Company meetings take a very unusual twist under Liam Clancy, CEO of Absolute 47

Liam Clancy
Liam Clancy believes in very nontraditional corporate meeting spaces. (Absolute 47)

The traditional company meeting is anything but in the spaces provided by Liam Clancy, CEO and co-founder of Absolute 47.

Employees can hang out on colorful, cozy furniture, sit in areas built into walls and surround themselves with ocean views as CEOs offer company updates or just want to gather with staff.

The goal is to take away the mundane meeting setting, where a lunch break may be the day’s highlight, and replace it with a team-building experience in an engaging—and very colorful—environment.

"This is a place where companies demonstrate they value employees because of the environment and the experience it gives them,” Clancy told FierceCEO.

"We're reinventing the off-site experience," Clancy said. “Usually corporate meetings are held in places like hotels, where we shift in our chairs and tend to get bored, which causes fatigue, and we don’t get the most out of the meeting,” he said. “We believe we are creating a disruption with this space.”

Absolute 47's challenge is to get companies to buy into its avant-garde approach.

Clancy feels Absolute 47 has the right ingredients. Employees “will definitely enjoy it and have a good time, but we want them to come away feeling they have learned and escaped some of the stresses of their job,” he said.

As for conducting a meeting in a space decked out with distractions like a Guinness tap, free Wi-Fi and plentiful snacks and beverages, Clancy said, “Yes, people can get distracted, but they also go there knowing they are meant to work. People end up being productive without realizing it.”

The concept for the nontraditional meeting space came from personal experience when Clancy took a number of staff at another business he ran on a trip to Las Vegas.

There was a change when they got back, he said. “There was more of an appreciation for one another, communication and collaboration improved and absenteeism went down.”

He believed the same could be fostered if the getaway were done on a smaller scale.

“This allows CEOs to set a tone of goodwill,” Clancy said. “They get out from the corner office and really strip away all the barriers. They get to experience their employees in a way they never would in the office.”

For CEOs, as well as staff, “It’s a way to mix work with pleasure,” Clancy said.

Right now, Absolute 47 has two locations, both in Massachusetts. The cost for the 1,800-square-foot space is $2,500 a day. Companies that have used the sites include Tufts University, auto parts maker Delphi and Citizens Bank.

Plans are to open five more sites this year. The optimum goal is to have locations across the country and to expand internationally.

The company is funded by Clancy, who said he has put a couple of million dollars into the operation, and  private investors.

Clancy said he isn’t worried about raising additional money for expansion because “we have spoken to other investors who have expressed an interest.”

Fast Five with Liam Clancy

What is the most important trait of a leader?

To care about your employees, their emotional state included.

What keeps you up at night?

Ensuring the success of this business and how it will impact others.

What is a key opportunity for revenue?

Achieving the standard of service and hospitality we are setting for ourselves.

How do you motivate employees?

Making them feel they are important and valued.

What do you wish you knew five years ago that you know now?

I prefer not to look back. To change anything would alter the outcome I have today.