TTT: The History of Viget’s Quarterly Retreats

Brian Williams, Co-Founder & CEO

Article Categories: #News & Culture, #Employee Engagement

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Viget was founded in December 1999 during the peak of the original dot com bubble.  At the time, I was working in a company where our CEO regularly slept on the couch in his office, late nights were routine, and nearly every client -- and indeed the company itself -- seemed to be racing feverishly to an exit.  That company was acquired just a few years into its existence -- a successful outcome for many -- and an experience I’ll always appreciate.

With Viget, we never wanted a sprint.  We viewed our journey as a marathon. We set out to build a better digital world, figuring it would be a century for the internet revolution to run its course, and decades for us to do our part.  When you’re executing a multi-decade plan, a sustainable pace matters.

Our first Third Thursday meeting happened sometime in 2000, after we moved out of Cindy’s basement, when we had a real office and a small, but growing, team.  Our commitment to a sustainable pace of work included taking one day every month -- the third Thursday, specifically -- to step away from our client work to focus on Viget.  

In an all-hands round table meeting format, we reviewed our financial progress (or lack thereof), discussed what was working (and what wasn’t), and course-corrected our future as a team. Every month, grievances were aired openly, new ideas emerged, and the company matured. As important, everyone was engaged and contributed to what Viget would become.  

After a half-day of meetings, we left the office to do something fun as a team. We went ice skating, played paintball, raced go karts, took cooking classes, went sailing … and dozens of other activities.  

Remember when we could all fit on a small boat?

These classic team building opportunities were both fun and effective -- memories were formed, relationships were strengthened, and, when we were back at work, we simply worked better together.

Ice skating in DC

Within the first couple of years, we realized that monthly meetings were too frequent.  We’d worked through a lot of the “setup” for the company and, as client work picked up, we often felt the monthly retreat was more of a momentum-killer than a booster.  

Enter TTT: Third Third Thursday.  

Did you say quarterly instead of monthly? Yay!

We knew monthly was too frequent, so quarterly became our new standard.  This aligned well with our approach to financial planning so, when sharing business metrics, we set goals and shared results accordingly.  At first, we stuck to a routine of the third Thursday of every third month (hence “TTT”). As we grew scheduling complexities grew, as well, so we softened the day-of-week requirement (Fridays? Tuesdays? Whenever), but the quarterly cadence -- and the TTT moniker -- persists.

When we opened our Durham office in 2007 and Boulder a few years later, TTTs became even more important.  Previously, everyone worked in the same office and saw each other daily.  With multiple offices, our quarterly meetings became a chance to see people in person whom we’d rarely see otherwise.  Travel costs and complexities grew, but so did the return on our TTT investments.

Some people have described TTTs as feeling like a family reunion, where you meet distant cousins for the first time.  There’s an instant bond over shared values (can’t get the job without them); a sense of shared history and a united future; and warmth in knowing everyone there supports each other.  We’re always careful to say Viget is a business, not a family -- but we have tried to emulate the positive parts of healthy family dynamics, and this is reflected in our approach to TTTs.

Company outing or family reunion?

As each of our three offices evolved, TTTs evolved too.  Now, TTTs in the winter and summer are “local only.” We share our quarterly metrics via our weekly staff meeting, and then I travel to each office in the subsequent week or two.  Topics tend to be more office-specific and, with a smaller group, the roundtable discussion can be less structured and more free-flowing.

More like a “rectangular” table meeting, but just with our Virginia-based team.

When possible, the post-meeting events are coordinated to be consistent across offices by our amazing People Team, especially our legendary events manager, Khanh.  Whether it’s bubble ball soccer, learning to be a florist, escaping escape rooms, or taking painting lessons, it’s magical to have three different groups enjoy carefully customized events hundreds of miles apart in a way that somehow creates a shared memory.

3 offices, 3 painting outings. Who painted it best?

Unlike the summer and winter, the fall and spring TTTs maintain the true “all-hands” spirit.  Typically, our Colorado team travels east for “TTT week,” visiting either our Virginia or North Carolina office.  We take full advantage of the travel time. Lunches, dinners, happy hours, and informal game nights pop up. Annual performance reviews align when possible, which are always better in person.  Our discipline teams have their offsites on Thursday, then we all get together for TTT (TTF?) on Friday.

Now that we’re close to 70 people, these all-hands TTTs feel more like a conference than just a company meeting. We typically pick 2-3 projects from the previous six months and ask the project teams to present a “deep dive” on how it happened.  This is a great way to share the glory and lessons learned from our client work and always fills the room with pride in the work our peers are producing.

Sticking with the conference theme, we also often ask someone to give a talk on emerging trends (like AR/VR/XR) or the current State of the Web.  To keep it engaging, we include a couple of breakout sessions, getting groups of people who don’t usually collaborate working together on something be it a work-related problem or just a fun team challenge.

In the fall, TTT ends with a nice happy hour.  In the spring, though, the TTT day rolls into a TTT night, an annual celebration of Viget’s birthday.  We enjoy a nice dinner; celebrate longevity with toasts and gifts for 5-, 10-, and 15-year milestones; play epic games; share our talents; play with slow-mo; and generally stay up too late, often around a campfire and with musical instruments.

Viget’s 10th birthday began the overnight tradition.  Viget15 took us to new heights, with an epic 3-night retreat in the Rocky Mountains.

That’s the kind of experience you can only tackle every 5 years, so planning for Viget20 is already in the works.

In the meantime … Next week is TTT week!  Viget18. Can’t wait.

Brian Williams

Brian is Viget's co-founder and CEO. He does everything from advising our clients to building our conference tables with his bare hands in our Falls Church, VA, HQ.

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