Can’t Beat the Retreat

Nothing adds long-term value to your leadership team’s working relationship than an executive retreat.

May 31 2013 by Michael Gelfand


Connecting the Why and the Where

Choosing a venue might sound like the fun part of retreat planning. Business hotels, resorts, lodges and intimate inns in interesting locales abound—as evidenced by the four resorts profiled in the preceding pages—but finding the right one for your needs can actually be tricky. Obviously, you’ll want an easily accessible location that offers comfortable accommodations, as well as the amenities you’ll need to conduct both business conversations and team-building exercises. Beyond that, the field is wide open.

You may want to gather your team in a large resort setting, such as the 7,000-acre Casa de Campo, where your group will enjoy lush surroundings and plenty of leisure-time dining options and activities from which to choose. Or you might choose a more intimate venue, such as Creek Ranch, where your team will be the only guests on the property, can brainstorm in beautifully appointed common areas then break for activities, such as horseback riding, skeet shooting and fishing.

“Sometimes, it’s helpful to bring people out of their element. I’ve always looked to bring my heads of global or regional businesses together in a change of venue because when you put people into a non-pressurized business scenario, it’s much easier for them to think outside of the proverbial box,” says DiComo.

While Connelly’s most recent retreat was at Miami’s St. Regis Hotel, she is quick to point out that a posh venue is not strictly required. “People often joke that they do their best thinking in the shower, which is proof that you don’t need to travel to some lush tropical island to have a great retreat,” she notes. “It’s really about going someplace where you have time and the comfort to sit and talk together or one-on-one without interruption for a few days. That’s what is important.”

Catino, whose hobby is cooking, prefers a nice setting where she can rent a private home and build camaraderie in the kitchen. “I get an 8-10 bedroom home and, as part of every retreat, I cook a meal,” she explains. “I engage them as sous chefs, put someone in charge of the bar—everyone takes an active role in preparation and we prepare and then enjoy the meal together.”

The bottom line? Everyone emerges from the experience feeling closer—which is, after all, what a retreat is all about. “The executives get a better understanding and appreciation of the people they work with than you can build during the course of a normal workday,” sums up Catino. “That’s important when you’re going into battle in business. You need to know who’s with you.”

DIY Retreat Planning

Understanding what type of retreat you want to have requires a lot of thought, but identifying the venues that potentially match your needs—and then finalizing the planning details—is a time-consuming process often better left in the hands of people with specialized expertise. If you’ve defined your requirements but recognize that you don’t have the time or relevant experience to narrow down the options and finalize the planning arrangements, look no further than your local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) for free guidance. They can provide you with all the help you need, including:

  • Information on the kinds of hotels and venues in their region and guidance on the desirability of each of the different types of hotels you should be considering.
  • Input on the seasonality of the destination, which can help you rank your choices when lower rates are an important factor.
  • Managing requests for proposals (RFPs) from suitable venues based upon your requirements. At your request, they can even aggregate customized hotel information for your consideration.
  • Assistance with on-site logistics, pre- and post-conference activities and the coordination of local transportation.

Go to www.conventionbureaus.com to find CVBs in and around the locations you’re considering.