Great Ideas for your Small Business: Organize a Company Retreat
An annual or semiannual retreat is an excellent way to measure the pulse of your business and keep storm clouds from brewing. You don’t have to book a Caribbean cruise, rent a fancy hotel suite, or even get on a plane to host this event.
You can use the back room of a local restaurant, sit around a picnic table in the park, or go to someone’s home. Hire a temp to answer your phones for the day. Tell customers and clients about the retreat. Believe me, they’ll be very impressed.
A few years ago, after we landed a major radio show con- tract, I flew the key members of my team—all three of them—to Tucson for the weekend. We held meetings at the spa, brainstormed at the pool, ate good food, and had some fun along the way. It is best to bring in an outside facilitator, but if you can’t afford it and have to act as discussion leader, that’s OK, too.
The most important part of the retreat happens long before you leave the office. Sit down and decide exactly what you want to accomplish. You need to look back at what’s been happening, evaluate current accounts and policies, do some troubleshooting, and specify future plans.
Be sure to create an agenda with space for notes. Use flip charts or a write-on board to summarize the information and key points. Then open the meeting up to discussion. Go around in a circle to encourage participation.
After you discuss where you’ve been, tackle what’s working and what’s not. For example, my colleagues gently told me that my micromanaging was making them crazy. They couldn’t do the work I asked of them because I was constantly inquiring as to their progress. This was important criticism, and once I realized what I was doing wrong, I forced myself to let go to become a better manager. It’s important to thrash out the little annoying things that get in the way of work and to set specific goals for the future.
It also helps to divide goals into short-term and long-term categories. Some things, like sending collection letters to clients, can be accomplished in a week; other jobs may take a month or even a year. The most important thing is to reach consensus. Make sure everyone agrees on reasonable dead- lines. Give everyone a calendar and make sure it has room for notes as well as dates.
Spend time at the end of the day brainstorming and doing some free association. Remember to inject humor into the discussion, especially if you are dealing with serious issues.