Steamed crabs and volleyball scores: Annual picnic blends business with lots of pleasure

It was a company meeting dominated by crabs, volleyball, waterfront views and a fierce corn-hole tournament.

In late September, Plano-Coudon employees put down their tools and pushed back from their computers for an afternoon to attend the annual company picnic at Conrad’s Ruth Villa in Middle River.

One of the company’s quarterly update meetings, the picnic included a brief discussion of new projects, new hires and the company’s progress towards its annual goals. But the the afternoon’s focus soon switched to other things – sports, beverages, casual conversations and crabs.

“Marylanders are serious about their crabs,” said Milan Devon, Project Manager and a Michigan native.

As chair of Plano-Coudon’s Boost Committee, Devon was responsible for planning the picnic. To ensure the event included great crabs, Devon got recommendations from several crab enthusiasts on staff, including one employee who has his own crabbing boat, about the best crab suppliers and how many to order.

“At the end of the picnic, some people went home with extra crabs too. That was sort of intentional,” he said.    picnic-2-web

The afternoon included marathon volleyball games and corn hole matches. 

“There are a lot of very good athletes in the company so the volleyball got competitive,” he said. “The corn hole got pretty competitive too. There are some Type A personalities here and some people were obviously playing for bragging rights.”

But most importantly, the afternoon was filled with conversation. The Boost Committee tailored the activities and venue to create easy opportunities for staff members to talk with each other – to meet a new hire, sit face-to-face with a co-worker they typically only encounter through e-mail, or catch up with a superintendent, foreman or project manager whom they worked with on a project years ago.

“It’s important to encourage that kind of comfortable, casual conversation,” Devon said. “Maybe you talk about a project, maybe you talk about your personal life, maybe you figure out if you want that person as your corn hole partner next year. But you get to make a real connection with a co-worker.”

The annual picnic and similar events have become increasingly important to Plano-Coudon Construction as the company has grown.

“In a company of this size, it is more difficult for Brett and Ryan to interact with everybody, and it’s tougher for employees to get to know everyone,” Devon said. “At the picnic and the holiday party, everyone gets together and has time to talk. It reinforces the family feeling that Brett and Ryan have always wanted in this company.”