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Making the office retreat experience less groan-inducing for your staff

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) No more awkward icebreakers, cheesy trust falls or awkward team pictures jumping like this atrocity.

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Building trust and community

Many leaders consider the company or team retreat a vital part of building their business.

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They view these gatherings as an opportunity to build trust and community among employees, and may also use retreats as meetings, with the premise that a change of scenery could lead to a change in thinking. Especially among startups, the employee retreat has become a kind of hallowed ground.

Make the most of your retreat

The downside of company retreats? A lot of staff think they’re a waste of time or an incursion on their personal lives. At the very least, employees have grown tired of summer camp-style icebreaker games and cliché ropes courses. With that in mind, those in leadership positions are being pushed to revolutionize the staff retreat if they plan to save it.

Luckily, for those determined to stay the course and take their team on a retreat, there are many options to choose from – and plenty of options outside the sitcom standbys.

Here are three ways you can take your business retreat up a few notches.

Give back to get more

Participating in community service events is one of the most rewarding ways to bring your team together while playing down the retreat format.

Depending on your team’s interests and preferences, you could be a fundraising group or sponsor for a major walkathon, participate in a Habitat For Humanity build together, or spend a day helping out at a community garden or urban cleanup.

This type of activity gives your retreat a focus while helping team members build memories together and get to know each other better in a low-pressure setting.

Try a change of scenery

If you are going to make your team travel to go on a retreat, make sure you’re not just replicating your current setting with a different zip code.

Holing up the team in a hotel’s conference suite isn’t likely to encourage revolutionary thinking or redefine the relationships between employees.

You need to make a more dramatic change.

Since many major companies are based in urban settings or suburban office parks, consider finding a nature-based retreat space. For example, the Art of Living Retreat Center offers a Hillside Hall that’s perfect for team meetings, featuring breakout rooms that are great for corporate planning meetings. What makes it different from your average conference room? The Hillside Hall is surrounded by thickets of trees and open to the sounds of breezes and bird songs, ensuring this won’t feel like just another meeting.

For those seeking a more low-key version of the nature retreat, another idea is to take a meditative walk. If you have a nearby nature preserve, that would be an easy place to do this. Giving your team a chance to slow down and reconnect with themselves, rather than with each other, can help them think more clearly and feel less stressed when they return to the office.

Be outrageous

Finally, if your team is really up for an adventure – and in startups where each new venture is about testing the limits, this may be the case – consider choosing an outrageous activity for your team retreat. At the top of the list is blindfolded driving, offered by the UK-based Teambuilding Company. Yes, that’s right. You can drive a car blindfolded… with the help of your coworkers.

As the company explains, the exercise is really about creative problem solving, but when you broach this activity, you team will either jump at the opportunity or think you’ve gone off the deep end. Either way, they’ll never forget the experience – and no verbal directions allowed!

No matter what you choose for your team retreat – if you choose to have one – the most important thing you can do to make it a success is define your goals. Are you hoping to come away with a five-year plan or is this retreat about breaking out of a communication rut?

Ultimately, it’s the aimless retreat that team members rebel against. Use everyone’s time wisely.

#RetreatRight

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Entrepreneur

If you’re easily distracted, you’re more likely to thrive as an entrepreneur

(ENTREPRENEUR) If monotony and boredom at work- well bores you, it’s possible you may fit with the other entrepreneurs with a quick and constantly changing career.

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entrepreneurs work place

When Bill Gates was a kid, he knew he liked messing around with code. He couldn’t have known how it might evolve, but he was willing to live in the distraction, focusing on details when needed, but always learning, moving on, taking risks and growing in the process.

Some of the most successful folks among us are not content to sit and make widgets every day. They cannot thrive in a detail and focused work environment. So, it may come as no surprise to know that people who are more easily distracted are also more likely to thrive as entrepreneurs.

According to this study, if you are intelligent and get distracted more easily, those two qualities combined will likely enhance your creativity. And, that creativity and ability to use distraction as an advantage can be channeled to create new things, jobs, companies, etc.

For those of us who are more easily distracted, who enjoy doing different things every day, and who like learning, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests a good option is to find a career path that provides the right amount of distraction and which is a great fit for your personality. If you do that your talent is more likely to be apparent because you are playing to your strengths. Also, if you are working in your sweet spot you will be more productive and motivated.

Maybe not surprisingly, the top job for those who live in distraction is entrepreneur. The term “easily distracted” often comes with a negative connotation, but considering an entrepreneur is taking risks, making things happen and creating companies, ideas, products that may have never existed, this spins that idea on its head. Entrepreneurs are the chief cooks and bottle washers of the world. They ideate, create, hire and inspire. None of that is possible in a monotonous work environment.

“Unsurprisingly, meta-analyses indicate that entrepreneurs tend to have higher levels of ‘openness to experience,’ so they differ from managers and leaders in that they are more curious, interested in variety and novelty, and are more prone to boredom — as well as less likely to tolerate routine and predictability,” according to the HBR story.

Other careers that are great fits for those of us (me included) who enjoy distraction are PR/Media Production, Journalism and Consultant. What these fields all have in common is, there is never a dull moment, switching from task to task is pretty commonplace, and you will do well if you can be a generalist – synthesizing information and weeding out the unnecessary.

Not sure where your strengths lie? Here’s a quick quiz to give you some feedback on how curious you really are.

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Business Entrepreneur

How can a small business beat a large competitor moving in next door?

(BUSINESS) How do you stand out when a big competitor moves to your neighborhood? Reddit has a few suggestions – some obvious, some not so much.

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small restaurant competitor

Small businesses, especially restaurants have been hit hard by lockdowns. Many closed for good this year, and those that are still hanging on are in a precarious position as their local economies shift.

Last week, a user on r/smallbusiness asked a timeless question that is especially relevant right now. Reddit user longbottomjr writes: “We have a strong competitor moving in next door in a few months. Our restaurant is one that pays the bills but […] I feel that if this new competitor takes up enough market share we will lose our restaurant. Can anyone chime in with resources/ideas I can use to help put together our plan of action?”

Comments quickly pointed out what common sense would dictate.

First, ensure the basics are covered. Being clean, quick, friendly, and high quality will take you far, no matter what competition you’re up against. And as u/horsemullet said, “Customer service also happens before someone walks through the door!” So make sure that your online hours, contact info, menus and social media accounts are up to date and accurate.

Another point emerged that is less intuitive: Competing businesses will naturally gravitate towards similar locations. This is a well-established phenomenon known within game theory as Nash’s Equilibrium. In the restaurant industry, this is actually a good thing. It brings entirely new customers to the area and ultimately benefits all the other nearby businesses, too.

Take advantage of the attention by offering something other spots don’t, like loyalty rewards, specials, unique offerings, or meal deals.

Speaking of the area, a great way to stand out from larger competitors is to build relationships with the community you serve, as u/sugarface2134 emphasized. “In my city there are two Italian restaurants in the same location – just across the parking lot from each other. We always pick the smaller one because the owner truly makes you feel like a member of the family.”

That’s an advantage of being a small, local business that all the money in the world couldn’t buy. Get to know your customers personally and you will not only create loyal regulars, but friends as well.

One of the top rated responses, from u/seefooddiet2200, made an often overlooked but critically important point.

“Talk to your staff and see if they have any ideas. These are the people that are working every single day and may know one or two ‘annoying’ things that if they were switched would make things easier. Or maybe they see that there’s specific things people ask for that you don’t serve. Every single [one] of your employees is a gold mine of insight, you just need to be open to listening to them.”

That is applicable to any business owner who wants to improve their practices.

Ask employees what they think, especially the ones who have stuck around a long time. Not only do they know the ins-and-outs of their jobs, but this builds rapport and trust with your staff. A good boss realizes that employees are more than their job descriptions. They have valuable thoughts about what’s working and not working, and direct access to customer’s opinions.

Good luck, u/longbottomjr! We’ll be rooting for you.

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Business Entrepreneur

How a newly funded coffee delivery startup is thriving during COVID

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Seattle’s Joe Coffee finds successful funding in hyper specific clientele and operations even mid-pandemic. But how did they do it?

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Joe Coffee delivery

Amidst a pandemic, you might not expect a small company with limited clientele to thrive. Yet, Joe Coffee, a Seattle-based delivery service, is doing just that.

Joe Coffee, an aptly named coffee runner, has received millions in funding, a large chunk of which was raised mid-pandemic. Their mission is simple: to bring coffee from smaller shops to local consumers, especially without endangering either party.

There’s a lot to be said about Joe Coffee’s valuation and mission, but what’s more intriguing is their unlikely success.

A food delivery service that focuses on coffee may not seem that niche, but when you look at Joe Coffee’s determination to stick to the Seattle area, coupled with its staunch resolve for frequenting smaller shops (e.g., not Starbucks), the service begins to look pretty specific–and, in an economy that honors sweeping solutions, this is a welcome change of pace.

The way their service works is fairly simple: Joe Coffee provides shops with signs and information on how to order through the Joe network, then consumers are able to download and order through a mobile app on all of the usual platforms. Joe Coffee takes a nine percent cut of the order total, credit card fees included.

In return, customers are able to order from their favorite, local, non-chain coffee shops, both supporting them and sustaining their caffeine addiction at a time where alertness is paramount and grouchiness is all too common.

What’s truly interesting about Joe Coffee’s example is that it demonstrates an availability for small services with extreme specificity in terms of operating capacity. By sticking to unique businesses in a relatively small metropolitan area (as opposed to, say, multiple cities), the service is more likely to be successful in execution and delivery, thereby solidifying its relevance to both consumers and businesses alike.

And, by playing into the need for curbside pickup or home delivery these days, Joe Coffee only furthers the perception that its service is necessary.

If the country begins to reopen–whenever that happens–it will be no surprise to see Joe Coffee maintain a relationship between consumers and smaller businesses in the Seattle area. For anyone offering a similarly niche service, this is a perfect example of a company to which you should pay attention.

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