E91 – Takeaways from Our Team Retreat
[00:00:00] Welcome to the 100 degrees of Entrepreneurship podcast, the show for purpose driven entrepreneurs who wanna 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 Kowski, a globe TRO 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. Welcome back to this show. I hope you’re having a great week. I have been having a very busy month, very busy quarter, and we’re gonna talk about one of those things that is keeping me busy or that was keeping me busy. And that is our team retreat. So we just got back in late October, we had, we brought 13 of our 19 team members together in Nashville for.
Three nights and it [00:01:00] was an amazing time. And I’ve shared about our team retreats before this year. We were in Nashville last year we were in Charleston. And before that, um, we did one team retreat in Buffalo one time and a couple virtual ones. But I’ve gotten asked the question a lot by other entrepreneur friends of mine, like, what is it like to have a team retreat?
Like what? Do, what does the agenda look like? How much money are you spending and what are your, you know, sort of objectives of the team? . And so I thought I would just turn that into a podcast episode for all of you and share the behind the scenes of our team retreat. So if we back all the way up to the planning of our team retreat, the first thing that we really thought about was location.
And in my eyes, we kind of had two options. One of the options was to go somewhere that felt sort of convenient ish for everybody. Somewhere that was convenient for me, as the person that [00:02:00] was leading it, and that was doing a lot of the legwork, um, on the back end of things. And so we ended up deciding on Nashville.
Um, we had a number of other locations potentially on our list, but then started looking at flight, flight costs and time of year and everything, and Nashville was the winner and. Sort of in the middle of all of our team. And so out of our 15 US based team members, 13, were able to join us in person. And so we decided on three nights.
And what we usually do before our team retreats is do a little leadership. Planning session beforehand, and I don’t mean planning for the retreat. The retreat agenda and the retreat objectives were planned like weeks or months in advance. I mean like quarterly planning sessions, since we are able to be in person.
So we brought our director of finance and operations in, we brought our client relationship manager in a day or two early to just. Do some Q4 planning. It’s just a great opportunity. I would really think about that. Like what else can you take advantage [00:03:00] of while you’re together in person? Cause I know many of you listening.
Have remote teams. And so when you have that opportunity to be together in person, like take it, you know, use it, use it to the max as much as you possibly can. So that’s what we did. My director of finance and operations and I both, uh, arrived on Sunday and then we spent the day together on Monday. Really planning for q4.
We’ve been using the, um, there’s like a. Planning tool from the book Traction by Gino Wickham, I think is the author of that book. Um, and so we both read that book and we’ve been using his planning tool for. Probably about six months or so now we really like it. So we updated that for Q4 and then started thinking about our 2023 plans.
Um, so we spent the whole day doing that. And then on Tuesday our client relationship manager arrived. And so we did a day of planning, um, with her as well. And so we kind of filled her in on what we had talked [00:04:00] about the day before and then tackled some, some issues that we knew were projects that we really wanted to work on together in person.
So, We had, um, those that day and a half, two days together, which was really fantastic before the retreat started. So then the whole team arrived on Tuesday afternoon and we had everybody come directly to the Airbnb. We rented out, it was like three condos basically, that were attached. And so we were all right there.
Everybody had their own room and that was really important to me. Cuz I know personally as an introvert, I really like having my own room. Just being able to decompress, um, at the end of the day. So everybody had their own room and we were in these three sort of next to each other condos. And so we just had everybody congregate in one of them and we brought in a chef that cooked us dinner, and so we just got to all hang out and just.
Talk and be with each other. That first evening it was really nice. Nobody had to [00:05:00] like, you know, sort of get, um, freshened up from the airport and then leave again. So we were all there. Um, we did like a big charcuterie board to snack on and then had the chef cook us dinner and it was just a really relaxing night to get to know each other because one of the goals, um, of this retreat was to strengthen our bonds.
We had kind of come up with a theme for the retreat or a word, kind of like a word of the year, but a word of the retreat, and it was strength and. I’ll talk more about, um, the other, the other meaning of strengths to us. But one of the things we really wanted to do was strengthen our, you know, our relationships with our fellow teammates.
And so all of the activities that we did really served that purpose. And so that was a great first evening. Then everybody, you know, went to bed and we woke up on Wednesday ready to get to work. So we had breakfast, um, at one of the Airbnbs available for everyone. We really got into our first session [00:06:00] and our first session of the week really was, um, I have to use photo cards.
They’re facilitation cards that, um, it’s like a, a deck of postcards that have all of these pictures on them, like all kinds of interesting photos of, I mean, frankly, like really random things. And so everybody was assigned to. Partner up with somebody that they don’t usually work with because our teams typically work in pairs.
So I wanted them to choose like not their normal pair and they picked a card that represented what is something that we may not know about you, and then a second card to represent what would success look like this week. And so it’s a really fun, I love using those photo facilitation cards. It’s a really fun way to kind of help you.
It gets you a little bit creative because there’s always creative interpretations of the photos and what you wanna say. I think it also helps if you feel kind of stuck and you don’t know what to say. The photos kind of give you some guidance, and so we, [00:07:00] we, um, spent some time, you know, just getting to know somebody new in the business, which was really fun.
Um, then we went over, we spent a significant amount of time going through. The results of a survey that I had sent to the team prior to the retreat. So this survey was not just like, you know, do you have any food allergies and what do you like to eat for breakfast? The survey was really like, what is working well for you in the business and what is a challenge?
What is not working well for you in the business? And. I wanted to make sure that the team really knew that their responses were important, that their responses were valuable, and that we were working on some of these things that they identified as challenges. And so we went through all of the results of that survey and that really prompted a lot more discussion, which was fantastic.
That’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted to get more context and more color around some of the things that the team was sharing and. That was just a fantastic [00:08:00] conversation and we really wanted the results of that to lead into, okay, what are our 2023 plans? And so I shared a little bit about, um, what our 2023 plans were or are, I guess, and said, you know, these are not set in stone.
We’re still working on them and we want them to be. By the team. And so following that, we did a SWAT analysis and so we broke the team into groups and had each group identify our company strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. And they wrote them all out on the big, like, you know, those giant post-its so that we went around and talked about them and it.
Awesome. like to hear what our strengths and our weakness is and our opportunities and our threats are directly from the mouth of our team was so powerful. I mean, they identified things that I hadn’t really thought of, and all four of those quadrants and their [00:09:00] responses and that work really shaped, um, how we’re thinking about 2023 now.
So it was, uh, it was so powerful. It was a really, really good use of our. And then the last thing we did that morning was give out our core values awards. So here at a hundred degrees, we have four core values, and we do an award every single month for one person that has exemplified, um, one of the core values.
And, uh, people, the, the award winners are nominated by their team members. Um, and so at this retreat we did. The September core value award as well as our annual core value award. And so really thinking about that person that really exemplified a particular core value throughout the year. So we awarded somebody for September and then we did one award for each of the core values for all of 2022.
And that was fantastic. It was just nice to be able to celebrate with the team in person and give them a little gift and um, and hugs and all that good stuff. So we did our [00:10:00] core values.
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Every day we had lunch brought in, um, our fantastic operations manager ran out and grabbed lunch for us. And so we ate and kind of chatted throughout lunch. And then in the afternoon we did a couple [00:11:00] brainstorming activities, which were great. We kind of had honed in on a few processes that we wanted that felt a little clunky and we wanted the team’s feedback on, and so we broke.
These different processes and started thinking about all of the activities that go into each process and reordering them and, and really thinking, literally just shouting out. You know, what’s working, what’s not. Adding things in, taking things out. It was a really, really productive afternoon. Then we got to take a little break and do yoga.
We brought in yoga instructor. And we crammed 13 yoga mask into a not that big living room. And the yoga instructor did like a fantastic session with us that was challenging, but also restful at the same time. And I’m pretty sure I fell asleep during Shavasana and because I’m pretty sure somebody told me they heard me snoring.
Um, so that’s fun. Or maybe not snoring, heavy breathing. Um, so we had yoga in the afternoon to just like move our bodies, you know, when. [00:12:00] Sitting, it’s sitting all day using your brain, working really hard. Um, it’s just so nice to move your body and kind of disconnect your brain for a second. So that’s exactly what we did.
And then after that, we had free time. Um, we had a few hours, honestly a couple hours until dinner time. And so the team was free to do what I liked, whether it was, you know, having a one-on-one meeting with somebody else or going to take a nap or. Just like chatting or having a glass of wine. I think people did all of those things.
So, um, I give a lot of credit to my operations manager who really encouraged me like not to pack the schedule because I was definitely about to like, throw in a wine tasting during the, like an organized wine tasting with a Soma Ye during that time period. And she’s like, I think we maybe just like wanna leave that open.
And I think that was a great suggestion. Um, the time felt very spacious and not rushed at all. If you’re thinking about a team retreat, um, I would probably plan fewer activities than you feel [00:13:00] like you need, um, because people really appreciate that downtime just to, I mean, even if it’s like to call home or have five minutes to just like go close your eyes, that downtime is really, really helpful.
So that would be a big recommendation. And then that evening we had dinner. We had a Mexican, Mexican dinner at one of my favorite re. And we had a private room there and it was a, a lovely evening. Oh, and because we were in Nashville, we had to go to Broadway. And if you have not been to Nashville, Broadway is like the main strip where it’s just, you know, bar after bar after bar with live music.
And they’re all different and they’re all fantastic. Well, maybe they’re not all fantastic, but they’re, they’re great. So most of the team went out after dinner and checked out some live music at some bars in Nashville, and it felt like a very, Quintessential Nashville activity. So we had a lot of fun, um, a lot of fun there.
And then on Thursday, I know I’m basically going through our, our whole agenda, but I [00:14:00] feel like, um, if somebody would have published a podcast episode on this like three years ago, I would have been taking notes furiously, um, for my team retreat. Cause I basically created. You know, our itinerary last year and then this year from, from scratch, from just like hoping this is what’s gonna work.
And it really did, It worked really well. Um, so that’s why I’m sharing everything with. Okay, so on Thursday we actually had one of our own team members do a presentation on communication. She actually, although she is a fantastic cfo, she has her PhD in communications and so. We had her do like just a fantastic talk for us at like a workshop, um, that morning, which the whole team really liked.
And then we had, um, one of the leaders of one of our clients, a nonprofit organization. She happens to be based in Nashville. And so we asked her to come in and just share about the work that her organization is doing in Kenya [00:15:00] and the impact that it’s having and her career and her leadership and it.
Fantastic. Not only to, you know, hear her story, which I don’t think I had really ever heard as much as she shared with us that day. But it was also amazing to really connect the work that we’re doing, you know, as CFOs, as bookkeepers to the impact that we are having. And so when you think about your team or retreat, if there’s a way to do that, maybe bring in one of your clients, maybe do a service project with somebody that your organization helps.
You know, any way that you can sort of connect the dots. It was, I, I really liked that session a lot. Um, she was a fantastic speaker and I think it, again, it just really connected, uh, the mission of what we are doing to the impact that our clients are having on the world. So that was an awesome session. So after that session, we had a photographer show up.
I wanted to get some new photos for our website. [00:16:00] Um, and my team so kindly pointed out that there are too many photos of me on our website because a hundred degrees is not just. Stephanie anymore, a hundred degrees is our whole team. And so our website really needs to represent that. And I, I was laughing when they were telling me, and because I a hundred percent agree, I’m like, Oh my gosh, I’m almost embarrassed that like my mug is all, there were like five photos of me on the front page of our website.
I’m like, Okay, we need to change. This. So we had planned for a photo shoot, um, of, I, I did get some new head shots. Admittedly I did get a bunch of photos of myself, but they are not gonna be the ones that are all over the website. But we got tons of team photos in all different, you know, sort of like setups.
And I’m just so excited that our website is now really going to reflect the team that we have. That was a lot of fun. I know some people like photo shoots more than others. I happen to be somebody that really enjoys them. I think it’s so much fun, but I was so appreciative [00:17:00] to my team for like, humoring me, getting into photos, smiling, and then, you know, just, just being a, a willing participant
Um, so after the photo, I continued to take a couple photos, um, for my own headshots with the photographer, where the team, we had somebody else on our team who’s a CPA and who has taught accounting in the university space, do a, um, a session on financial decision making. So that was really exciting for the team too.
I think they really enjoyed that one because we’re always looking for, New ways to provide value to our clients and this is a way that we can really helping them analyze and interpret the financial statements to make smart decisions. And so that session I felt was fantastic. Um, and it was so great to be able to have somebody on the team present that.
Then in the afternoon on our second full day together, we did some industry breakouts. So as you know, we serve non-profit [00:18:00] organizations and we serve small businesses. And so we have a team for each of those, right? And so our non-profit team all got together and started working on and sort of brainstorming specific issues affecting their clients and their work.
And our small business team did the. And so that was really great to just be able to sit together in person and, and talk freely and really focus on their specific clients. And then we had a little bit of free time, and then it was time to go to our activity and we did top golf. I don’t know if y’all have been to a top golf before, but top golf is so much fun there.
It’s, it’s like a driving range, but time’s a million. Um, you can play different fun games. You’re, you know, aiming for specific targets. They also. Food and drinks and comfy couches to hang out on. Um, and so we hung out at Top Golf for a few hours. We had a great time. Um, I think a lot of the team was tired, so they were, they were chatting, um, and not as much playing, not playing as [00:19:00] much golf.
Um, but we had a really fun time. It was just a nice activity and kind of a chill eat thing. So that was Thursday, and then on Friday we just did a really quick wrap up exercise. We talked about one, you know, one sort of takeaway that they were taking away from the. And then we did an appreciation exercise where I gave everyone a stack of Post-it notes, and we wrote a little note of appreciation for every single one of our team members.
And so as we literally, as we were saying goodbye, walking away, getting an Ubers on the way to the airport. Everyone was handed a stack of post-it notes, you know, 15 other, 13 other post-it notes with, um, notes of appreciation for them. So it was really, um, it was a really nice way to wrap it up and, you know, kind of share a little bit about what we learned about new team members and it’s just a beautiful, beautiful experience.
So that’s it. That’s Friday. We all went. And, um, and that’s that overall, um, I, we actually didn’t [00:20:00] spend as much money as I thought we were going to. It’s not a cheap endeavor by any means since we’re flying people there and providing accommodations at all of the food and transportation and activities and everything else.
But it was such a worthwhile investment in our business and our team. They all got amazing professional development and again, got to not only strengthen their knowledge, And their professional, you know, their professional expertise, but also their bonds with their team members. So, so grateful to, um, to the team for, you know, helping out and, and making sure everything went off so smoothly.
But it really did. It was so smooth. It was so much fun. And now we’re starting to think about the next one. So anyway, if you are thinking about planning a team retreat, I would love to hear about it. You know where to find me over on Instagram at stephanie dot s k y. Um, feel free to shoot me any questions, but, or, or tag me in your retreat picks now.
That would be a treat. But yeah, a retreat is such a [00:21:00] wonderful. Been in your business, in your team, and I can’t wait to do it again. It’s gonna be part of our every year, our budget, our plan, um, and our routine. So anyway, I hope this was helpful to kind of understand a little bit about what we did on our team retreat.
All right, see you soon friends. Thanks for listening to the 100 degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast. To access our show notes and bonus content, visit 100 degrees consulting.com/podcast. Make sure to snap a screenshot on your phone of this episode and tag me on Instagram at Stephanie dot s k r y and I’ll be sure to share.
Thanks for being here, friends, and I’ll see you next time.