What We Learned At Our First Annual Company Retreat
At the end of last month, our entire team came together, via planes, trains and automobiles (okay, mostly just planes) for our first annual company retreat. This year we hosted it in Vancouver, BC, Canada and it proved to be a perfect backdrop to close our initial year of business. We collaborated, we learned a lot, we hiked, we ate, we drank and we sure got to know each other well (for some of us, it was our first face-to-face meeting). There were many amazing takeaways, and I know we all have a personal list of what was most memorable, but here are some of the major things we learned.
What we’re here to do
While we do have an overall strategy that I defined at the end of last year, we hadn’t defined our mission, vision and values quite yet. I wanted to take the opportunity with everyone in the room to start brainstorming and flushing these out. We started by tossing out keywords we thought fit the bill for us, and trying out different phrasing. We challenged each other, we disagreed here and there, but it was really cool to see how overall, everyone already was on the same page. Reassuring me that we were already very well aligned! Stay tuned for our official unveil of these in the next month or two hopefully—we still have a big of refining to do to get them to perfect!
Who we are as a team
Because our team is virtual and remote, a lot the members of our team had yet to meet in person. We kicked the retreat off with team building and a personality quiz. This quiz took a deeper look into who are we and how we react, how we like to work and how we see the world. We each reviewed our own results and read them aloud amongst each other and even charted them to see where we all fit in. It will be invaluable to remember this information when dealing with each other--especially when we face challenges and potential communication break downs, as all teams do sometimes! There was also a lot of learning that came throughout the retreat, the old school way: spending time together. I can already feel how much more united the team is now. We really get each other!
"[The single most valuable thing I learned at the retreat was] probably understanding and getting to know everyone's personalities and how they like to work. I feel like the communication lines are wide open now."
How to get social
Most of us are fairly well versed in social media—we use at least one platform regularly in our own lives—but our social media team was able to bring some new light and understanding into how we run social media for clients, and how our team can participate in social media on their own, and as part of our company social strategy. We have now officially launched two new platforms—Snapchat and Instagram. We used them both a lot during the retreat and will continue to be active on both platforms to share our company story with our communities. Be sure to follow along!
What design looks like behind the scenes
Design is a very important part of marketing, but it’s also a very specialized function on it’s own. We offer both services at Mad Media—because our clients need good design to amplify their marketing efforts. All marketers know that design matters, but we don’t know how to make it happen ourselves. One of our objectives of this first retreat was to bring some visibility into the different “functions” of our company (I don’t want to say departments—we’re too small to separate ourselves from one core team just yet). We had the design team taking us through their entire process, and it sure was eye-opening. We got to understand how a cool logo comes together and we even got to try this hands on! (They made us grab a pencil and get sketching!) I am even more mesmerized by the talent and creativity on our team. Wow!
"[The single most valuable thing I learned at the retreat was] how important collaboration is on the design team. Sometimes the team can pull inspiration from the smallest things that will make a huge impact on a project."
How to drive sales
In our first year of business, we did no hard marketing—besides networking. That’s worked well for us, but now is the time to really start to drive sales so we can grow. While some companies may be inclined to hire a salesperson, I was inspired by how easily our sales were brought in organically by me and my personal network, and wanted to use the power of our team’s networks as well! The team is now armed and equipped to watch for opportunities and potential clients and to bring in new business. I can’t wait to see us reach our revenue targets in the coming quarters with everyone pitching in!
How much we love and value our Executive Assistant
Keely, our valued EA, flew out a day early for the retreat and had to promptly return home the following day as she had come down with a nasty case of strep throat. Not only did we feel like we were missing an important dynamic to our team, we had to manage all the event details without her—and that was quite the task! I have worked as an administrator previously, and they are often an overlooked position within companies. While some of the work they do may not always seem to be the most interesting, the reason that things operate so smoothly and seamlessly is in large part, due to these important people. We pulled it off without her, but she was missed every step of the way.
I know our first retreat was not without a hiccup or two, and there is lots of room for improvement as we continue to run these each year, but I am incredibly proud of the event we put on and of all the hard work that our team did. Working for a start-up is not always easy, but it sure can be fun! I am incredibly humbled and grateful for everyone on my team and for how far we've come. I'm already counting down the days until next year....