The Power of In-Person, Together, and Away!
Being a business owner is a bit like being a solo goldfish living alone in a bowl. Everyone can see you and get some sense of how well you are doing, but you are alone – doing your best to keep your bowl clean, your food digested properly, and your ‘output’ consistent.
There is a reason that most small businesses fail in the first five years. Being an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard work, constant learning, and getting real comfortable with the cycle of try-fail-try again-win-repeat.
As many entrepreneurs will tell you, it is critical to your success that you set aside time to reflect, evaluate, and plan at a business owner retreat. Even better when you can do this in the company of other entrepreneurs.
Keeping your business healthy and growing requires the coordination of a lot of moving pieces. And, the better you get, the more pieces get added. Business owners are amazing at juggling and synthesizing and coordinating. But, we aren’t superheroes.
The power of being together in a retreat setting is something that is hard to duplicate in any other way or space. The power of time together, in-person, and away from everyday is game-changer for entrepreneurs.
As a kid, many of us got to experience going away to camp. It was a level of excitement and fun like no other. We made friends, were led by awesome camp counselors, and were kept busy with activities and games that weren’t available to us in our ‘real’ lives. Our life-long memory files are filled with images of campfires, swimming pools, laughter and joy.
As adults, we still need these experiences. But, they look a bit different. We need time and space to connect with others, try out new ideas, and learn.
Business retreats do exactly this for us. There is something magical about being away from everyday distractions and together in person (especially now when the pandemic prevents it) with other business owners.
To be clear, a business retreat is different than gathering in the biggest hotel room, hiring a private chef (although that could be really great), and learning from workshop sessions. That’s a conference, which also can be really valuable for entrepreneurs.
A business retreat is typically at a lodge, retreat center, or airbnb. It’s a space that can be shared by participants.
There is an agenda, but it is driven by the needs of the participants.
There is always time to connect with one another, down time to relax, and hot seat time to discuss one another’s specific challenges.
Community & Connection
When we invite other entrepreneurs into our world, our access to resources, support, ideas, and help grows. At a business retreat, participants spend time connecting with other attendees, sharing ideas, providing focus for one another, and dreaming about the future.
Of course, real connection only comes when participants show up as their full, authentic selves – willing to bear all and trust the other attendees. When this happens, there is a magic that flows. It’s that same goodness we experienced as kids at camp. Except this time, it’s going to help with business growth and a renewed sense of energy.
Because this level of trust is required, there needs to be some vetting of participants. This can get tricky. Use your emotional intelligence to navigate how your group should handle this. It may require some trial and error, but once you get some wins, it will get easier.
Keys to Your Business Owner Retreat Success
There are lots of ways to put together a small business retreat. The following information is based on what we at Business Builder Camp do. It works for us, so you are welcome to use these ideas for yourself as well.
Of course, if you are interested in joining our next retreat, let’s talk!
Location is Everything
Based on your group members’ needs, you can choose any number of lodging options. From high end airbnbs to summer camp facilities that rent their cabins year-round. There are lots of options.
Choose a place where you can cook your own meals, have small group conversations, and get some fresh air when you want.
For many business owners, getting away means different things. Whether you get away to the place a few miles down the road or across the country, be sure you choose somewhere that doesn’t allow for the constant pull back to everyday life. As much as possible, disconnect from regular distraction.
What to google: “adult retreat space” is a good start.
Agendas are tricky at a business retreat. You want to be nimble enough to adapt to the needs of the group and follow the flow of energy, but you want to have enough in place as to not wander aimlessly and end up not accomplishing good work.
Instead of mapping each minute, try time chunking.
Morning – arrival and get to know one-another
Afternoon – creating a baseline, reflecting on where you are
Evening – short hot seat – sharing a key challenge (no solutions. The intent is to see overlap, get ideas stirring, and establishing areas of focus for the rest of the time together.)
Day two –
Morning – education – start with a tool that will be useful during your time together. Review the ideas and share how they apply to each participant.
Afternoon – hot seats for 3 people. Each person gets 45 minutes to share and get full group focus and feedback.
Evening – entertainment. Find something to do that gives your brains a rest and is fun for all.
Day three –
Morning – hot seats for 3 people. You’ll notice that with this agenda, it includes only six participants. You can go larger, but you may need to limit the time each hot seat has and/or how many get to take the hot seat.
Afternoon – Create action plans
Helpful Tools that can Unite
At Business Builder Camp, we love to bring in outside resources that unite us and help guide our conversations. Sometimes it’s as simple as a book. Other times, we may bring in an expert to teach us a framework. Here are some of the resources we have found success with:
- Building a StoryBrand, by Donald Miller
- Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz
- Traction, by Gino Wickman
- Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown
We recommend these three because you can read the books and create great content yourself, or you can find local certified facilitators of the content and hire them to facilitate a session or two.
Remember, attending an event or business retreat like this is a big deal for participants. While you want the agenda to be flexible, it’s really helpful to have a cornerstone piece of content that you are centered on.
Nowadays, when planning an adult retreat, you need to be conscientious about dietary needs. Of course, if you can afford to hire a private chef to come prepare meals for you – do it!
But if you need to stick to crockpots and buffets, that’s great too. Just make sure you have a variety of options for folks with different tastes and needs.
Letting things happen organically is great. If memories come from unplanned experiences, all the better.
But, you can also do some planting of circumstances that help to create memories. In The Power of Moments, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, we learn that we can create situations that naturally create memories and shape impactful moments.
If you were to map your retreat, from beginning to end, you would see several spots where you can build in memory makers.
- Open Times
- Key Sessions
- Wrapping up
With each instance you identify, answer the following questions:
- Can you boost the senses during this time? Think it through – sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch. What can you plant or exasperate for effect?
- How can you stretch the participants to gain insight? Is it as simple as asking good questions? Is there an opportunity to send pairs off for a walking conversation with guided questions?
- Is there a point of pride? Can you create ‘wins’ for participants or build in feedback loops that encourage and empower?
- Can you turn mundane moments into opportunities for connection? Perhaps you could tell a story of a family tradition and invite others to do the same. A simple question we love – where did your name come from?
- What is expected and how can you break that mold? Is there an opportunity to surprise and delight you’re attendees?
How can we help?
Business Builder Camp is a group of business owners who build and learn together. Here’s how our members define a Business Builder:
- A Business Builder has a big vision and shares it with others. They are a servant leader.
- A Business Builder loves growth, challenge, and action. He/she sees opportunities, and is willing to take the risk to capitalize on it.
- A Business Builder overcomes the fear of failure or acts in spite of it. They are interested in changing the lives of other, not just making $ (but that’s good too!) Building a business is a puzzle and the pieces are on the table. They try them, put them together, sometimes cut a piece off and improvise. They are adaptable and always open to change.
- A Business Builder is an intentional person who leads by example… the living example.
- A Business Builder wants to build a legacy.
If you would like to become a Business Builder, check out this page.
If you already have a group of entrepreneurs, but need a facilitator for your next retreat, go here.