At Bates White, a ‘March Madness’ battle for a good cause

Company: Bates White.

Location: The District.

Employees: 160.

Just as college basketball players are gearing up for their annual championship tournament this month, employees at economics consulting firm Bates White are preparing for their own version of “March Madness.”

The company’s competition centers around three games: billiards, table tennis and poker. Employees form three-person teams, with each person specializing in one of those activities. Like in the NCAA tournament, the teams are organized in brackets. The teams then face off in all three types of games, and the one that wins at least two out of three of the matches gets to move on to the next round.

Once a winning team emerges from the elimination rounds, that group goes up against a team known as “the Pros,” which consists of three of the firm’s partners, each one of whom is an expert player at one of the games.

Those teams battle for glory at a Friday night event known as “the Night of Champions,” in which the whole firm is invited to nosh on pizza and beverages while watching the showdown and cheering on their colleagues. Staffers said things tend to get boisterous on the final night of competition.

“A couple of years ago at the big event, we marched in to [“the Imperial March” from “Star Wars.”] So we do play it up a little bit,” said Randal Heeb, the partner who plays poker for the Pros team.

The event is just as much about having fun as it is about giving back. Employees put down $25 to participate, and the members of the Pros team match those contributions at 100 percent. Bates White also matches a portion of the entry fees with company funds. At the end of the Night of Champions, the winning team selects a charity to receive all of the money that has been raised.

“We love competitions. It’s just fun and it brings people together,” said Miriam Wolman, the firm’s director of communications.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.

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