3 simple steps to your first business retreat - and why you need one. - Kristen Kalp

3 simple steps to your first business retreat — and why you need one.

A business retreat. Yah, I know, you barely have time to get everything in your days accomplished now. The idea of a retreat makes you scoff and throw up your hands in despair, and cues much gnashing of teeth for all the time you do not have. (It gets crazy up in there, with the wailing and the FMLing.) I know.

But. For the length of this article, let’s pretend that a business retreat is possible for you and your helpers, if you have any. Let’s imagine you have the time and the funds and the day or two or four necessary to enter into deep planning and strategizing on behalf of your business for the coming year, okay? Okay.

First, decide whether or not a business retreat is a valuable tool for your psyche and your income.

It’s easy to spend so much time working in our businesses that we forget where we’re going. We’re like overworked sailors, tying the rigging and keeping the decks swabbed, but we’re also the captains – so when we’re busy beyond belief, no one is steering the ship.

A business retreat allows you to steer your ship. To pull away from the everyday tasks that must get done and chart a map for where, exactly, your business is going.

Some questions you might find helpful to ponder and to answer during your business retreat:

What did you accomplish during the previous year?

Add five more things than you find strictly necessary. Give yourself a moment to acknowledge your hard work.

What did you learn during the previous year? Big lessons, small lessons?
How can you improve communication with one another (if you have a team)?

With your clients? (Forms, policies, phone calls, etc…)
With your potential clients? (Website copy, FAQ’s, etc…)

How do you want your business to make you feel?
What do you want your business to accomplish in the upcoming year?

Financially?
Personally?

Which parts of your business consistently make you feel stressed, tired, or overworked?

Can those parts be outsourced?
No, really. Can they be outsourced?

Do you need additional help in the form of a team member?

If so, write a job description for him/her.

How many hours per week do you want to work?
How do you want your business to change, if at all?
What changes will you have to make to achieve your goals?
When will you take time off during the coming year?

Second, build in fun.

While it seems counter-intuitive, fun has got to happen, or you won’t enjoy your planning retreat. I realize that a business planning retreat sounds like you’ll be stuck in a hotel room eating crusty bagels and slurping coffee for endless, tedious hours, but that’s simply not the case!

Haunani and I recently took a road trip/biz planning retreat to Pittsburgh so I could show her around my favorite city. I took her to the zoo, on a boat tour of the rivers, to the Children’s Museum, shopping, drinking, and generally sightseeing – and we still accomplished every one of our goals for the trip!

While our husbands were a bit dubious about the amount of work that was accomplished, we emerged from our creative cocoon with a clear plan for the coming year. We decided upon what’s sticking around, what’s getting the ax, and what’s breaking new ground in 2013. (Turns out there’s a lot that was waiting to be revealed when we made the space for it to emerge!)

If you’re undergoing this journey by yourself, what would make this retreat fun for you? A massage, a facial, a visit with old friends in the evening, catching a play, shopping, eating whatever you damn well please, or taking a cooking class…your choices are your own!

If you’re bringing your business partner, virtual assistant, or employees along, ask for their input. What would be fun for them? Take notes and see how much juice you can squeeze from life during these few days.

Then, choose a location. Renting a cabin in the woods, a glamorous hotel, a seaside cottage, a bustling studio in New York City – the possibilities are endless! Airbnb.com is a fantastic resource for getting your wheels turning and thinking outside the box – you can stay with strangers or have the entire place to yourself. Whichever option feels most comfortable and fun is the right one for you.

Think of this retreat as a delectable treat that rewards you with business clarity and strategy. Make it as sumptuous, fun, loving, and fantastic as possible.

The final step to planning a business retreat is to make time for it.

Yes, to make time.

If you default to trying to squeeze your retreat into your calendar, just like you squeeze in your day-to-day business, it will simply never happen. If, however, you find a spot three to six months’ away on your calendar that isn’t yet full of activities, you’ll actively MAKE time for your retreat to happen. You’ll consistently and lovingly deflect commitments from filling up those few days, and your retreat will proceed as planned.

The length of the trip is entirely up to you: a single overnight retreat if you just need a bit of clarity to whip up goals for income and to brainstorm marketing ideas.  (Refer to this article to get people buying and booking whenever you want.)  A longer retreat is fantastic if you’re feeling stuck, dissatisfied, or as if major changes need to happen.  (Read this article if you want to make any dream come to life.)  There’s no right or wrong retreat length, so long as you’re dedicated to answering tough questions during the time allotted.

Oh, and your biz retreat needn’t be exotic, though feel free to make it so if your budget allows! A simple drive to the local Holiday Inn for peace and quiet, a dip in the pool, and room service is more than enough stimulus to get you kicked out of your routine and into your planning journey.

A little note about your terrible, horrible, no-good thoughts: right about now, your brain will start to tell you that can’t be trusted to do this business planning thing on your own. You can. Sure, you might need help and you might not be perfect, but if you head into the great unknown with the questions I’ve provided and a fun agenda, you’ll be just fine. Everything will unfold as it should, and you’ll be one step closer to having the business of your wildest dreams.

P.S. How to make a marketing calendar in 15 minutes or less.