It’s funny that the definition of retreat according to Merriam-Webster is movement away from a place or situation especially because it is dangerous or unpleasant because that is absolutely NOT what Jackrabbit’s recent Company Retreat was about.
The Jackrabbit Company Retreat, in fact, was a concerted movement forward for the company as it moves into its 14th year. The retreat theme: Our future’s so bright we have to wear shades, is no joke. The constant growth of the company is a testament to the wisdom and guts of the 2 owners.
You must clear your imagination of spa visits, massages, and wine tastings. This retreat wasn’t an escape from work. It was a focus on strategy, communication, momentum, and improvement.
Granted, the fluffle (that’s a group of bunnies) did step back from day-to-day routines. That is the only way that our collective brain could focus all our energy on retreat activities.
What did we do?
Learning and Sharing
The retreat began early for the Marketing and Onboarding departments:
- A full day of sharing annual results and plans for improvements.
- A plan for syncing the two teams up so that they become a single well-oiled machine.
On the second day, the group was in store for information overload. There were reports from all departments. Although everyone communicates on a consistent basis, sharing the results of goals and initiatives has no chance of happening amid the day-to-day grind. It’s awesome to bring it all together so that everyone gets a bead on the company progress that the results collectively show.
We also invited a couple of clients in to ask us questions and to answer questions we had for them. It has proven, over that past few years, to be an invaluable method for mainlining information in both directions, showing our appreciation for their loyalty, and simply getting to know a couple of clients better.
On the final day, critical sharing was underway, as the product roadmap, development process, and departmental infrastructure realignment was revealed. Jackrabbit understands that changes need to be made in the systems that support quality and responsiveness in every facet of the company. They’ve spent considerable time analyzing the best way to sustain our culture of quality and personal relationships as we scale to meet the demands of clients we have and those we hope to bring onboard in the future.
Each day provided team building activities that ranged from the simple, stay-in-your-seat type to the design, engineering and construction type. Memories were tested, hidden creativity revealed, and surprising skills learned. Teams for these events were chosen using interesting methods that were activities in themselves. Staying in departmental groups or comfort zones weren’t allowed. Random pairings and groupings brought those who had previously collaborated on rare occasion were cutting PVC pipe or learning to slap mousetraps without getting pinched. And then there was an evening of pure relaxation and fun where laughter opened the door for personalities to shine.
New friends were made. Friendships were strengthened. Everyone learned new things about their teammates.
What was the difference?
There was a distinct difference in this retreat. Jackrabbit now has 3 leaders. There are Mark and Mike, the co-founders and owners. And then – just establishing himself as “The Integrator” – is Jackrabbit’s new Chief Operations Officer. If “The Integrator” sounds like a superhero, that could be pretty accurate since he is taking over the day-to-day operational management of Jackrabbit.
This change is going to allow Mike to really be the Chief Technology Officer and envision what kind of product Jackrabbit can grow into in the future and Mark to take on the real CEO role of strategist and visionary, determining the path that Jackrabbit’s market presence can take as it’s incredibly bright future unfolds.
Why did we “retreat”?
There are many companies that never “retreat.” They maintain their daily grind, convinced that they can get creative, share ideas, and plan strategically as a group. It’s simply not possible, is it? How can you find room amidst weekly duties, emergency projects, unavoidable distractions, and – of course – catching up to change into a completely different gear to share on a different, more strategic plane?
The purpose driving the Jackrabbit Company Retreat was you – the client, the user, or the potential user of the software. It was about making the software and support of it better suited to your preferences and needs – not ours. It was about projecting your future needs into product plans and figuring out the best way to deliver on them. So you were really behind everything that took place at the Retreat. You just didn’t know it!
Reports keep us in sync with one another’s progress. Planning gives us a clue as to where our Jackrabbit bus is going and a method for setting our expectations (and a snowball’s chance of making them). Team-building helps us get to know others and strengthen our confidence and trust in them. And finally, understanding leadership’s plan for Jackrabbit’s trip into the future gives the entire team the insight necessary to want a seat on the bus that will get us there.
So put your shades on. A bright future is coming!