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Don’t Bother With Your Management Retreat Unless You Fix These 5 Things

Far too often we see companies put a lot of effort into their management retreats with lackluster results. Everybody feels great the day of, but often that does not translate into building forward momentum for the company.

The first problem with management retreats, which also happens to be the biggest problem, is that the retreats are considered a one-off event. These retreats are viewed as events separate from the day-to-day work of the company — they’re a standalone, isolated event. Because the retreats are not integrated into the normal work of the business, when management returns to work, most of the planning done at the retreat is forgotten or delayed.

To make your retreats more effective, view them as Intense bursts toward your big picture. The retreat should be designed to build on the existing momentum of the business and to accelerate that momentum going forward. Integration with activities, ideas and hurdles that are already happening in the business are critical to making your retreat successful.

While the retreats do need to be integrated with the key drivers of your business, they can’t just be an annual event. It’s important to plan your retreats quarterly with monthly check ups to assess your progress, solve hurdles and drive the business continually.

Another problem we see is vague objectives and agendas. In our minds, the best retreats are those that bring the team together to focus on really important problems or strategic decisions. Getting your entire team together to set the next quarter’s goals is the lowest value part of the retreat. The reason for this is, if your team is well-aligned your goals should be continuing from the previous periods and should take no more than 30 minutes to an hour to revisit and evolve as needed — unless, of course, something has seriously gone wrong.

The next problem that contributes to an ineffective retreat is when the agenda is focused on too many things. We often recommend for clients to focus on one big thing that is serving as a major impediment to building and sustaining the right forward momentum in their business. Once identified, we work with various managers long before the retreat to prepare and harness their thought process so the retreat is fully productive.

Do you know what a business plan has in common with a retreat? They both sit on that invisible shelf in your brain after you’re done with them. So, if you’re going to get all your managers together and even have a third party advisor lead your retreat, you must get a return on investment for your spend. That invisible shelf in your brain is not the way to go. So, what to do?

Whether you’re solving a problem or making strategic decisions, you should assign “task champions,” with timelines, milestones and the desired outcome for each one of those actions. On Monday morning when you get back to work those tasks and initiatives should be incorporated into the day-to-day work of the company so the momentum continues.

The main purpose of your retreat should not be to have fun. If fun is your primary objective, don’t call it a retreat. With that being said, after a hard day’s work, some of the best bonding in your team will happen in social activities, which is also critical. So, make sure to plan a few fun activities.

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