Thursday, 3 August 2017

Is Expensive Always Reassuring? Why Should Great Team Building Break the Bank?

By Mark Kingston Jones


We often get told we are comparatively cheap (with prices starting at £41.50 per person), which might put prospective clients off if they assume less expensive = lower quality!

But we love doing our events, they are fun for us, for our clients and the incredible animals we work with, so why shouldn't they be accessible to as wide an audience as possible? More importantly if we did less workshops we would end up making less enrichment for the animals. The saying goes that you work with animals for love and not money, and our motivation comes from the fact we genuinely love what we do: we are passionate about it, we want to share that passion with as many clients as we can and we want to give as much back to the animals as possible!

In fact recently we have made our events even more affordable by creating new pricing packages for 3 of our partnerships collections, Lakeview Monkey Sanctuary (Ascot), Longleat (Wiltshire), and Woburn Safari Park (Bedfordshire). We now have set prices for groups of up to 20 people and a simple per person rate above this number so you know exactly how much it will cost your group for an incredible event, in a wonderful location, including all the tools and materials needed to complete an awesome enrichment project!

Even our more expensive packages like the fantastic combination with formal training from ICD (Intelligent Conservation Development), and our Ultimate Enclosure Build Package are great value when you break down what is included.

So, the question is not why it is only going to cost £1,900 to take your team to a private monkey sanctuary for a full day of making enrichment items for monkeys, it is why the hell have we not heard of this before and how will we contain our excitement between now and then? Please be assured our events do not need to be gold plated to be gold star, our feedback from previous attendees and the photos/videos of the people and animals enjoying our events testify that we do not skimp on quality.

Why not contact us now to find out how our bespoke service would work for you!

Friday, 16 June 2017

WE NEED YOU... to come and build us a new monkey enclosure!

By Mark Kingston Jones

I’m sorry, you want us to do what?

Trying to persuade a company to sign up to build a monkey enclosure from scratch may seem like a huge ask and ridiculous challenge, but we believe it is one with huge benefits! You may be thinking, why are we doing this? Well Lakeview Monkey Sanctuary is a small charity which has been run for the last two decades on less than a shoe-string budget. It really needs financial support to continue the great work, rescuing primates from the pet trade, labs and circuses. It is the primary wish of Jimmy and Sharon Shaw who founded the Sanctuary to give all their charges a peaceful retirement in spacious woodland enclosures. To do this they need the money and as they have always built their own enclosures, help with construction in order to speed up the process.

So how does this fit in with our team building ethos? Well Chris and I experience extreme job satisfaction from construction projects like this and we know that is magnified for people doing it for the first time. It is our mission to improve animal welfare wherever possible and this is a fantastic way to meet that aim. Good enclosure design is critical to creating a good baseline for positive animal welfare, and designing something from scratch which is purpose built to meet the needs of its inhabitants is one of the best ways to ensure that the dream of a happy and comfortable retirement is met!

But when Jimmy and Sharon set out to build a new enclosure it can take anywhere from 1-2yrs depending on scale and budget, so what makes us think it will even work setting a deadline of 12 days for completion with people who may start out with no building skills at all? Well we have done it before! Our first major construction project was building a new enclosure for 2 vervet monkeys at the sanctuary. We invited previous attendees from our Student Courses to come and help construct the enclosure from scratch and over 6 weekends we went from clearing an area to finishing a 12m by 12m by 4m high meshed enclosure. As our average attendance was only 7-9 people per day and we were trying to fundraise for this project as we went along, we actually probably could have finished in 10 days. Sarah Eden, one of our attendees said of the experience:
'Before these build weekends, I would of not known the difference between a bolt and a screw…. I have learnt so much over the process of the build and many of us felt a sense of ownership over the enclosure and always ensuring we made each weekend. This is a totally unique experience, which no other collection offers. The sanctuary is such a tranquil location with the real rewards of building something, which matters and will improve the monkeys’ lives.  I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone!'

So that route worked, why are we not just doing that again? Funding was the biggest issue, every penny had to be scraped together and it was not productive time-wise. We relied on generous donations from companies like Arnold Laver, who imported and donated all the timber we needed to put the roof up, and in the end Jimmy and Sharon had to use their own money in order to pay for the night house and final mesh to make sure we finished at all. The price of this event will cover more than 70% of the money needed to build the whole enclosure up front, meaning we would benefit from bulk buy savings and reduced delivery costs. We would be confident we can raise the remaining percentage through fundraising and material donations.

In addition, as rewarding as the students found it, many came a considerable distance, as far as Liverpool and Slovenia, and so the costs of travel and accommodation were prohibitive for many who wished to attend. Despite this we had a core group who came to every single weekend, and we would like to reward them for their commitment by offering each of them a chance to come and help out on these build days, making use of the experience they gained from the first build project, and so some of the funds will also go towards supporting their travel and accommodation expenses. This is added CSR as your team will also be helping support the development of future animal care professionals.

It is still a lot of money though, so what about the expected outcomes? Well we have seen first-hand that this project will provide multiple opportunities for genuine team work, it will without doubt test the communication skills of your team, and also the organisation skills, as prioritising jobs, coordinating individuals and making sure everyone stays on track will be a critical component of the success of this project. There would also be an option to nominate a project manager from the team from the start to work directly with the Instructors, or give different members of the team the opportunity at the start of each day. At the end of each build day there will be a visible progression, leading to a huge sense of accomplishment and job satisfaction. There will also be many opportunities for a wide range of social media exposure as the project progresses and the wider press coverage for those companies that are interested in exploring this option. All this and a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise, what more could you want?

Logistics of how we organise the days will be in complete consultation with the company, and while our suggested option would be 12 Saturdays over a 6 month period, we are equally able to accommodate week days, or multi-day options depending on your needs.

The final outcome will be an incredible sense of team achievement – many participants will probably not expect to achieve the finished outcome, so seeing the completed enclosure with animals bouncing around in it at the final event will be EUPHORIC!