By Tina Irgang
It all started because Optimal Networks was having too much fun.
“For the past eight or nine years, we’ve done these phenomenal, monstrous open houses once a year, to celebrate our anniversary,” says president and CEO Heinan Landa. “We did all sorts of crazy stuff with them. We had aerialists here, we did a red-carpet open house, and we had bands. Once, we did a Latin fiesta where we brought in llamas and alpacas.”
In short, everyone enjoyed the open houses. Everyone, except for Optimal Networks’ landlord. Finally, it became clear that the company needed a new plan and, with its 25th anniversary coming up, it seemed like a good time to do something big.
“We’re in Rockville, but we have clients in DC and Virginia, and it was tough for them to get to us because of the traffic,” says Landa. “So we thought, instead of the open house, let’s make it a tour.”
So earlier this year, Optimal Networks picked one restaurant each in Maryland, DC and Virginia, and invited the clients and business partners in that area to an event with live music, food and drinks.
A boost for local nonprofits
At the same time, Optimal Networks does business with several nonprofits in the greater Washington area. To promote the organizations’ missions, Optimal Networks sponsors their events and highlights them at its own events.
This seemed like a good fit for the 25th anniversary tour as well, so Landa and his team picked a nonprofit to showcase at each of the three tour stops.
In Virginia, the company chose Wesley Housing, a developer of affordable housing based in Alexandria. In DC, Optimal Networks highlighted The ALS Association — of ice-bucket challenge fame — and in Maryland, the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance was selected.
Each of the nonprofits’ leaders got a chance to speak to event attendees about their organization’s mission, says Landa. The nonprofits also had a place at each event to set up materials and host giveaways.
“They were all very grateful,” says Landa. “They’re happy to have the exposure and, in some cases, they were able to make some good connections with other organizations that could help them.”
Optimal Networks itself isn’t looking for hard-numbers ROI from the tour, but the events were still beneficial, says Landa. “We’re looking to kind of help cement the community — to help clients meet other clients, really develop more communication between and with clients, and let them see us too,” he says. “We work with a whole bunch of really good people, and it’s just some really great camaraderie that happens.”
So how is Optimal Networks going to follow this act for its next anniversary? The company isn’t sure yet, but in one form or another, the party will go on.
“We’ll probably sit down and do a little analysis, and see what worked and what didn’t,” says Landa. “You’ll have to pry these open houses out of my cold, dead hands.”
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