By: Christine Ward
Somewhere behind Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings, a man sits tending his cat sanctuary.
Because Andrew Long wants his name . . . and a bunch of corporate types in casual wear and running shoes are out to get it for him. And, while they’re at it, they need to snag a photo of themselves with a Canadian politician.
This group with a mission isn’t just horsing around – they’re participating in a corporate scavenger hunt, the age-old game that has been reconfigured as a national business by Long and his wife Gina Mollicone Long. That business is Scavenger Hunt Anywhere, a company that develops customized scavenger hunts for corporate clients. The themed hunts challenge participants to work together and ply their best problem-solving, creativity, time management, prioritization and decision-making skills to decipher a series of clues, puzzles and trivia.
“Companies aren’t looking for traditional team-building exercises anymore,” says Long. “But they do realize that people remain the foundation of their businesses and that a small investment can influence morale, employee retention and commitment.”
In the 18 months or so since the Longs launched their venture, they’ve helped develop hunts for a host of major companies in Canada, including Kraft, Nokia, Bell Mobility and Kimberly-Clark. And Scavenger Hunt Anywhere has expanded beyond Vancouver to Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa, with plans to add a Quebec City leg soon. There’s also a Scavenger Hunt America, which services such destinations as Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago – the original site of the scavenger hunt concept started by Long in 2002 after a client called his corporate training and development company to inquire about alternative, team-building ideas.
The 1994 Queen’s commerce grad jumped at the opportunity and hasn’t looked back since.
While each scavenger hunt features a unique collection of theme-based challenges, such as clues related to Vancouver’s successful Olympic bid, an eco-hunt and Canada’s capital, Long says the basic ingredients remain the same. “They usually take place in a dense area with lots of venues where tourists might go for a walking tour. The clues are designed so that most people won’t know the answer, even if the hunt city is their home. We can literally run a scavenger hunt anywhere, anytime and for any number of people.”
And forget using the Internet. Cat sanctuary man doesn’t have a website.
But the real secret to Scavenger Hunt Anywhere’s success began in Kingston. “The people I met and the relationships I made while at Queen’s were instrumental in the launch of our business,” recalls Long. “We got off the ground two years ago by contacting our friends, many of whom are Queen’s alums, and asking them for referrals and help in brainstorming innovative ideas for scavenger hunts across the country.”
Long also attributes his entrepreneurial spirit to the well-rounded business education he received in Queen’s Commerce program, including business writing and computer technology. “In 1993, there were no courses on web design, but the commerce program did introduce computer modules that acted as a foundation for what has now become an integral part of our business,” Long explains.
Even though he lives in Vancouver with his wife and young children Molly and Simon, the Internet has enabled Long to market scavenger hunts in various locations in Canada and the U.S. This year alone, he expects to run 125 hunts throughout North America. In the next five years, he hopes to have provided his company’s unique services in most of the major cities on the continent.
For now, the Queen’s grad says companies are looking to Scavenger Hunt Anywhere to help build relationships between staff and provide some team-building content to extended meetings and retreats.
“It’s tough to measure outcomes, except anecdotally,” Long admits. “We aren’t going move mountains in a half or a full day of activities, but clients are coming back and saying the event created quite the buzz at the office and helped strengthen relationships.”