ping1This sponsored post is produced by Andre Durand, CEO of Ping Identity.

Twenty years from now when you look back at your career, what do you think you’ll remember most? I think about that a lot these days, especially around the New Year.

For most companies, January is “Kick-off” season. A time to get people together, make plans, reaffirm long-term aspirations and level-set on goals. For many, this translates into long days and mind-liquefying presentations.

Don’t miss what’s important.

While reviewing the year’s upcoming plans is good and necessary, I believe great companies find a way to focus on something significantly more lasting — culture. Of course everyone needs to know where they’re going and how they’re going to get there, but building a sense of belonging and instilling a set of common values is the more enduring opportunity. Personally, I’ve come to appreciate kick-offs as our single most important event to instill a deep sense of purpose, encourage risk taking and celebrate extraordinary.

Coming from the heart, it’s easy.

Great corporate culture can be built anywhere with the right people and attitude, but it helps to start at the top. As a leader, you’ve got to own it and be true to yourself. If you’re solely driven by financial gain there are plenty of people who’ll follow for money, ego or status. But if you want to celebrate every moment of life, create a deeper sense of purpose and truly connect with your team, I encourage you to step outside the lines and lead by example. You’ll be surprised by who loosens their tie to join you — and how committed they’ll be. Truly have their back, and they’ll always have yours.

Culture is good business.

Our business is inherently complex and it can take a long time for an employee to gain the perspective they need to make good decisions. Because replacing a lost employee can cost anywhere from 50%-200% of an annual salary, retention is an imperative. Annual kickoffs, done right, can provide your people with a deep sense of belonging and purpose that simply can’t be measured.

Don’t take culture for granted.

Ping Identity is a highly distributed company so we don’t take company-wide gatherings for granted. Getting everyone together is a big deal. As such, our kickoffs have become the center point from which our culture isn’t simply explained, but experienced. With headcount growth over the past two years by 67% and 55%, respectively, we’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

If building a strong corporate culture is important to you, here are nine tips to get the most of your annual kickoff:

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