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Welcome to the Year Beginning Meeting! Yes, it's that time of year again! The multitudes and ranks of the company employees flock to a 2013 kickoff extravaganza! If you're still in uniform or a Military Spouse who has not had the opportunity to learn about these huge events, please keep reading.

Known by several names, Year Beginning Meetings might also be called the following:

The Huddle, Launch, Annual Kickoff Meeting, Group Hug, or some themed name designed to motivate you to accomplish big things in 2013!

Why am I telling you this? For a few reasons: If you're new to corporate America, this might be unchartered territory for you. If you're interviewing for your first non-military job or upgrading your current career to a bigger company, this might help too.

No doubt, you've read about the recent headlines concerning excessive spending on the part of the General Services Administration (GSA) at their "Wasteful" Conference. According to Dave Kovaleski's report on MEETINGSNET, "The found that many of the expenditures on this conference were excessive and wasteful and that in many instances GSA followed neither federal procurement laws nor its own policy on conference spending," according to the OIG Report (as shown in the Wall Street Journal). GSA Leadership resigned, details of the costs associated with the meeting hit the headlines, people blushed, and reality set in for many. But, what about the cost of doing business in the private sector?

I guess since this incident involved the U.S. Government, many strong opinions surfaced. You probably have strong opinions on this issue too! I don't personally have a problem with GSA's expenditure of $44 per person spent on breakfasts and $30,000, or $95 per person, on a reception, exceeding established per diems of $71. Why? Because over the past 18 years, I've put together numerous meetings in corporate America and a few things come to mind. For example, when big groups come to hotels and resorts for big meetings, the price of food is high. It's even higher when you feed large legions of people! Don't believe me? When was the last time you ordered room service? Faced with the choice of getting dressed and searching for food in an unfamiliar locale, or just picking up the phone and placing your food order, you pay the price.

In a Vegas hotel for a major meeting, it is tough to eat much, much less eat healthy when you can only spend: $12 for breakfast, $18 for lunch, and $36 for dinner. Again, I'm talking hotel catering services, not individual spending in a per diem manner. GSA got dinged for lots of things, but food prices during travel versus food cost at a large meeting just does not compare.

After reading the rest of the OIG Report, I recognized how many other things GSA did that got them in hot water; yearbooks with pictures of the event, canteens and carabiners, and shirts. Not to mention, commemorative coins, vests for select attendees, and a $30 discount for a purse from the resorts gift shop were some of the questionable activities.

Maybe this is some sort of blowback from the "Legend of the $600 Hammer" from the 1980s. (Read more about the $600 Hammer here). My guess is that someone, somewhere, forgot that story of the ultimate power tool as they got wind of how things happen in the For-Profit corporate world. Maybe they tried to bring civilian ways into government circles. That didn't go over well!

However, things like this happen in For-Profit Businesses each and every year. For example, I just read a story in which a company kicked off their Year Beginning Meeting by introducing their senior management as they entered the stage riding Elephants. Yes, you read that correctly, Elephants — as in Dumbo! Big Box companies such as Wal-Mart bring their Employees in for a big meeting and have special guests such as Comedian Kevin James, or NFL Quarterback Peyton Manning ushering in the excitement for the coming year!

Big, For-Profit companies can do this. Often the subject of debate, meetings can motivate people. I can hear the "naysayers" now. Let me ask you, does your favorite sports team send you a check after you buy tickets, jerseys, over-priced adult beverages and food, parking, and tailgate supplies? No, the prices go up year-on-year! Have you priced concert tickets lately? We get excited about our favorite teams and will spend money to motivate them toward victory. We go all out to catch our favorite band and buy T-Shirts and other paraphernalia without flinching! Why can't Employees have a little fun once a year for the purposes of motivating employees to generate an increased profit?

Many well-known stars and celebrities attend corporate meetings in the civilian, for-profit world. The idea is for a company to invite a successful person that everyone knows and provide a platform in which to share tips for success. Guest Speakers at corporate events include; Pro Athletes, Famous Coaches, survivors of unexpected events, Astronauts, Former Presidents, Comedians, Bands, and People with Disabilities who overcame the odds to succeed. Here's a story about one such person I met, by the name of Bill Porter. When you read his story (published in People Magazine), you'll understand why Year Beginning Meetings can truly motivate Employees.

The point of all of this is that Year Beginning Meetings provide a chance for Employees to network with each other. Sharing ideas can only help. The artificial environments of a conference call, webinar, or yet another "Death-By-PowerPoint" session is not the same. Face-to-face, mano-a-mano, discussion is great for all parties involved.

And, if you're interviewing with a prospective Employer, you need to ask questions about what happened at their Year Beginning Meeting. Since these meetings set the stage for the year's milestones and success, you can position yourself as a prime pick for employment. Why? Because you took the time to find out the latest and greatest news that's fresh off the company press!

What's your take on Year Beginning Meetings? Sound off!