility, and when he introduced himself, several of us chimed in to explain to the rest of the staff just how important his accomplishments have been. After dinner, we were privileged to have him speak to us about his area of expertise and the work he's doing, which he repeatedly said he could not do if it weren't for Accordance.

After all this, we continued to mingle and chat with each other until late in the evening, when the need to relieve babysitters and to sleep could no longer be delayed. We went home feeling well-fed, personally encouraged, and proud to be a part of the OakTree "family."

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