How To Lead A Virtual Retreat [Podcast]
Are you leading a retreat for your employees or management team? Well check out today's episode where I'm going to share how I recently led a virtual retreat. Now what I'm going to share with you will apply to an in-person retreat, for sure. Plus some of the books that I've been reading that really helped me prepare for this and some of the mistakes that I've made in the past that I'm going to be sure to avoid in the future. Now, for those of you who are new to the show, my name's Jack Jostes and I'm the CEO at Ramblin Jackson and the author of Get FOUND Online. And this is the landscapers guide to modern sales and marketing, where we talk about how to increase your sales with marketing. And in this episode, lead your team, which is one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of running a business is leadership. So check out today's episode to see how you can inspire and lead your team with a retreat.
The Daily Format: Morning Session, Lunch, Afternoon Session
The format of the Ramblin Retreat this year was four days, and we had a morning session from 8:00 to 10:30, with a short break in the middle there. Then, we took an hour break, and then we had 30-minute lunch meetings. That 30-minute lunch meeting was great because we had people from different departments having one-on-one meetings with people that they haven't really spent that time doing it with.
Then, we did an afternoon session from noon to 2:30. Now, that was one of the things that went well. That format went very well because there's an Amos Lee song that my dad and I would always talk about, of, "Keep it tight, but keep it loose." I think last year, the first retreat, it was too tight, meaning I tried to pack way too much stuff into it, and what I found in leading workshops, leading masterminds is that sometimes a conversation is going to start, and you want to have space to let that happen. And also, depending on the personality style of the people who were attending, some of them may never even be in meetings at all, or client facing at all, and when you put people like that in meetings all day, it can just be exhausting and diminish the purpose of why you're even getting together.
So that would be one of the things I'd recommend, is make sure that you have ample breaks and that you have enough plan, but not too much, and keep space. I had a lot of buffer on the ending of things because one workshop needed to go 30 minutes longer, and it was no problem. We had that time planned. And then the next day, another one ended 30 minutes earlier, and that was okay too. To kick things off, on Monday, we also had an optional virtual yoga class, led by Kelly Elle Kennworthy from the Little Yoga Studio, one of our clients here in Boulder. And that was a really great way to relax and get our minds ready for the week.
The first thing that we did in the weeks leading up to this Kara, my wife and I sent out gifts to everybody. And we told them not to open them until they came to the retreat. So that was exciting. And that was the first thing we did was open some gifts because we just want to say thank you to our people. And I don't know about you guys, but the last several months during COVID, I was listening to Russell Brunson recently. He was talking about leading your business like a war time general versus a peace time general. And normally, we're a peace time general and things are slow. And we have a lot of conversations about things, but this was wartime. We need to go, go, go. And we've just been hustling. It's been a very reactive, frenetic, chaotic environment for us because we've made changes for everybody's websites and SEO in addition to doing these bigger projects.
So first, this was a really good time for people to finally relax. And the gifts were just a fun way to celebrate the team. And we got gifts from small businesses around the country. We got some donuts because yes, you can have donuts at a virtual retreat. You might have to mail them to people. We had some coffee from our friends over at OZO. We got some really cool notebooks, these cool journals from Second Story Goods in Haiti. That was really cool. We had our logo branded on there. So we sent those out and also, the big gift was Apple AirPods. So that was just a fun way to get things started with some gifts. And man, those doughnuts were really good.
Day One: Building Relationships and Empathy with DISC Personality Assessments + Personal Histories
One of the things that I did this year was I had themes for each day. And the theme for the first set of workshops was really around empathy and relationships because so often we're hiring new people and maybe they don't get to meet everybody. And we just kind of get into working. And when those relationships aren't established, that makes it harder for teams to actually, what we call "rumble," which is a disagreement. Disagreement is beautiful. Conflict is a beautiful thing. It needs to happen. But when people don't have empathy or relationship with other people, what do they do? They don't have that conflict. And that's where a lot of the problems arise.
So one of the first exercises we did, I learned from a book from Patrick Lencioni, he wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which is an amazing book and it. And he also has a field guide. So I strongly recommend this field guide. I read this book a couple of times and I always learn a lot. And one of the exercises that we did from this book was the personal histories exercise, which is where you share, where you grew up, how many siblings did you have and what was the hardest part of your childhood?
And man, we've all had hard childhoods, right? We're all humans. And there was not a dry eye in the house during that exercise. And you just learned so much about people from doing that. And I'm really glad, like I said, that we had that long break after that because I remember when I did that workshop last year, when I did that exercise, was the moment that this group of individual people became a team. And to take that team building in an even stronger direction, we hired my business coach, Wayne Herring, to lead a workshop on DISC.
DISC is a personality assessment. There are a lot of different personality assessments out there. I happen to have, now, after several years of working with it, I really enjoy the DISC assessment, and with Wayne, we also do something called driving forces, which helps you understand what motivates people. This is so enlightening to learn about DISC, because it seems really obvious, but every time we talk about this, everyone has the same reaction, which is, "Oh yeah, people have very different personalities than I do." And the reason this was so powerful is because by building that relationship, understanding people's personal histories and then their actual personality assessment and their style, we now have empathy for that person, we understand how to communicate with them better. And we also understand their value to the organization in a way that we wouldn't have, if we just thought, "Hey, that person's kind of weird."
Well, they're weird because they have a different personality from you. But that also means that they're really an asset to the team because they probably enjoy the things that you don't like doing. So that was what we did for day one.
Day Two: Improving The Ramblin Jackson Customer Journey with Joey Coleman
The second day was all about focusing on the experience for our customer of working with Ramblin Jackson. We build websites and we do search engine optimization and we do branding. Those are really the deliverables that we do, and we do them really well. I feel very fortunate that we have earned one of the highest net promoter scores in our industry and that even during COVID, we actually didn't lose any clients. We have a very strong retention rate and we have strong relationships with our clients. And I always want to be improving that. I want the experience of working with us to be enjoyable. It's hard work for us and for our clients to produce the things that we do together.
And by focusing on the experience, we're going to have an even better retention, more profit, and ultimately help more people.
Keynote Speaker: The First 100 Days by Joey Coleman
So for this day, I started the day off by hiring Joey Coleman, who is a professional keynote speaker and author who did a keynote called The First 100 Days. One of the things that I'm most amazed to hear from Joey, that he wrote in his book, is that if you can perfect the first 100 days, if you're, if your customer or client enjoys those first 100 days, you are very likely to retain them for five years. And if you screw it up during those first 100 days, the chance of them staying with you goes down significantly. And I was blown away to learn how much profit you can increase by simply retaining clients. And here's a clip of Joey talking about that.
When I was planning the event with Joey, I learned that he actually ran a branding company that built websites and had retainer clients just like we do. So I ended up hiring him to also do a workshop with us, which was phenomenal. Joey did an incredible job. And we went through the different stages of working with us. And we added to the screen, he added to the screen, are we calling people? Are we emailing them? Are we sending a gift? Are we meeting in person? And we went through every phase of our client experience and realized, "Wow, just like many organizations, we are sending way too much email." And worse, the things that I thought were gifts, they're not gifts. They're just branded crap. Now people like it when we send them the things that we were sending like beef jerky and books and things ...
We focus the whole rest of the afternoon workshop reviewing that and coming up with things that we were going to cut. We were going to cut some emails. We were going to add some more personalized videos. We're going to add some more phone calls, add some more actual gifts and note taking into our CRM. We're using the CRM, but we're not really leveraging it. So I feel really confident that we're going to walk away with some immediate impact on our clients that they're going to really enjoy. And it'll inspire them to stay with us and refer us to other great clients.
Day Three: Understanding Role vs. Identity and Effective Meeting Leadership
The third day of the retreat was focused on effective meeting leadership, and to do this, I pulled in some of the content that I've read from Dave Sandler, one of my favorite authors. And one of the books that I read is the 11 Sandler Success Principles, which I recommend that you pick up a copy at sandler.com. They've got really great content. And it was on the idea of IR value and giving yourself a score in your identity, which is separate from your role, and a lot of this, then we worked on some coaching around mindset and on work-life balance and boundaries. And one of the ways that I do that, I shared, was I get dressed for work. I'm working from home right now, but I'm wearing a sport coat. And when I take it off, I'm done working. I'm going to go back into daddy land, change into a tee shirt and wrestle with my kids or whatever, but that's how I do it. So as a virtual company, this is really important. And I think this whole concept of IR value, when I started practicing it, can be really valuable too.
The second part of the workshop, we focused on verbal agreements, which is essentially getting you a verbal agreement from a client about what you're going to meet about. And we role played this. Now to have people prepare for this, I actually leveraged our online university, which I've been creating over the last couple of years with some of our team members here, where people could record themselves reading through a script that they would write with the outline of the verbal agreement. And I could grade that. And then we did it all together as a team. So that was exhausting, honestly, because the IR value and then role playing in a team setting for a lot of people is uncomfortable. But one of our core values here at Ramblin Jackson is grow or die. And that's where we find things, find areas in our personal life or in business where we want to grow and growth doesn't happen without pain. And it was a hard day, but it was a really productive one. And going through that team role playing was incredible because we started just kicking through it, and everyone got a turn.
Day Four: Quiet Half-Day of Work + Team Reflection
The last day, the fourth day of the retreat, which was Friday, the morning was an open block, meaning that everyone could pick one big thing to work on. I had some people, one person, our marketing coordinator took a class on Final Cut Pro to learn how to edit videos better. Our SEO specialist attended some online courses about local SEO. So we all invested some time in either private learning or on some big work here. We have "rocks". This is part of the whole traction Entrepreneurial Operating System. We have these quarterly rocks, which are big projects. And for me, I spent that time writing a new audit, which is the first thing that we do with clients as an audit. And I ended up outlining a new book and man, it was so great to spend some time, some quiet time without meetings, several hours just deep working.
We wrapped up with a reflection, a team reflection, which we recorded. And I had people record. We will then cut this up into an onboarding series for new employees and for each other so we can remember from our DISC profiles, what were the three things we like about when people communicate with us? What are the three things we don't like? What is our DISC profile? Things like that. And some of the key takeaways from the retreat. So overall, it felt really successful. It felt like it had the right balance of content. The themes worked each day. And the response from my team was really positive.
I think you guys did an exceptional job. I was worried about a remote retreat, but I had fun, you guys gave very thoughtful gifts, the speakers were great... I've been to some very useless retreats and this was by far one of the best ones I've ever been to."
- Robert Felton | Landscape Marketing Strategist
Key Takeaways for Planning Your Virtual Retreat
So to wrap things up here, you might be thinking, "Wow, this must have been really expensive." It was, from the gifts, to hiring speakers, to having my whole team, the cost of payroll, in those meetings every day for a week. Yeah, it was expensive. But I can't remember who shared this meme originally, who wrote it originally, but there was a CFO who said, "Wow, what if we spend all this money training people and then they leave?" And then the CEO said, "Well, what if we don't and they stay?" So you've got to invest in your people. You've got to invest in building a team and growing your individual people. And that's just part of who we are here at Ramblin Jackson with our core values of "Grow or die" and "Raise the stakes."
Raising the stakes is all about seeing an opportunity that's hard and just charging for it and going for it and raising the stakes. So we certainly did that this week. And I would encourage you again, to think of themes for each day, make sure that you have enough breaks in there, send gifts to your people and hire professional speakers. I'm going to link to a bunch of speakers in the show notes here. Joey Coleman was amazing. Marcus Sheridan's another speaker I know who does virtual keynotes. Wayne Herring did some on DISC. There are a lot of different people who are doing public speaking out there remotely and virtually. And yes, you should expect to pay them. Even though it's virtual, you can probably cut the travel costs. But when I asked my team, they said that having those guest speakers was absolutely one of their favorite things.
Thanks so much for checking out today's episode of The Landscaper's Guide to Modern Sales and Marketing. If you enjoyed this episode, do me a favor and subscribe and give me some reviews. If you liked this, throw some stars on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or if you're watching this on YouTube, like the video. And have an awesome week, have a great retreat, and I look forward to talking to you next Friday.