Tailgates and touchdowns. Hot chicken and moonshine. Singing and dancing. Escape rooms and milkshakes.
While not part of an average workday in public relations, these are a few of the memories our team took away from our recent company retreat in Nashville, Tenn. Once a year, we choose a destination and step back from our to-do lists and deadlines to focus on our team, our firm, our clients, and our future. Three days later, we return to the office sleep deprived, yet rejuvenated.
In my more than five years—and six retreats!—with McDougall Communications, I have come to appreciate the retreat for several reasons. First and foremost, it is an unmatched opportunity for team building. We work together every day, of course, but there are always a ton of distractions and other priorities in the hustle and bustle of our jobs and personal lives. Take us away from all of that, and we have an extended and largely uninterrupted period of time to talk, laugh, and experience new things together. After all, it’s nearly impossible to take a tour through a haunted, historic prison, cheer for our hometown football team in “enemy” territory (GO BILLS!), or tackle a rousing duet on a karaoke stage without forming a closer bond.
Between all of the fun, we also schedule time to focus on our work. Not the day-to-day, but bigger picture. Every one of us, regardless of seniority or title, has a voice. I think that goes a long way toward the health of our firm—and feeling like we are truly a part of it.
If you have the means to invest in a retreat of your own, here is the recipe to making it worthwhile:
1. Choose a Fun Destination (If Budget Allows). Go somewhere that people want to go! It’s much more exciting to board a plane with your coworkers at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday when you’re heading to a city like Miami or New Orleans.
2. Airbnb > Hotel Rooms. New this year, we found an Airbnb rental that could accommodate our group instead of booking hotel rooms. Rather than being scattered in rooms around a big hotel, we were together. We also enjoyed more comforts of home, including a kitchen and living spaces that were more conducive to our meetings than drab conference rooms or trying to crowd around tiny café tables.
3. Top of the Agenda: Exploration and Fun. The key to getting a positive return on investment with your retreat is to energize your team. Show them you appreciate them by treating them to some free time together. We like booking food tours in the cities we visit, since they provide a chance to try local flavors and learn local history. Look for other unique fun to be had. We have done everything from the aforementioned ghost tour, NFL football game, and escape room to an Indy 500 tour, plantation tour, live music, many restaurants, and more.
4. Structured Business Planning. Our collaborative planning sessions are most effective when we have a solid agenda and discussion questions in place. Reflect. Examine. Look ahead.
Reflect on what has been happening, how different areas of the business are performing, where you have been successful, and what needs changing.
Examine the successes and challenges. Why have they been successful, and how can those strategies be applied in other areas? What is at the root of the challenges, and how can they be overcome? If there are particular areas of focus for improvement, look into training programs or workshops that you can implement during your retreat.
Look ahead to the future. What does the business look like? Where do you want to focus efforts? What would make you more successful in the year ahead (small and larger scale)?
When your team returns to the office following your retreat, you want them to come back with knowledge, inspiration, and actions to take to help meet your collective goals.
And those new inside jokes from those fun, shared experiences? They’ll never stop being funny.
By Heather Kowalcyzk
Insights, from us to you.