It’s summer! Flowers are in bloom, cropped pants are being taken off their dusty shelves and small business owners, grumpy from the cold winter months, are looking forward to the future.

What better time to take your staff away for a day or two of deep discussion, meaningful deliberation and donuts? While strategic off-sites and planning sessions are often considered the purview of Fortune 500 companies, small businesses can benefit tremendously from a focused foray out of the office.

If you and your team could use some concentrated time to sort out a strategy, solve a big problem or step back and innovate, a summertime off-site may be just what the doctor ordered. Getting away from the office, and the usual interruptions, can revive your enthusiasm for a business or project and rev up your focus. The trick is to make the most of your time away.

Spend at least one day away: If possible, make it two. Even though you save money by eliminating overnight accommodations with just a day’s outing, you miss out on the opportunity to socialize and informally discuss work-related issues in the evening. Greater group bonding also seems to occur over a two-day period.

Go easy on the PowerPoint: While certain data is no doubt important to communicate, back-to-back PowerPoint presentations and endless ramblings in a half-lighted room invite drowsiness. Instead create an agenda that incorporates group exercises, discussion, role-play, hands-on working sessions, demonstrations and interesting outside speakers. Whenever I conduct strategic off-sites with a client, I use the “once an hour” rule. Once an hour, I make sure and include an activity that requires participation by every person at the off-site. This might mean paired or group sharing, role-play or another interactive exercise. It keeps everyone involved and prevents a few stronger players from dominating the entire day.

Leave some breathing room: A tightly packed schedule with no downtime leads to information overload and off-site burnout. Don’t jam each day so chock full of activities that attendees never get a chance to catch their breath and reflect on what’s being discussed. Keep in mind that much of the value of the retreat will happen in side discussions outside the room. By allowing for these conversational spaces, your off-site will be even richer in results.

Build in flexibility: Don’t be so tied to an agenda or timeline that a hot, heavy and important discussion gets shelved so that you can stay on schedule. The point of the retreat is to draw people in and get them to think, act and participate in new ways.

Play: While you want your off-site to be productive, you don’t want it to be a grind. Setting up activities for play is an important part of the package. Ideas include: a golf outing, dinner at a popular restaurant, a visit to a museum, theater tickets and the spa.

Sidebar: Off-Site Checklist

Here are a few things to consider to make your off-site a success before you even arrive:

  • What is the purpose/theme of the off-site?
  • Given the purpose, who should be invited?
  • Who will select the site, make the arrangements and coordinate with the site management?
  • What kind of “welcome” packet do you want the attendees to receive on arrival?
  • Do you need audiovisual equipment? If so, who will be responsible for this?
  • Who is your contact person at the site? Is this the person that any deliveries should be addressed to?
  • Will you have any presentations during lunch or dinner? If so, is the catering department aware of your plans?
  • Do you want organized entertainment in the evenings? What will it be, and who will organize it?
  • What time is staff expected to arrive? Do they need driving directions? Is a meal being served upon arrival? Are you offering vegetarian food to those who need it?
  • Once at the site, who will be responsible for overseeing arrivals, room allocation and registration?
  • How do you want to begin and end the off-site?

35 thoughts on “Could Your Small Business Benefit From a Strategic Off-Site This Summer?

  1. I think outside speakers for this type of event are key, they bring something fresh and its a new face that employess haven’t heard drone on and on about stale topics before.

  2. I think outside speakers for this type of event are key, they bring something fresh and its a new face that employess haven’t heard drone on and on about stale topics before.

  3. I’ve worked for big corporations and done these, they are kind of par for the course, but working for a small business and doing them could probably be more valuable, everyone would get more involved with smaller numbers.

  4. I’ve worked for big corporations and done these, they are kind of par for the course, but working for a small business and doing them could probably be more valuable, everyone would get more involved with smaller numbers.

  5. See I think just one is okay, when balancing cost for small operators, because your employees will recognize what you tried to do and your limitations.

  6. See I think just one is okay, when balancing cost for small operators, because your employees will recognize what you tried to do and your limitations.

  7. The thing is, I find that these sessions get dominated by strong personalties regardless of how you organize activies.

  8. The thing is, I find that these sessions get dominated by strong personalties regardless of how you organize activies.

  9. I run a small business and I just can’t see myself being able to afford something like this, especially in the present economic climate.

  10. I run a small business and I just can’t see myself being able to afford something like this, especially in the present economic climate.

  11. My question is, for the small business owner who wants to do something like this but has limited resources, how far offsite should you go?

  12. My question is, for the small business owner who wants to do something like this but has limited resources, how far offsite should you go?

  13. The flexibility thing is a hard tightrope to walk, if you start deviating too much than sometimes people start just going off and doing their own thing and basically taking a holiday on company time.

  14. The flexibility thing is a hard tightrope to walk, if you start deviating too much than sometimes people start just going off and doing their own thing and basically taking a holiday on company time.

  15. I love weekend retreats, I think that spending some time out of the office and in a new fresh place, socializing and taking a break and then regrouping to as a group discuss strategy is really valuable.

  16. I love weekend retreats, I think that spending some time out of the office and in a new fresh place, socializing and taking a break and then regrouping to as a group discuss strategy is really valuable.

  17. I find that the play aspect is a great thing, but how do you ensure its something everyone enjoys? golf is great for the guys and museums and theaters please those that aren’t active types (generalizing here), but restaurants are middle gorund but they feel a little unimaginative.

  18. I think these are some really valuable insights, and I have always loved getting my workers out of the office and refreshing and renergizing them with a new focus.

  19. I think these are some really valuable insights, and I have always loved getting my workers out of the office and refreshing and renergizing them with a new focus.

  20. The breathing room is vital, some retreats just feel like more work than the office and there was no point in getting away.

  21. The breathing room is vital, some retreats just feel like more work than the office and there was no point in getting away.

  22. I done a few of those corporate retreats and I always seem to find that the group sharing or role playing stuff, no one takes seriously.

  23. I done a few of those corporate retreats and I always seem to find that the group sharing or role playing stuff, no one takes seriously.

  24. I think the checklist is the most valuable piece of this post, I always forget things.

  25. I think the checklist is the most valuable piece of this post, I always forget things.

  26. I’ve done some great ones, just for a small core of employees at a weekend spa, not too far away and relatively simple. Just alternating work focused stuff and relaxation, and sometimes it even leads to people talking shop during unscheduled stuff.

  27. I’ve done some great ones, just for a small core of employees at a weekend spa, not too far away and relatively simple. Just alternating work focused stuff and relaxation, and sometimes it even leads to people talking shop during unscheduled stuff.

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