Creative Guide to Team Building for Small Businesses: Dos, Don’ts, & Fun Ideas

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Small businesses face challenges distinct from those of larger companies. For example, large organizations can hire employees for specific jobs and so require less collaboration. For small businesses that use a team-based model, strong collaboration is critical to the company’s success. Having fewer employees may result in fewer innovative ideas generated. Individuals may have to wear many hats to fit a variety of roles needed to accomplish tasks. Smaller teams count on every person’s participation to reach their goals. 

So how can small businesses overcome these obstacles? Incorporating small business team building ideas into your workplace will strengthen collaboration, expand creative thinking, and teach all team members a variety of needed skills. Your employees will feel vested in the growth and success of the company!

Table of Contents

What Are Team Building Exercises?

The Dos And Don’ts Of Team Building For Small Businesses

15 Small Business Team Building Ideas

What Are Team Building Exercises?

Team building exercises are fun activities, games, and enjoyable social events that transform a group of employees into a cohesive team. These exercises improve communication, encourage collaboration, develop strong relationships, spark creativity, and enhance problem-solving.

How Does Team Building Support The Innovation Objectives Of Small Businesses? 

Team building supports innovation objectives because it empowers teams to develop skills that are essential to small businesses. Skills like creative thinking help employees devise innovative solutions to meet goals. Strong communication skills help teams stay clear on objectives. 

Build Stronger Relationships 

When team members don’t know or trust each other, coming together as a team can be challenging. Productive collaboration requires team members to feel at ease with one another and comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. A lack of trust may lead to misunderstandings and derail the team from achieving their goals. 

Team building activities offer employees the opportunity to get to know and trust each other. Co-workers may develop stronger bonds and friendships. Statistics show that work friendships have a direct bearing on employees being happier and more productive. Relationship-building activities and social gatherings can work wonders for your small business!

Enhance Communication

Solid communication is important for teams. Without it, team members may misinterpret each other which can lead to poor team output or even work-related conflicts. Many team building activities necessitate clear and concise communication from individuals within a group. Team building activities encourage those employees who are less vocal to speak up, helping them find their voice within the team. The flow of ideas from a range of perspectives leads to more innovative ways of thinking. 

Improve Collaboration

A team that doesn’t collaborate is just a group of individuals working alone to reach a shared goal. This dynamic will hinder your team’s ability to produce their best results. A Stanford University study revealed that participants who worked collectively on a task stuck with their task 64% longer than those working alone. They reported higher levels of engagement and a higher success rate. Team building activities improve team collaboration so your team can maximize productivity and feel a sense of collective pride!

Problem-Solving

Team building activities that present your group with challenges they do not typically encounter force team members to seek unconventional solutions. Through team building exercises, employees discover the power of creative problem-solving and will use that power to overcome existing or future work-related challenges.

Identify Leaders 

More than 3 out of 4 small business owners experience the effects of burnout at work at some point in time. When small business owners take on too much and delegate too little, their physical and mental health can suffer. Developing leaders within your company can relieve the pressure that causes burnout. Having employees that you can depend on to steer the ship from time to time can lower a small business owner’s stress. 

Leadership development opportunities are a key driver of employee engagement. More productive, and more likely to stick with a company, engaged employees reduce the cost and headache of high turnover.

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The Dos And Don’ts Of Team Building For Small Businesses

Building a team structure for small businesses takes some know-how. Understanding the do’s and don’ts of small business team building activities helps you avoid any pitfalls and get straight to the good stuff

DO Have A Clear Objective 

Before you can plan an activity, you need to know what you want to achieve. Is your team struggling to collaborate constructively? Choose an activity that requires collaboration to succeed. Are some team members reluctant to share ideas? Find a game that needs everyone’s input. Is there not enough laughter in the office? Pick an activity that will guarantee a good time!

DO Choose Inclusive Activities

It’s essential to do a variety of activities so that everyone has a chance to join in comfortably at some point or another. Think about the demographics of your group before picking an activity. Does anyone have physical limitations? Strenuous activities like a group hike or a ropes course may not be ideal. Activities centered on alcohol like a wine tasting or a happy hour may cause some team members to feel left out. Does a team member have a regular timing conflict? Make an effort to schedule your team building activity at a time that works for everyone. 

DO Leave Job Titles At The Door 

Even small businesses have a work hierarchy of some sort. If your team building activity includes all employees (as they should when possible), advise the group that company status has no place during the activity. This will promote a free flow of dialogue and team bonding across all levels.

DO Ask For Feedback

Asking for feedback after a team building activity can help you gauge what is working and what is not. Playing a dull and ineffective game will turn off employees entirely to the notion of team building. If you lose their willingness to participate early on, you may have trouble convincing them to try again. To gather feedback, you can ask the team to send emails, jot down notes, or if you think people would prefer anonymity create a survey with Google Forms.

DON’T Schedule Team Building Activities Outside Of Work Hours

Holding mandatory team building activities outside of work hours shows your employees that you don’t value their time. It shows a lack of respect or disinterest in what is important to them in their personal lives. If you must schedule your activity for evenings or weekends, make attendance optional. 

DON’T Allow People To Fall Into Their Usual Roles

It’s all too easy for people to unintentionally fall into the roles they play in the workplace. Team building activities draw people out of their comfort zones. Small businesses do better when they have employees who can be flexible and perform a diverse range of tasks. 

DON’T Pick A Boring Activity

Passive activities like watching webinars or inviting guest speakers on non-relevant topics can leave participants feeling drained. They may feel that their time has been wasted and even stressed that they have lost precious work time. The best small business team building games will shift team members’ skills into high gear and in some cases get people moving! 

DON’T Forget To Have Fun

Although team building activities are meant to strengthen teams in the workplace, they can still be quite fun! Great team building activities will have your team laughing and feeling invigorated. Spending good times with colleagues outside of the office forges lasting bonds, builds relationships, and creates shared memories that teams can look back at fondly! 

15 Small Business Team Building Ideas

Below are 15 fun creative team building small business ideas. Some of these games are meant for your entire group, while a few are only for management to work on leadership skills. For small companies with a human resources department, check with them for more fun team building activities. 

Though this list contains in-person activities, many of them are playable online so that remote teams can reap the same benefits that team building offers! Take a look at these virtual team building activities for small businesses: 14 quick virtual team building activities and 16 free virtual team building games!

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1. Escape Rooms

Escape rooms for team building are an excellent activity for small businesses. These exciting games can accommodate between 8-12 people so if your team is small, you can all play together! (Larger groups can make special arrangements). Escape room games are immersive hour-long activities that challenge teams to solve puzzles and decode clues to find the way out before it’s too late! 

Escape rooms allow your team members to work on a range of skills – creative thinking, communication, and collaboration in an exciting atmosphere! Your remote employees can have the same awesome team building experience by playing a virtual escape room

2. Board Games

Laying out a game board and pieces in your office may feel a bit strange at first. But once you get past that feeling of being a kid again, you’ll find that playing board games is a terrific team building activity. The options are endless and target different skills. Board games improve team communication and collective decision-making. Playing board games allows teams to bond in a fun and casual environment. 

The game Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives teaches collaboration skills since all players are on the same team and work together to open a cooperative business. Cranium teaches teams that everyone plays a part in the group’s effort to win the game! For virtual teams, play an online version of Pictionary created by Scribbl. Here are more virtual team building games and activities!

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3. Online Game Shows

Playing an online game show is a great game to boost collaboration skills. These games are live, hosted contests in which teams go toe-to-toe to rack up points, garner badges, and take the top spot on the leaderboard! Although the game is hosted online, you can still enjoy the experience if you’re an in-person team.


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4. Desert Island Survival

Play this short game at the start or end of a meeting, whether in person or over Zoom. This game encourages individual creative thinking and problem-solving. Tell players that each one of them will be stranded alone on a desert island. They must choose one object to bring with them to help them survive! Have each person explain why they chose the item that they did. 

Build on this activity and ask team members to think about what roles they would take on if the whole team was stranded together. Each team member can examine the unique skills and talents they bring to the group. Would they be the team member who would look for ways to get off the island or would they be the one to gather food to sustain the group until they are rescued? This activity shows team members that each of them has something special to offer the team!

5. Take A Hike 

Let your team know that you care about their well-being by scheduling an activity in the great outdoors! Research shows that being in nature has mental as well as physical health benefits. A hike or an easy stroll outdoors brings fresh air and natural light into your team’s dynamic for a while. 

People relax when they are away from their desks. They are more likely to strike up non-work-related conversations and employees from different levels of your company hierarchy will mingle. The result will be stronger relationships and a sense of camaraderie. Remember to choose an inclusive activity. If a hike is too challenging for someone in your group, take a short walk instead. Research shows that just 20 minutes in nature boosts energy! That is time well spent! 

6. Scavenger Hunt

As an alternative to taking a hike or walk, scavenger hunts combine the benefits of being outdoors with an exciting activity that draws upon communication, collaboration, and some quick problem-solving. Split the group into teams and challenge them to locate items on a list before other teams do. No one person can find all the objects by themselves. Team members have got to work together if they want to win. For remote businesses, there is an array of virtual scavenger hunts, some of which take your team around the world!

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7. Onboarding Buddies

Many businesses use onboarding as a way to integrate a new employee into the company. Some elements of onboarding, like new employee training, are performed by management, but other parts of the process invite teams into the mix. Team lunches or happy hours are scheduled so the new employee can get to know their colleagues outside of the office. 

Onboarding has one special role that tasks a current employee to serve as a new hire’s  “buddy”. Onboarding buddies are not mentors. Rather they usher the new hire into the company culture, make introductions, and serve as an informal resource for questions and concerns a new hire may have. Both the new hire and buddy benefit from their connection. The new employee has someone to rely on while the experienced employee can improve their leadership skills. Entirely remote companies can facilitate virtual onboarding. For new remote employees who may not feel connected to the group right away, a virtual onboarding buddy can make that new hire feel part of the team sooner.

8. Trivia Games

Whether in person or online, playing trivia is a terrific way for team members to develop vital skills. Trivia games require quick, but smart, thinking. Communication and collaboration are essential as teams must share knowledge in search of the correct answer. Decision-making and consensus-finding also play a role since teams have just one shot at guessing the right answer.

Trivia allows for employees to get to know one another since everyone has different areas of interest and expertise. Playing trivia games can induce a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that produces feelings of joy so everyone will be feeling good! Check out these virtual trivia games for your remote teams.

9. Personal User Manuals

Positive working relationships are important in small business environments because employees may be interacting more frequently. To foster stronger relationships, ask your employees to write thoughtful personal user manuals to help teammates know each other. These manuals should include detailed work styles like their preferred method of feedback. Would they rather sit down and talk or would they like an email? Employees can list their strengths and weaknesses so that team leaders can assign roles that are a good fit as well as help employees work on those weaknesses. Personal User Manuals can even contain pet peeves like “Don’t approach me before I’ve had my dose of caffeine!” Here are some example user manuals.

10. Take An Improv Class

Performing improv can be awkward or even a bit embarrassing. When your team takes an improv class together, all your team members are in the same boat. Everyone must step out of their comfort zone, but doing so with the whole team creates a sense of trust and camaraderie!

11. Personality Tests 

Team building personality tests give your employees an opportunity to get to know themselves and each other better. By understanding what strengths and weaknesses each other has, your team can take advantage of the differences and assign tasks to those who can accomplish them with ease. For team leaders, personality tests are a way to identify which team members need support in certain areas. 

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Management Focused Activities

12. Online Mystery Games

Online mystery games are great for businesses that are operating in person, remotely, or a combination of both. Before the game begins, you’ll split into teams of “secret agents” sent on a top-secret mission. Teams must search the internet and review evidence to solve the mystery. Your adventure could take you to art museums around the world or mysterious science labs under the sea! Online mystery games train leaders on how to delegate tasks in a low-stakes scenario which will help them perform effectively when dealing with actual teams.

13. Minefield

This is a time-tested game to improve communication among leaders. A major leadership challenge is how to effectively communicate your message to your team. Minefield is a fun and easy game that builds leadership skills and communication skills while also building trust. This game is best played indoors as you will need large objects to serve as obstacles. 

Create an obstacle course using items like office chairs, garbage pails, large cardboard boxes, or any other moveable item you have around. Once your obstacle course is in place, divide the group into teams and choose a leader for each group. Blindfold all participants except the team leaders. Have team leaders verbally instruct each blindfolded team member through the obstacle course. The team that gets all its members through the obstacle course wins the game! 

14. Business Board Games 

If you are looking for team building activities to develop your business and leadership skills, there are plenty of board games that can do just that! There are games to develop business and leadership skills like strategic planning, financial management, negotiation, problem-solving, decision-making, and teamwork. 

One very popular board game, Forbidden Island, focuses on strategic thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. Up to four people can play so if your management crew is small, this game is a great fit. It only takes 30 minutes to complete so play it over a company lunch!

15. TED Talks On Leadership

Though active team building activities are generally more engaging than passive activities, make an exception and watch some TED Talks on leadership. These insightful talks cover various dynamic aspects of leadership and can serve as inspiration for the team. 

Here are some other team building TED Talks to enjoy with your leaders and managers!

Final Thoughts

For small businesses, high-functioning teams are fundamental. A great team collaborates well and communicates effectively. They can solve problems with innovative thinking. Both team members and team leaders understand and trust each other. Dedicating time and resources to fun and creative team building activities leads to sustained successes and happier employees!