Do You Need to Take a Time Out From Your Business?

Lela Barker

Not the stick-your-nose-in-a-corner-for-five-minutes variety of time out, but certainly the let’s-pull-back-and-look-at-the-big-picture variety.

 

In late October, the Lucky Break team and I did just that, and I can honestly say that planning a strategic retreat is the single best thing I do for my business. This is the second consecutive year that we’ve tucked ourselves away for a few days in the fall and challenged ourselves to put everything we’re doing under the microscope. The end result? We’re continually assessing ourselves as a company, celebrating what’s working, fixing what’s broken, and exploring new ways to serve our customers.

 

How often have you felt like you’re working IN your business, rather than ON your business? Sometimes we’re so consumed with the day-to-day operations of running our companies that we fail to really pull back and look at the bigger picture. Taking your team (or- hell- even yourself!) away for a few days of strategic planning is one of the very best things you can do for your company.  There’s something magical that happens when you unplug from daily life and examine your business at every level.

 

    • What’s working especially well?
    • What’s not working as well as you hoped?
    • Who are you really serving?
    • How you can get to those people more efficiently?
    • Which of those people’s needs aren’t currently being met?
    • How are social media platforms evolving and how can you improve engagement on your preferred platforms?
    • What business systems need to be developed?
    • What vulnerabilities does the company have?
    • What kind of traffic is your website garnering? What’s driving that traffic and how effective + pleasant is the online experience for your customers?
    • What pieces of your business really light you up and how can you focus more on those facets of the business?
    • What pieces of the business drain your energy and how can you focus less on those facets?
    • What are your goals for the coming year?
    • Where is your revenue coming from?
    • What expenses or investments aren’t bearing fruit?
    • Who can you collaborate with in the coming year?

 

Shannon (my Client Concierge + graphic designer) and Melissa (my Operations Manager) came in from Massachusetts and Alabama for a few days of intensive work at a funky little house, nestled in Asheville, NC in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  As a virtual team, this is the one time each year I can count on us all being together in the same room and- let me tell you- we move mountains when we’re sharing the same physical space! Enjoy a few of my favorite images from our time together…

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Our days started with the breakfast I made for us each day. Don’t judge our bacon consumption… we needed protein to fuel all that cerebral work!

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Our days sometimes ended with Moscow Mule-fueled pajama parties in my bedroom.

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

There’s never a bad month to be in Asheville, but October is especially beautiful. When we stared to go stir crazy, we piled into my car for a drive down the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Flowers + coffee= the secrets to a productive retreat!

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Our planing process includes covering the walls with a 2016 desk calendar, covered in color-coded sticky notes, and plotting out the entire year. Product launches, class enrollment periods, speaking engagements, personal time off… it’s all there.

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

When not sitting around an oversized dining room table stacked with reports, laptops, and coffee mugs, we were huddled together in this magical little spot in the backyard that we dubbed “The Thinking Hut.” Being surrounded by all that fresh air and the majesty of nature does wonders for the creative process.

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Big pasta dinners also do wonders for the creative process. I’m convinced that full bellies make for happy retreat participants!

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

I’m a lucky girl, indeed, to work alongside these two. They cheer our clients on every bit as much as I do and their commitment to Lucky Break inspires me to dig deeper and challenge myself every day. A great team is so vital and these lades are my right and left hands!

 

PLANNING A STRATEGIC RETREAT

Peek at your calendar and identify a 48-hour stretch of time where you can sneak away for your own retreat between now and the end of the year. Perhaps these tips for making the most of this critical time will prove helpful…

 

1. Get out of your house. Can you tuck yourself in at a local hotel? Or stash yourself away in the guest bedroom of a friend? I firmly believe that getting out of your element allows for clearer thinking.

 

2. Leave technology behind. Vow to reserve your smartphone exclusively for calls. Bring your laptop but don’t sign onto the internet. I love technology, but it can prove to be a down-the-rabbit-hole distraction that takes you off course.

 

3. Feed yourself well. A full belly makes for a clear head and you’ll need an abundance of healthy food options to serve as fuel for the work ahead.

 

4. Design an agenda before you go. List every facet of the business that you’d like to analyze and then organize those pieces logically, assigning firm “start” and “stop” times. The structure will ensure your assessments are efficient while helping you to avoid getting bogged down with the process.

 

5. Set goals. What decisions do you need to make during this time? What are you looking to accomplish with this retreat? Sometimes I find it helpful to set the goals first and then work backwards to design the supporting agenda.

 

6. Bring your research. I run revenue reports and collate lots of thinking and data before heading out.

 

7. Capture your takeaways. Ensure that you record the big decisions made at the retreat and your plan for implementation. Decisions are meaningless without action, so establish a realistic timeline for putting these ideas into motion.

 

What techniques do you use to pull back and work at higher levels of your business? I’d love to hear what works for you… drop a comment below!

 

About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

4 responses on “Do You Need to Take a Time Out From Your Business?

  1. Anne-Marie

    Ahhhhh, that looks awesome and fun – you really know how to do it up right with the delicious food. And that thinking hut looks spectacular. =) Can’t wait to see what you have in store for 2016.

  2. Soap Commander

    Thanks so much for sharing Lela. As always Carrie and I learn so much from gleaning your notes. Very excited to implement these questions into our planning sessions as well…and IMHO the bacon was key to success however, we’ll be replacing this with hummus…Go Strategy Team!

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