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Challenge Discovery Charts New Course

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In 2001 he got an offer that challenged him. A Richmond client had $6,000 to spend on team-building for 400 employees attending a conference at Wake Forest University. The gig could last no more than two-and-a-half hours. Not wanting to turn down the business, Huber designed a program he named Conquest, which he based on the then-new show "Survivor." Instead of hosting a daylong retreat at its Challenge Discovery headquarters in Doswell, home to the rope courses, Huber sent staff off-site and out of state to put on the customized program — for a price he says was far below the average $80 to $95 per person businesses and organizations had typically spent on such activities.

Increasingly, Huber had to individualize programs — so much so, he says, that "We were beginning to dilute the brand of what Challenge Discovery stands for."

Power Play will function as its own brand yet remain initially a division of Challenge Discovery, which will continue to operate with a full-time staff of four and 25 part-timers.

For now, Power Play is Huber, Sylvest and Zeigler. The focus of its business, says client-care specialist Sylvest, is on "the fusion of people and play," more than on training and development.

The three recently returned from a Caribbean cruise. It was work. Seattle-based Philips Medical Systems had spent $3.5 million to send 600 employees. It had hired Power Play for two hours during the first morning, the first day of the trip. Huber, Sylvest and Zeigler split the group into 30 teams of 20 and had each complete 26 puzzles and build a kind of Pinewood-Derby-type car.

"Now they're pumped for this year's sales," Sylvest says. And when it comes to relationship building, Zeigler sums up the difference he thinks Power Play makes: "It's the Yee-ha versus the Ah-ha." — Brandon Walters



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