I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “the painter’s house is never painted.” It’s not that the painter doesn’t care about his house, he’s just so busy painting everyone else’s house, he doesn’t have the time to paint his own.
This metaphor not only applies to a job, but a business. So many companies are so busy taking care of their clients, they don’t have the time to take care of themselves. This is a critical mistake, especially in regards to younger companies looking to grow.
When was the last time your entire organization spent a full day working ON your business, not just IN your business?
If you’re like most companies, your answer is never. Most business owners would say if it doesn’t add to the bottom line, they can’t afford to take that much time away from the company.
I say, you can’t afford not to.
Our agency just had its first annual team retreat last week and it was one of the most valuable things we could have ever done. As a small agency, we could afford the opportunity to have everyone in the agency participate in a 2 day workshop to plan our future.
Here are the 9 contributing factors that made our retreat a major success:
#1. Conduct the retreat offsite
A change of scenery makes a world of difference. First of all, it provides a sense of excitement, like going on a field trip when you were a kid. Secondly, it’s a neutral space with little to no office distractions so your entire team can concentrate on the important stuff.
#2. Have leadership set the stage for the event
It’s important to set the stage for any meeting or event, especially a company retreat. Promote the purpose and intent of the event followed by some very basic ground rules: keep it positive, respect one another, contribute, and provide a safe environment in which to share.
Once the ground rules have been laid out, distribute and review a detailed agenda. An agenda that outlines the day not only helps manage expectations, it keep’s things moving.
#3. Start with the company’s foundation
If your company is still relatively young and hasn’t yet committed to the components that make up its core, start there. Review your mission, vision, positioning statement, values, and principles as a team. This is the time to achieve alignment and set them in stone.
If you already have these core pieces established, it’s a great time to review them as a team-- refer to them often as you move throughout the rest of your day.
#4. Brand identity exercise
In order to obtain an accurate market perception of your brand, it’s always a good idea to conduct a mirror test like a brand identity exercise. Brand identity exercises are not only fun, they reveal a lot about brand perception. Have your team answer questions like:
- If your company was a car, what kind of car would it be?
- What 5 words would you use to describe your company’s personality?
- What 5 adjectives would your prospect use to describe your company?
Once everyone completes this exercise alone, share all of the results and put them on a piece of paper. Your collective perception will be apparent through duplicate responses. If you have no duplicates, maybe repeat step #3…?
#5. Conduct a SWOT analysis as a team
Most companies should have performed a SWOT analysis at some point in the past, however these are still great to do annually as your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats may have changed. This is where the safe environment part comes in to play.
*Disclaimer- A SWOT analysis can only be valuable if everyone is brutally honest with themselves and each other. The success of your business depends on it.
#6. One BIG idea to grow the agency
Prior to the retreat, everyone who will be attending should come prepared to not only contribute to the discussions, but to the overall growth of the business. We had everyone bring with them one BIG idea they thought would positively impact the business and help us grow. We documented everyone's contributions on a giant pad and brought them back to the office to digest and put into action.
#7. Team building exercise
After a team lunch by the BBQ pit or at a popular restaurant downtown, it’s time for a team building exercise! We booked a company event at an Escape Room. First of all, if you’ve never done an escape room before, I highly recommend it-- they are a ton of fun. Secondly, solving puzzles, cracking codes, and collaborating as a unit is a great way to better understand how your team communicates and operates as human beings, not just as co-workers.
#8. Unwind and recap the day as a team
After a long day of corporate branding, business analysis, and future-casting, there’s nothing better than relaxing with your favorite cocktail in hand. This a great opportunity to reflect on the day, revisit prior discussions, and recap the day's event.
#9. Take action
This is the most important step of all-- if you are going to put a retreat together just to chat about your business, blow off steam, and have fun, I would recommend taking a half day to go drive go-carts instead of investing a full day in a retreat.
Everything that comes out of a retreat should be documented (assign that role to someone specifically), brought back to the office, and put into action. Without a commitment to action you will not set your business up for future success.
Although preparing for a retreat can take a little bit of planning, it provides a lot of benefits. A retreat helps to create alignment among the group; everyone feels as though they have the ability to contribute to a business’s success, and it provides a motivational component that keeps everyone marching forward in the same direction.
I hope this was helpful! What elements are you looking to implement in your next business retreat?