This interview was made possible by our friends at Guidant Financial:
The leader in alternative startup, franchise and small business financing.
Lisa Jennings is the Chief Experience Officer of Wildly Different and also holds the title of Hunt Master at Masters of the Hunt. She is a spin master. Reads faster than a speeding bullet. Her organizational abilities are more powerful than a locomotive. She loves to leap tall mountains in many bounds. And her favorite garment? A well-worn pair of bossy boots.
She has come a long way since earning – much to her parents’ initial dismay – a BS in Leisure Services and Studies from Florida State University. Much to her parents’ amazement however, she was able to put her degree to good use over the course of the last 22 years and she is one of the few people she knows who still works in the field she studied in.
Her two companies, which she owns with her long-time friend and business partner Jane Lipps, deliver unique interactive events. Primarily serving the corporate market, Wildly Different offers unique team building and networking events. While Masters of the Hunt specializes in one-of-a-kind treasure and scavenger hunts for events and promotions.
MO: I love the concept behind both of your companies! How did you come up with the idea for them? Did one come before or influence the development of the other?
Lisa: After earning my degree, I was lucky enough to put it to good use in a number of different recreation and event industry jobs. Very early on in my career, I dreamed of owning my own business. I loved team building and I eventually decided it was time to open Wildly Different. My dream was to offer some wildly different activities from what I was seeing in the marketplace. Hence the name! My friend Jane and I used to work together and when we did, we were constantly brainstorming ideas for new events, outrageous hunt clues, etc. We always joked about opening our own company. As luck would have it, when I opened Wildly Different, Jane opened Masters of the Hunt at the same time. Treasure hunts were always a passion of hers – she used to throw hunts for her family and friends the entire time she was growing up. Well, it turned out that I’d call her to help me on the team building events booked through Wildly Different. And, she would call me to work on the treasure hunts she booked through Masters of the Hunt. Finally we said, “This is crazy! Why don’t we just pair up?” It’s been a partnership made in heaven ever since. We’ve literally never had a fight since the companies merged back in 2007 and we feed off of each other’s shared creativity and energy while complimenting each other’s different skill sets.
MO: What are some tips for planning a successful scavenger or treasure hunt? Are these types of events increasing in popularity?
Lisa: My tip – hire a professional! That’s not just a plug…we get calls from people all of the time, who think planning their own hunt will be easy. Then, when we start asking them questions and posing all of the different scenarios they could face, they invariably say, “Wow! We never realized everything that goes into one of these!” You have to make sure you create an experience that involves everyone positively. For instance, if you host a progressive hunt – people solve a clue in order to find the next one – you have to think about what you’ll do when people get stuck. Another key point – you’ll want to ensure players can’t tamper with clues. Some people get really competitive and if they can steal or alter a clue to stop other players from succeeding, they will! We’ve literally written the book – actually several books – about treasure hunts. For those who don’t have the budget for us to implement one for them, we sell “Do-It-Yourself” Treasure Hunts online at our Masters of the Hunt website!
Hunts have always been popular and that’s because they are timeless and ageless. Hunts date back to as far as I can remember, but the themes people request changes from year-to-year. Raiders of the Lost Ark made adventure-themed hunts popular. Then came pirate hunts when Pirates of the Caribbean was huge. Now, people lean towards wanting an Amazing Race type of event. And, it doesn’t matter how old you are – everyone loves a hunt. Whether it’s picking up Easter eggs as a small child, or solving intricate clues as an adult, hunts bring a smile to your face!
MO: Can you share a strange or surprising team building technique that has yielded impressive and fast results?
Lisa: I think people underestimate the power of play. Many people are afraid to implement something fun for fear that it – and they – will be seen as silly. But, in this high-tech age, people crave the energy that comes when interacting face-to-face with others.” Whether that’s through a team building activity, or implementing something fun to promote their service or product. For instance, one of our clients wanted to attract customers to attend their consumer event instead of their competitors’ events. We ended up creating an iTouch hunt when iTouch units first came out that had guests roaming throughout Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to solve clues that integrated information about our client’s company. Many who worked for them thought this was a huge mistake. They said, “We’re trying to attract people to our party instead of to our competitors’. And, we’re going to risk asking them to leave the party to do a hunt? It will never work!” Well, the guests loved it – they got to interact with the client’s service in an entertaining way while getting to network with others who were placed on their team. It was such a huge hit that it was replicated in four of our client’s other markets!
MO: What’s the craziest or most unusual request you have ever received from a client? Were you able to help them?
Lisa: That would be when we were asked to create and deliver an all day long team building event for 2,500 people who bought out a cruise ship for their conference…but, we could only bring 4 people from our team on board the ship to implement it! We were able to do it – it was the world’s largest team building at sea – by training ship staff, the meeting planner’s staff and managers within the company (100 people in all) on their role in the Amazing Race-style event.
MO: You regularly deal with large corporate groups for team building activities and adventures. How often are you met with reluctance or surprise when you introduce your event to staff? Are you usually successful in winning over the most dubious of attendees?
Lisa: That happens a lot! You say “team building” and invariably, some people roll their eyes. Some of that’s due to the type of team building people may have experienced. We strive to create experiences that are fun, but not hokey; that are challenging, but that everyone can do regardless of physical ability. One of my favorite things is to hear people say, “I didn’t want to play, but I’m really glad I did. That was awesome!” And, we hear that a lot!
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally for 2012?
Lisa: The thing I love the most about my job is, I never know what will happen day-to-day. We never know what request we’ll find in our inbox or when we pick up the phone. It’s like Christmas every day – what surprises will await me today? But, one thing we are very excited about is we’re working with a production company to create our own television show. We’re hoping to go beyond the traditional reality TV show and create something with a positive and quirky vibe that captures the excitement of a treasure hunt. People will get to imagine what types of clues we’ll create in the interesting places we’ll visit worldwide in Part 1 of the show and then in Part 2 they’ll get to play at home alongside the on-screen teams.