I bet you wish your company did this! (Part 1)
While in the Bahamas about a month ago, I was able to interview my corporate group's COO, Mr. Ryan Schram of IZEA, regarding the importance of taking their company, approximately 100 employees, on an annual retreat at sea. Here is a snapshot of that interview-- enjoy!
How did the idea of a corporate retreat at sea come about?
It dates back to when the company was much smaller; about 30 employees. It was really a way to cost effectively get everyone together, but beyond that, these forced collisions is like adult camping. You're at the same place at the same time. We intentionally don't allow spouses or families and that was by design because we wanted everyone to spend their free time with their colleagues. Even at 30 people, and now at 200, you really take for granted how much this stuff makes a difference in improving communication and investing in company culture.
Because of the relationships that are built on the ship, what kind of ROI (return on investment) do you see when you return back to the office?
We measure ROI in different ways and the first is being able to feel it. We have seven different offices now (across the US and Canada) and the reality is that every office develops its own subculture. As much as we do training and ongoing education, each office does things and talks to each other differently. What we tend to feel especially in the months following the retreat at sea is those offices are talking to each other more effectively.
On a more quantitative basis, we can point out to things that have ideated off of this retreat whether they were product ideas, sales techniques, and the like, that actually correlate to business that we win. The third thing is overall retention. Unemployment is at a record low and there's a lot of things you can do to improve morale and therefore improve retention. This is one of those things to us that is sort of a no-brainer.
What are some of the elements of your cruise retreat?
In addition to the breakout sessions, we roll out the annual plan to the team. This plan has already been finalized and approved by the board. We invite everyone to some social evening events, but those are not required attendance. We also host one-on-one appointments with the team, Ted (CEO) and I. What happens here is also part of an annual plan that includes quarterly meetings and senior staff roadshows throughout the year.
Why do you continue to choose cruise retreats over resort retreats?
It is definitely a cost-driven decision. For every dollar spent, we try to get the most value. The employees who are local don't want to stay in area hotels. There are also at least double the costs on feeding everyone at a hotel vs paying for everyone to go on a cruise. Because we have to fly in a portion of the company, we need to economically make up the money somewhere else. Everyone also has a better time on the ship. Some people do choose not to attend the cruise because of motion sickness, but there is definite fomo going on. For those who cannot attend, we do upload the files we share at sea on our company intranet.
What value do find in working with me for your annual retreat?
Seeing how high maintenance we are as a company, it is beneficial to have a knowledgeable party to navigate the events. You are also able to provide our group with preferred pricing and value adds--we appreciate those things that we wouldn't be able to normally do. It is also a huge part of the value of sailing on a cruise, seeing as none of us are event managers. I hope you got some great value reading about corporate retreats at sea. Cruises aren't just for vacations, but it is nice that if you have to be working, it's on the sea. Next week I will show you some of what the retreat entailed.
I'll see you here next week for Part 2 of Retreats at Sea!