The power of an open house.

Author:Carrison, Dan
 
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Business can reap obvious and not-so-obvious benefits from holding an open house. Such events can make customers burned by Web operators comfortable that you have a brick-and-mortar reality, broaden your employees' perspectives, gain buy-in from your employees' families, an even intimidate the opposition. If open houses are good enough for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, they are good enough for you.

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I recently went on a public tour of an aircraft carrier during Navy Week in Los Angeles. Tens of thousands attended, and every generation was represented. I'm pretty sure that the Navy brass, evaluating the event by public relations metrics, said "Mission accomplished!" As I drove home, still awestruck from walking the deck of that marvelous ship, I couldn't help wondering, "Why don't more companies hold 'open house' events?"

The benefits of a commercial open house are obvious and not so obvious.

On its most basic level, an open house tells the world that the company has a brick-and-mortar facility. This can have a reassuring effect on existing and potential customers who have been frustrated when dealing with "dot.com" representations in the virtual reality of cyberspace. A company that opens its doors to the public for a behind-the-scenes tour exhibits a degree of confidence that can transfuse into the customer; after all, an organization with slipshod operations would not let in the light of day.

An open house is also a great way to reach out to the "other half" of the workforce: employees' families. This kind of outreach can benefit the company in a number of ways. The employee's spouse, once acquainted with the actual workplace and its managers, is brought "on board." He or she can become a kind of unofficial advocate for the company, willing to forgive the times when the employee must work overtime and less apt to push the employee toward another, higher-paying job. The spouse might also take a greater interest in the work of the employee, give encouragement during times of stress, and even offer admonition if the employee is tempted to call in sick after a night of revelry.

The "other half" of the employee force also includes the children, who get to see exactly what Mom or Dad does. Every organization with a long-term vision should pursue "second generation" employees--the sons and daughters of current workers. The core values of a corporate culture are best perpetuated and protected by those...

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