Sometimes, you just have to take a break from work in order to, well, work.
At Hoptocopter™ Films, we had been working so hard on client projects that we hadn’t found the time to make our company work smoother and better.
And we wanted to change that.
We recently explored the corporate retreat experience as an opportunity to shift away from our previous we’ll-make-any-video-for-anyone mentality and, instead, move toward a model that’s more refined, niche-focused, and purposeful. A lot of these ideas came from a book "The Pumpkin Plan" that we all read together as a team. The goal of our weekend was “to better the customer experience,” and so our team spent three focus-driven days to refine our vision, to redesign our website, and to create a film for our company that defines who we are and what we do. We also developed our new product, The CO/Film: high-level branding, recruitment, and education videos delivered at simple pricing.
The following takeaways should show you how to make the most of your company retreat:
1: Retreats are most effective when each employee operates with complete buy-in and is motivated personally to make a company better.
Hoptocopter™ Films’ owner did not initiate the initial or the final push to make our retreat happen. Rather, it was the three employees who brought the idea to the tipping point. With complete buy-in, we were ready to operate as an agile, hyper-focused crew at our retreat.
2: Retreats can inspire employees and help to get the creative juices flowing.
The benefits of the retreat began the moment we committed to the process. The water cooler conversations in the office (even before the retreat) began to shift from our normal “work to do” talks to higher level company vision discussions about who we are, the type of work we want to be doing, and some of the difficulties that customers traditionally deal with when looking for a video production company.
3: Find a retreat location that’s comfortable for everyone as well as functional for the kind of work you’re planning on doing.
While the amenities were not the focus of our retreat weekend, having access to a variety (hot tub, undersized ping pong table, open meeting space, private spaces, etc.) ultimately made our breakout sessions and time in between more comfortable, creative, and productive.
4: Lay some basic ground rules and expectations for the weekend.
On the first night, we all gathered around the large whiteboard taking turns leading topics of discussion. We started off by laying some ground rules for communication, one of which was fully listening to each person’s thoughts before moving forward. Previously, our office discussions had involved some verbal rough riding over the other person talking. In setting the tone of conversation upfront (serious and thoughtful but with some lightheartedness), we were ready to work much more cohesively. With the team fully aligned, we openly defined the milestones we would working towards personally and financially.
5: Start with the overall goal and work backwards to find the steps to achieve that goal.
We started with the end in mind. After setting healthy and achievable financials milestones for the company and each of the team members, we added up the numbers. With a realistic and attainable target, we broke the big picture into smaller steps for sales, project workflow, and savings goals.
6: Delegate tasks to each employee so everyone is contributing to the overall success and effectiveness of the retreat.
We had a lot to get done in one weekend. On the first day, we identified each task and assigned each person a list of tasks. The second day started out with a bang. While one person began laying out the format and design for the new website, each of the other members worked on putting together his piece of the new company explainer video.
7: When differing opinions do arise, step back, breathe, and consider the other person’s viewpoint.
By the last night, exhaustion had set in. The team was on a 24 hour grinder session, deadlines were close, and tensions were high. By 3:30 am, we had come to an impasse on the creative direction for both the video and the website. Seth had been working on the video and Will on the website for days, and when the idea of tweaking the final direction arose, tensions peaked. Both parties went to work to demonstrate their differing ideas to the team. Because each member valued the other’s ideas, we listened to each other and, in the end, incorporated elements from both viewpoints which ultimately made our end project stronger.
8: If you can set realistic deadlines and stick to them, the results are worth it.
In the end, we all met our deadline because we were able to set realistic goals, and each person was dedicated to complete his personal tasks. We came back exhausted but inspired and more accomplished than ever. The metaphorical mountain we had climbed together as a team had brought us closer together than we were before.
At Hoptocopter™ Films, we’ve been very fortunate to have leadership that listens to every team member and is truly is invested in each and every one of us. Our corporate retreat was a part of that investment, and the results were worth it for both Hoptocopter™ Films and for all of us personally. Ultimately, in a new creative environment, we as a team listened, learned, and worked toward a goal in which we all believe.
We’re all looking forward to our 2015 Hoptocopter™ Films Spring Work Retreat.
So there you have it! We hope this blog has shown you how to make the most of your company retreat.