Behind the Scenes of Holiday Week: What It’s Like to Plan the Biggest LaunchSquad Event of the Year

Behind the Scenes of Holiday Week: What It’s Like to Plan the Biggest LaunchSquad Event of the Year

By Jacqueline Hultner

First, if you aren’t familiar, here at LaunchSquad we talk all year about a not-so-little, five-day event called Holiday Week. It brings Squadders from all of our offices to San Francisco for team-building activities, inspirational presentations from special guests and a whole lot of opportunities to catch up with one another over happy hours and other events.

When I had my first LaunchSquad interview, I heard about this illustrious “Holiday Week” for the first time. When I had my second interview, I heard even more about the planning, preparation and organization involved in the job I was interviewing for. And then, when I had my final interview, I heard even more about how Holiday Week would demand my time and energy from the start of my first day as an office manager.

They were right. But now that Holiday Week has come and gone, I am left feeling a slight void, and kind of sad that it’s all over. But there’s always Holiday Week 2016!

If you’re curious why we’re so dedicated to celebrating and learning together for an entire week each year (or if you just want to know what it takes to make Holiday Week happen) read on.

Can you distill the purpose of Holiday Week into a few sentences?

If you could look up “LaunchSquad’s Holiday Week” in the dictionary, this is what you would find.

(noun):  the most important week of each year, bringing together all offices for some fun, some learning and most of all, some team bonding. Each day brings a little piece of the core of LaunchSquad to the team, culminating in one epic party at the end of the week.

This year, 115 people from four different offices came together in San Francisco. What does it feel like to be behind the scenes making everything run smoothly, from the food to the special events?

There are two sides to making Holiday Week happen. The first side is planning, preparation and list making. Stephanie, our HR and Operations Manager, and I went through lots of lists and ideas to make sure we thought of every possible element of an event (it was super helpful that Stephanie had years of experience with Holiday Week, so she knew what LaunchSquad needed and wanted). The other side is problem solving. Even though planning is essential, I think that the best part of event planning, or even hospitality in general, is that nothing is certain and there are so many variables that can go wrong or differently than expected. You have to be prepared to find a solution to the problem in front of you. It always keeps things interesting!

In working with so many people to make this happen, what struck you the most about the reason LaunchSquad does this?

It was clear from the start of the planning that the main goal is the happiness of the team. The words “bonding” and “fun” seemed to come up a lot as a source of inspiration.

I think one of our partners, Brett Weiner, summed it up perfectly: “Holiday Week at LaunchSquad is an incredible, energizing experience. For an entire week, we bring the entire company together for inspiration, insight and maybe a bit too much fun. And it gets better every single year.”

What was your favorite Holiday Week planning moment, either beforehand or during the week itself?

I had so many favorite moments throughout Holiday Week, especially because I got to see something I worked on come to fruition! I loved the holiday party on Friday evening—seeing everyone come into the party, dressed up and ready to have a good time. It felt like everything came together. For me, Holiday Week was like a marathon, and I needed to make it to the finish line, which was the party at the end of those five days. I had heard so many great things about past holiday parties that I put a lot of pressure on myself to not let down the team.

It’s safe to say some of the benefits from Holiday Week last all year long. Seeing everyone together, what do you think will be the biggest long-term advantages of Holiday Week 2015?

Something happens during that particular week. The week starts off with different offices coming together, and on that first Monday, it feels a lot like the first day of school; people are eager, excited and not too sure where to sit. Slowly, as the week goes by, everyone seems to become more unified and more inspired. There is one thing that you can’t deny: at some point during that week, hopefully multiple times, you have created new memories and learned something you didn’t know before. And as it all culminates in the holiday party, it feels like we all understand each other a little bit more.

Let’s end by talking a little more about that holiday party. Is there an art to finding a venue that’s very “LaunchSquad”? What have you learned about who the Squad is, from finding a venue to seeing the party in action?

The hardest part of planning is finding the right location for the big holiday party that finishes off the week. I believe that San Francisco’s economy can be judged by how difficult it is to book an event space. After being let down so many times by places that were already booked, my new plan of attack became researching places that were not yet open, and trying to secure a meeting right after opening to be able to get in line first.

This plan paid off when I heard about a new French-inspired restaurant called Bon Marché that was opening in the Twitter building. After seeing pictures of how much thought they had put into the design of the restaurant, and the fact that they were part of a well-known restaurant group, I felt good about the decision. After all, LaunchSquad employees are not the type to back down from a challenge and we’re all about finding creative solutions. If those solutions have a great dance floor, delicious food and a photo booth, all the better!

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