Running an effective offsite – Prologue: Why we did it

Recently, we ran an offsite for our C-level team at Bulletproof. In this series of posts, I expand on why we decided to do it and share the wisdom we learned while preparing for, researching, and running it. Finally, ending with what we hope to get out of running offsites.

Why we held an offsite. Let’s start at the beginning. As a company founder, I had something in mind when I started the company. As the company grew, I got other people in to help me, and they needed to buy into my idea. They added their input to the idea, and it got refined. One day, the penny dropped. I’m not going to be able to set the vision and strategy on my own. In fact, it’s unlikely I even have the best ideas any more – that’s why I built a great team of peers around me. My role is to drive the process of refining the vision, keeping the team on the same page, and working towards the goals.

The process of building the team of peers took a while. The last piece of the puzzle recently snapped into place  when we hired our CCO; someone who comes with a wealth of industry experience having started and managed the local operation for a key global operator in our space.

With all the key members in place, we were now ready to work on our vision for the company as a team of peers, and break this down into attainable, measurable goals.

Having determined that it was a good idea to get our Vision and Strategy in order at an offsite, we went on and answered a few questions:

  1. Why offsite – can’t we do this at the office? No. You will be interrupted. Phones will ring. More importantly your mind will not be free of the daily minutiae, and you need it to be.
  2. Where to hold it? Somewhere close enough for everyone to get to under their own steam, without adding lots of travel logistics and cost to it. Sure, the journey can be fun, but we need to be mindful of the effective cost of having the C-level team not working on their day jobs. Somewhere quiet where we can talk frankly without being overheard by employees or competitors, and where we can work with a whiteboard, flipchart and laptops.
  3. How long should it be? Long enough to discuss the vision and break it down into goals, backed up with strategies for reaching them. In our case, we ended up with a night, a day, a night and a morning, so we were away from the business for 48 hours.
  4. How available should we be during it? On mobile, only for emergencies. We didn’t want to have everyone sitting around while someone “just took this call” from a customer, supplier, or employee. We also allocated breaks every few hours to check over emails – only to respond to anything urgent, since an auto-responder already told people we would be away.

In my next post, I talk about the Ground Rules that we set as part of the offsite.

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