Transcript Episode 20

Transcript Episode 20: Why Taking a Solo Business Retreat is a Solid Investment

Transcript Episode 20

Stephanie Skryzowski:

Welcome to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast. The show for purpose-driven entrepreneurs who want to get inspired to step outside of your comfort zone, expand it to your purpose and grow your business in a big way. I’m your host, Stephanie Skryzowski, a globe-trotting CFO, whose mission is to empower leaders to better understand their numbers, to grow their impact and their income. Let’s dive in!

Hey everybody! Stephanie here. Today, we are talking about how to take a solo business retreat. Now, you might be like me and see people on Instagram or whatever entrepreneur business circles you run in on the internet, taking trips by themselves to plan their businesses. And I had done a lot of travel for my business, but it was always either for a conference or to go to a client’s office or maybe to do a mastermind. But I had never traveled by myself before to just sit alone and plan for a couple days. I did this in 2019, and it brought so much clarity to my business and I was able to just step away and create some really big, awesome plans for the following year that I really wanted to share exactly how I did it. So, just a little bit of background on my business.

100 Degrees Consulting, if you didn’t know. So I am the founder and CEO and I have a team of other CFOs that help with our client work. And then I also have a marketing person, an operations person, an assistant that are all really working in the back end of my business. But what I don’t have is a business partner or really anyone who helps create the big picture vision for my business like that long-term vision, and really just sort of creating the idea of where we’re going as a business. Nobody else is doing that with me. I will absolutely bring our team in to help me create our strategic plan for the year. And of course, you know, I am bouncing things off my husband probably way more than he likes, but I don’t have anybody to really like sit with, and brainstorm and figure out where is 100 Degrees Consulting going.

And so that might be you as well. If you own a small business, if you’re an entrepreneur and maybe at this point, you’re a freelancer. And it’s just you working on a few different client projects or, you know, maybe you have a VA, a virtual assistant who helps you a little bit, but at the end of the day, that vision casting is on you.

So for me, I know myself at this point and five years into this entrepreneurial journey. I know that I cannot think big in little pockets of time. And what I find is that being a mom and having a little kid, actually now, I have two little girls. When I did my solo business retreat, I just had one and I was pregnant with the second one, but it’s really hard for me to sort of think big and think outside of the box in little chunks of 30 or 60 minutes. And that’s what a lot of my days are like, I don’t know about you, but I am constantly balancing our meeting and getting some actual work done and then going to make dinner for my daughters or whatever. There’s a lot of stuff going on. So I knew that I needed a lot of uninterrupted time.

The second thing I know about myself is that my best thinking comes from a place that is not my house, that is not my office. Now don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful that I do have my own little office in our home. And it’s my little space where I work, where I serve clients, where I take all of my meetings, but I knew I needed to get out of my… I needed fresh energy. I needed to get out of my normal space.

So, the whole intention behind getting away for two days was to really just get me out of my day to day work mode so that I was able to think bigger, to strategize, and to work on some big projects that are more difficult to accomplish really in the little chunks of time, the two to three hour chunks of time that I have in my regular schedule.

So the first thing I did was make sure that I chose days that I had no meetings, no big projects, no deadlines, no major family responsibilities, so that I would not be worrying about anything else when I was on the solo business retreat. So, I had to carve out 48 hours. I actually put the time on my calendar. I blocked it off entirely so nobody could schedule meetings with me. I made sure that I had adequate childcare at home for then, just one of my daughters and I planned that time very intentionally.

So the first thing, if you’re thinking about planning a business retreat is to really make sure that you have zero obligations during the time that you want to get away. I have found that even just one client meeting or just one phone call or just one quick little project that you need to do, or just one little email that you need to send. It’s really going to take away from the creative, strategic, that big picture headspace that you’re trying to create. So I would really encourage you, if you want to take a solo business retreat to clear your calendar.

Now, the second thing to think about is where. So I know plenty of entrepreneurs who fly themselves literally around the world for a solo retreat. Maybe they go to Bali for a couple of weeks or maybe down to Mexico. That really, for me, was not an option. At the time, I was about seven months pregnant. So that first of all was not an option to fly halfway around the world by myself. But personally, I knew that I didn’t have a lot of time and I didn’t want to spend a lot of it traveling. So I chose some are close to home. If you don’t know, I live in Western New York. I live in Buffalo, which is just a couple hours over the border from Toronto, Canada. So I ended up going to Toronto.

I know another important thing for me as well is to have an inspiring space around me. I didn’t just want to hole up in like a Hillton Garden Inn or a Holiday Inn Express, and sort of a bland, generic hotel room in the middle of nowhere. That would have been fine, but I really wanted someplace beautiful that I just felt sort of special.

So I combed Airbnb and I found this beautiful, beautiful apartment in downtown Toronto. And I knew that that would be the perfect place. Now, one thing that I always make sure when I am looking for places to do, either a team retreat or a solo business retreat, it had to be beautiful and spacious and it had to have space to work. Right? That’s one thing we tend to forget. It’s like we get this gorgeous space and then the only flat surface is the coffee table. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to be hunched over a coffee table for two days trying to work. So I always like to make sure that there’s a space where I can spread out my laptop and my papers and my notes, and also a comfortable space. If I decide I want to move over to the couch. The space is really, really important. So that’s kind of what I think about when I think of where. First of all, the location. Now, if you have the time and the means in your finances to go somewhere really luxurious and tropical and beautiful by all means, do it. I’m sure you will be vastly inspired. I know I didn’t, so I made the best of what I have Toronto was a couple of hours away. It was the perfect opportunity for me to dive into a couple podcasts on the drive that I had been wanting to listen to. So I was good. That was fine.

The other thing about the ‘where’ for me is I needed to be somewhere where there were lots of conveniences. I wanted to be able to order food delivered to my place for every single meal. And that is what I did for two days in a row -breakfast, lunch and dinner was delivered to the apartment and I wanted to make sure that it was super convenient and easy. I didn’t want to be driving around the block 50 times looking for street parking, and then having to haul my suitcase three blocks to the apartment. I wanted off street parking and easily available food delivery.

And you know what? You may be thinking, “Oh my goodness, this woman is such a diva high-maintenance,” but we get so little time. Especially as moms, as parents, as business owners, we get so little time to ourselves that I feel like thinking of these little details is what is really going to elevate your experience from, “yeah, that was great. I got to get away for a couple of days and just work on some business stuff, to like coming back and feeling like, “oh my goodness! That was potentially life-changing!” So I know it sounds silly, but think about, what’s really important to you. If you’re thinking about doing a solo business retreat.

What’s really important to you? Is it important that you can walk to a coffee shop? Maybe that’s sort of part of your morning ritual when you travel is to go take a walk and go get your morning coffee and bring it back. Maybe that’s part of your routine, or maybe you really want to be able to walk to a park because you like to get out during the day. And that’s really important to you. So think about what things you really like and what is going to leave you the most inspired and fired up and even luxurious to an extent, right? Like getting a bagel delivered to my door felt pretty luxurious. I live in the suburbs, so that’s not something I can do at home.

So think about what the ‘where’ is, what all of those details are that are going to make you feel really special and taken care of during that time.

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So the next thing, “what do you do?” I get that question a lot. “Okay, so you went away for two days. You stayed in this cool Airbnb, but like what did you actually do there?” Well, I knew that because again, I had limited time. I was not on a trip for two weeks where I can kind of hang out a little bit and maybe work here and there. I had 48 hours to make the most of that time. And so about a week or two before my trip, I just opened a Google Doc and I started listing out every single thing that I might want to do while I was there. And so the list, it was hilariously long, but we talk about pairing it down. So just give me a minute, but it had everything from relax, read, journal… to things like set goals for next year, review my metrics for this year, do one-on-one remote intensives with my team, write five months worth of emails. (Remember, I was coming up on my maternity leave) update my online course plan launches for my coaching program for my course. I held absolutely nothing back and I listed out every possible big task I could think of – anything that had been hanging out on my to-do list for more than a couple of weeks, it went on here.

So then, I started to sort of call down this list because I knew, “Okay. In 48 hours, I’m by no means getting all of this done. Right?” So I started thinking about my typical workweek my schedule, my habits, and how I really work best and anything that was easily doable during my regular week was cut. So for example, one-on-one intensives with my team, it was really a priority for me, but I realized that that was something that I didn’t need as big a headspace for as I did for some of this other stuff. So I decided, “Okay, that’s going to happen just during my regular work week and not while I’m on my retreat.” So then, after I cut a lot of those things out that I felt like I could do easily and quickly in the windows of time that I normally have in my week, I prioritized what was left into A and B categories, because here’s the thing I didn’t want to go into these 48 hours with this list of 50 things to do and not really sure where to start and then leaving, feeling like, “oh my goodness, I didn’t even really get to the things that mattered most to me.”

So I separated things into priority A and priority B what I figured was,”okay, I’m going to go in. I’m going to start on what’s on my A list and if I get things done great, and I want to keep going. Great. I’ve got B list ready, but if I don’t want to, or if I barely finished or if I just feel like relaxing and reading for a little bit, I can do that too.”

So, what made my priority A and my priority B list? I did this solo retreat in August of 2019. So just think back to August of 2019, that was obviously pre-COVID. So it was safe for me to: number one, travel to another country, number two is to stay in an Airbnb and just travel period, but it was also about two months before I had my second daughter. So my top priorities while I was there was first – goal setting. I wanted to think about September goals, Q4 goals. And again, we’re still talking 2019 plan out my 2020 rough goals. And then also think about my five-year vision. So this was a lot of vision casting, and this was number one on my list because I know myself, and I know that I have a very hard time thinking about things like that when I’m sitting in my home office.

So the second thing I wanted to do was write emails to my list for September through January. So September, 2019 through January, 2020, and I wanted to do this so that it would be one less thing that I had to think about after I had just had a baby. And again, I know myself and once I get into the writing groove, I can knock out email after email, after email. My brain just gets lit on fire and my fingers are typing wildly and I’m easily able to get all of them done. Whereas I know at home it’s a lot harder for me to kind of get into that writing groove. I’ll start writing an email and then get interrupted and then come back to it and it takes me way longer. So I knew number two was writing my email content.

The third one was to plan our coaching program launch. So you may not know that I also coach other finance business owners. So accountants and bookkeepers, I do coaching with them as well. And I wanted to launch this program in early January, 2020. I wanted to plan out the whole launch and my social media, my emails. So that was on the list as well.

The fourth thing was to record a masterclass for one of my online courses. I knew that again, I would actually have a quiet space at that point. I had an almost three-year-old and I knew that with an almost three year old, a dog, a husband, all the people at my house, it’s really difficult to do that. So I wanted to record that and then make some big website updates. You can see the types of things that I really prioritized on this solo business retreat were big things that required significant brain space. So that’s what I really planned on, on my A list.

Now on my B list, I had another launch that I kind of wanted to think about. I wanted to maybe record some videos. I had revamping an online course that I have as well. That was all on the list, but honestly, I didn’t get to the B list. I only got to the A list. So how did this all happen? I got to the Airbnb. I think I did this on a Monday, Tuesday, so I got to the Airbnb on Sunday night and after of course I placed my dinner order for takeout. I dove right into goal setting. I was like, “alright! I’m here. I’m ready. I got my sushi in front of me. I’m ready to go.” This place had a huge balcony. It was summertime. It’s gorgeous. Very inspiring with the city all around me. And I started planning September using power sheets. I don’t know if you’ve used power sheets before we will link to power sheets in the show notes, but power sheets are this amazing goal setting planner and tracker that I use throughout the year. And so I started just thinking about September very casually. I really wanted to make sure that I didn’t burn myself out super early into the retreat. I didn’t want to be up until like midnight or 1:00 AM, and then feel really tired and sort of down the next day. So I just spent the rest of the night relaxing, organizing myself for the morning. And then of course, I don’t know about you, but I am early to bed early to rise type of person. So I went to bed pretty early, woke up the next morning early and I was ready to run.

So the one really super powerful thing about having this list is that when you wake up in the morning and you have your breakfast and you have your tea, you’re not like, “Hmm, where should I begin?” You already know exactly where to begin. So there’s no time wasted. There’s no brain space that is taken up by trying to figure out like, “oh, where should I begin? Oh, let’s open my email.” And then you’re down that rabbit hole for two hours. No wasted time. So, I dove right in. Now that being said, I was really flexible with myself and I think that’s really important as well, because you just might not be in the right head space to be planning, or you might not be in the right head space to be recording something. Remember I had said I wanted to record a masterclass for one of my courses. And you know what? I didn’t really feel like it. I didn’t feel like setting up the tripod. I didn’t feel like getting ready and looking nice on camera. I just didn’t feel like doing it. So I decided to dive into the number two thing on my list, which was writing all that email content. So I did that for several hours before breaking out the camera to record the masterclass in the afternoon.

So I had a really productive day, but I don’t know about you. I kind of am ruled by my to-do list and I feel like a failure sometimes if I don’t do every single thing on the list, that’s why I separated things. And so it’s always better to have a smaller list and make sure you’re checking things off rather than having this huge list. The only get through 25% of. So here’s the thing, you might be worried that you’re going to walk away from this precious, precious time by yourself not having finished everything or maybe with more on your to-do list from all of this brilliant brainstorming that you’ve had. And honestly, both were the case for me. I didn’t get to anything on my B list and I probably added at least three to five more things to my to-do list, but give yourself grace. You will walk away and I walked away refreshed, rejuvenated with a clear plan on my focus for the rest of the year and for 2020. And honestly, part of the clarity was that I actually did not pursue anything that landed on the B list. I had wanted to revamp one of my online courses and I decided not to do it, period, because it just wasn’t important and it didn’t fit into the plan. So, because I prioritized this, I didn’t waste time on something that ended up not really being important to me.

And you know what, it’s so funny. I actually came up with my word for 2020 while I was at this retreat in August of 2019, and I already had a word for 2019. I didn’t need another word, but I was like, “you know what? I’ve got enough of my plan for 2020. I feel great about this word.” And I walked away with that even though it was still four months down the road.

So what about the family? Maybe you’re thinking, “wait a second. You’ve got a little daughter at home. You have a husband what happened?” So I will say. I am very, very lucky to have regular childcare for my little ones a couple of days a week by my in-laws and by my mom. And so I was able to plan this solo business retreat during days when I already had childcare planned, my husband was not traveling during that week. So he was in town and he really just had to kind of take care of her for dinner and bedtime. And it was relatively painless for him. Now, I recognize that not everybody is in the same situation, and maybe you don’t have regular childcare and you have a whole bunch of more kids than just one that I had at the time – now I’ve got two, but getting away maybe a little bit more difficult, especially overnight or overnight for two nights. So if your support system does not allow you to do that, you can still plan a solo business retreat. And I’ve done like many retreats before where I will go to a coffee shop for four or five hours and I’ll make sure, again, I have no meetings. I don’t have my email open and I have a very clear agenda of the big picture projects that I want to get done. And you know what, I’m still home in time for dinner. So if you feel the need to just get away and get a sort of fresh outlook on things, I know it’s COVID right now, it may be a little bit challenging, but just sort of think outside of the box, because I think that there are still opportunities to do that, that don’t involve getting a hotel for a couple of days.

The other thing that I was thinking about exploring even during COVID was the possibility of renting a hotel room for a day. Instead of doing an overnight, I was talking to somebody who was telling me that the Ritz Carlton or one of the other like high end chain hotels was offering like a coworking space, but private, right? It’s your own hotel room. You can go there and work for the day from maybe 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. So again, if you’re not able to get out overnight, that might be an option. So, that’s something I wanted to explore locally too. I think that’s just such a great idea for, especially again, during COVID assuming that all the appropriate safety measures are taken and the rooms are clean and everyone’s masked. That could be a really great option if you are used to having a coworking space somewhere to get out of your home, but don’t have that right now.

Now, I would love to do a solo business retreat soon. Like anytime. I have not done this now at this point in probably a year and a half, and I’m sort of waiting for travel to become safe again, so I can do this, but I am really excited to do it and to plan again, not only the rest of the year, but also the next several years. I think that again, having that time away from your normal situation, right. So important. So I would love to hear, let me know, have you ever done a solo business retreat? Where did you go? What did you get out of it? What did you do? And do you have one planned? That is definitely on my goal list for 2021. And I also think of it as sort of a method of self-care. I think it’s really important that we do take a little bit of time for ourselves and give our brains that space to be able to plan and think and dream more so than we do in our everyday routines.

I would love to see if you end up planning a solo business retreat, tag me on Instagram if you liked this episode and where you might go for your next solo business retreat. I am over @stephanie.skry

Happy planning, friends!

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Transcript Episode 20

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