Plan a Management Retreat with Lasting Results - Management
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Plan a Management Retreat with Lasting Results

By Christine Corelli

Article Date: 07-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Neither a luxury nor a fluff excuse to play golf, the well organized retreat for your management team has the potential to rejuvenate your people and your business.

Management retreats represent a significant investment of time and energy. Many dealers refrain from holding them because they are regarded as time consuming, and perhaps even a bit frivolous. Or, they think a retreat is only for Fortune 100 corporations. However, conducted properly, they can be your best overall investment for making decisions to help move your business into a more successful future.

Regardless of the size of your company, the bottom line is that bringing key people together for a retreat is a smart move. It can be an excellent opportunity for strategic planning and action-focused decision making to increase your sales, establish higher levels of customer loyalty, control overhead, improve overall performance, and drive business growth.

Effectively planned and executed, a retreat is also an excellent platform for reinforcing leadership skills, brainstorming ideas, solving problems, stimulating teamwork, nurturing a sense of camaraderie, and clarifying and reaffirming your organization's competitive strategy.

Management retreats are valuable experiences and they are fast becoming one of the most effective management tools a company can use. Since people tend to embrace what they have helped to create, a carefully planned retreat will ensure that everyone in your organization will support management decisions.

Following are 20 tips to assist you in planning a successful retreat.

1) Be clear on what you want your retreat to accomplish.
Specifically, answer these two questions: (1.) What has to happen in order for this management retreat to be called a success? (2.) What specific issues or topics do you want to discuss?

2) Have the right people on your retreat team.
No more, no less. Remember, this is not a reward or a popularity contest. If you don't have the right players, your retreat will not be productive. Decide whether you want to invite only your executives or include your managers, assistant managers, and a few key people to be on your retreat team. Also, consider the benefits of including managers and a few high-contributing employees. If you do, invite those with strong leadership skills who possess an in-depth knowledge of the issues at hand so they can participate in part or all of the retreat agenda.

3) Name your employee retreat team.
If you invite just a few employees, give their team a name such as the "President's Advisory Team," or "Acme Leadership Council, or "Acme Future Leaders Council." It will demonstrate that you recognize their leadership ability and will make them feel important and appreciated.

4) Establish your objectives.
While every organization has its own unique challenges, the following are examples of areas for discussion that you might address:

5) Set a tightly focused agenda.Select no more than three topics for discussion; consider the most urgent issues. If you try to cover too much in too little time you will not be satisfied with the end result. Prevent rambling.

6) Provide materials for review.
Distribute copies of a great business book, From Good to Great, by Jim Collins, or Wake Up and Smell the Competition, or a magazine article on future trends in your industry, advertising and marketing techniques, sales strategies, employee motivation, or any topic related to your most urgent needs. Attendees should come prepared to share what they learned and how to apply it in the company.

7) Bring information.
Before the management retreat, ask your team to gather new information or "intelligence" about your business and your competitors.

8) Keep it quiet.
One dictionary definition of a retreat is: "a period of quiet rest and contemplation in a secluded place;" another says it's "a period away from normal activities, devoted to contemplation." Whether it's three days or one, the best place for your retreat is a quiet atmosphere far from the hustle and bustle of daily business.

9) Keep it simple and inexpensive if budget is a concern.
Money is not the key component in a successful retreat. Some highly productive retreats have even been held in an executive's backyard or at a quiet restaurant with a meeting room. Or try at a country bed and breakfast inn (with an appropriate private room for your sessions plus a dining room for breaks).

10) Consider alternative formats.
Some companies use this type of format:
  • Day One: Arrival is in the early afternoon, with an early dinner planned. During the dinner, teams of two, three, or four are formed, depending on how many people attend the retreat. Each team is given an assignment from one of the three areas you have selected for retreat discussion. They meet together for an hour to discuss the topic. Then, together, they create a 20-minute presentation that will include, (1.) Your strengths (2.) Your needs (3.) Your challenges. One person is selected to deliver the presentation to the group. Many may want to use PowerPoint to make a better impact. Later that evening, your team reconvenes as a group and listens to the presentations.
  • Day Two: Discussions are conducted. Decisions are made and an action plan is developed.
Some companies have retreats that last an entire weekend. Whatever you decide, make sure it is an energizing experience for your management retreat team.

11) Consider engaging the services of a high-powered management retreat facilitator.
While it's possible for you or anyone in your company to conduct the retreat, you will often get better results if you bring in a business expert who is an experienced management retreat facilitator to provide ideas and accomplish your retreat goals. A retreat facilitator is neutral and can see conflicts and opportunities your retreat team might not see, and can share ideas from other companies.

12) Everyone leaves their hats and their titles at the door.
At one executive retreat, the company president stated, "Okay, folks, at our last retreat you told me I needed to do a better job of communicating. How have I been doing lately?" What an honest and forthright statement coming from a top-level executive!

13) No cell phones or e-mail communication during the management retreat.
If it's held during the week, set half-hour breaks for retrieving messages and making phone calls.

14) Use subtle, soft instrumental music to enhance creative-thinking.
Studies have proven that people think more creatively when classical music is playing in the background, such as Mozart, Vivaldi, and Bach.

15) Refrain from rewards.
Never use a retreat to award someone. Your time must be spent on idea-sharing and problem-solving.

16) Ensure that "follow through" is part of your retreat process
When you conclude, be prepared to make final decisions and create assignments. Make sure expectations are clarified and that you analyze your results.

17) Evaluate.
Ask for a candid evaluation from your participants. Make sure you include the question, "How can we improve our next retreat?" Determine whether they came away with what you had planned.

18) Execution is critical.
Make sure your entire management retreat team knows that going back to business as usual won't cut it. Execution must be your competitive strategy.

19) Retreat repeatedly.
Many companies hold a yearly retreat, while others hold them quarterly to make sure their leadership functions as a unified team and stays on track. Others hold a retreat just prior to an annual employee meeting. Still others hold them sometime in late fall or early winter, so they can put their strategy into place and make announcements early in the new year.

20) Retreat now.
You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish at a management retreat. Just keep this in mind: Holding a retreat doesn't have to be costly. The right structure, format, facilitator and application need not create an exorbitant expense; but it will be an investment that is worth every penny.
• What is our equipment business doing exceptionally well?
• What do our customers want, need, and expect from us?
• How well do we deliver what our customers want, need, and expect?
• What are our customers saying about us?
• Do we deliver on our brand promise? (What your marketing materials
    say you will do)
• How are we perceived in the eyes of our industry and community?
• What complaints do we hear from our customers?
• What service flaws exist and how can we avoid or eliminate them?
• How can we streamline our operations and cut red tape?
• What processes or procedures do we have that don't make sense and
   hold us back from flawless execution?
• How can we increase our absorption rate in our service department?
• What can we do to become the Number One preferred equipment provider?
• What can we do to retain our service techs and keep them happy?
• How can we save money?
• How can we help our sales force to generate more sales and
    establish higher levels of customer loyalty?
• What are the best practices we have on our sales force?
• What new approaches can we take to our advertising and marketing
• Is it time for us to carry landscaping equipment?
• What is the overall level of performance of our employees?
• Do they act as our brand ambassadors?
• Who are our highest contributors?
• Who needs more coaching and skill development?
• Who is not performing and may need more help?
• What more can our employees do to better support our sales team?
• Do our employees have the skills, tools, and training they need?
• What, specifically, can we do to create higher levels of customer
    loyalty and turn our customers into advocates?
• Where do we need improvement?
• How can we take what we're doing right and use these to build on our
• What should be our three action items?

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