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Founder Notes: Nurturing Agency Culture with Our Annual Retreat

Minneapolis skylineSocial Tribe is packing our bags this week and heading to the Twin Cities for our annual company retreat. For three days, we’ll split our time between wellness activities, fabulous meals, getting to know one another better, making memories, and hopefully starting enough inside jokes to last us until next year. 

Each afternoon, we’ll gather for interactive workshops where we dig deep into the State of the Tribe, our culture, our values, the ST mission, areas for development, and our brand vision. I can’t wait.

As the Founder + CEO of Social Tribe, I’ve spent the last ten years growing a team of go-getters, builders, integrators, and innovators. It’s so easy for our team to stay focused on the day-to-day work and the “hustle” of agency life without stopping to check-in with themselves or with one another. Can you relate?

In an effort to break away from the grind, these annual trips are hugely valuable to our team as a chance to step back, reflect on our brand, reconnect with our values, and re-energize our team with strengthened relationships, a change of scenery, and karaoke.

Agency Retreat Tip #1: Staying in shared quarters of any kind? Ask everyone to label their own phone chargers. Trust me. Click To Tweet

A major reason that we use annual retreats to recharge and rethink at Social Tribe is that, as a virtual company comprised of team members based all over the country, we don’t often have a chance to hang out or collaborate in-person.

Right now, we have people based out of ten cities in seven states across four time zones—and we wouldn’t have it any other way. There are many wonderful benefits to having a remote work culture, but nothing can completely replace true human connection, which is why we make it a priority to come together once a year.

We use these trips to check in on our culture, check in on our people (especially the folks who seem like they never need to be checked on!) and check-in with ourselves as well—something I believe people in the agency world frequently forget to do.

Agency Retreat Tip #2: Try to pick a location that is relatively unknown to the whole team. Everyone can share the experience of discovering a new place and enjoying local fare together. Click To Tweet

women talking

Shared experiences are the cornerstone of building common bonds; common bonds create positive relationships; positive relationships create strong culture. You get the gist! This is why each year we hunt high-and-low across the country to find a unique destination to host our retreat. It’s an opportunity to discover and co-create a different experience together, and a common memory that we share as a team.

Agency Retreat Tip #3: Bring more snacks and candy than you think you need. Workshops and firesides are always received better with a mouthful of Oreos—especially during that afternoon post-tacos slump. Click To Tweet

At Social Tribe, we work hard—really hard! While none of us shy away from a meaty challenge, it’s important to take time to rest and rejuvenate. That’s why we’ve made self-care and wellness part of our daily activities at the retreat. A few members of our team will be heading off to a local CrossFit sesh, and I’ll be leading yoga one morning followed by an afternoon hike to a local waterfall in the afternoon. 

We don’t do trust falls or high ropes courses (not yet, at least), but we always have karaoke. A word that immediately evokes a feeling of fun, unbridled silliness, and a tinge of fear in us all. Or maybe just me. For some who like to participate, it’s a chance to be unabashedly unembarrassed while belting Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. For others, it’s a chance to show off impressive skills and great voices. Either way, it’s a blast that brings everyone together in the best way—and every company should do it. 

I should talk about that in my next keynote. Karaoke + Culture: Agencies that Sing Together Stay Together. (Kidding!)

Agency Retreat Tip #4: Try to have at least one 1:1 conversation with each person there. Despite your position or level in the agency, leave the trip knowing one more thing about every person that you didn’t know before. Write it down.… Click To Tweet

Before we get comfortable enough to bare it all on the karaoke stage, we’ll start the trip with a get-to-know-you marathon of games and icebreakers based partially on the findings from a sort-of wacky survey we put out earlier in the month—because it’s easier to work well with someone when you’re familiar with their specific “brand of weird” as we say.

Although we leave plenty of room for fun and wellness, retreats should, before all else, have an objective. Ours is ALL IN. We want every team member to be all in with Social Tribe—deeply committed and inspired our vision, invested in helping us grow, and inspired by the work we do as stewards of the culture we’re building. No matter how big and audacious our goals become, it all starts with our Tribe, and that is why we invest so deeply in our culture and team.   

zero-waste bag

In the spirit of shared values and growth, we’re excited to have our first-ever zero-waste retreat. Spearheaded by one of our own team members, this year we’ve deepened our commitment to learning more, sharing more, and doing more to keep trash out of landfills.

In a way, we’re expanding our human-focused messaging into human-focused actions by applying more sustainable habits and information-sharing into our everyday lives. Championing sustainability has been a behind-the-scenes component of our culture that we’re thrilled to bring to the mainstage during this retreat!

Agency Retreat Tip #5: Don’t forget to allow for downtime in the itinerary. For many of us, being “on” all day is exhausting. Designating time for attendees to recharge, go for a walk, take a nap, or casually chat about the newest season… Click To Tweet

So there you have it. That is what we are excited about this week. Three days of all-in, 100% about-it Tribe Time. 

Do you have any Minneapolis recommendations? Do you have any questions about planning an agency retreat or running a dispersed company? Do you want to know how to join Social Tribe’s team of smart-and-awesome marketing pros? Send us a message. We’d love to chat with you.