This April our remote start-up got together during a retreat, or Memritreat as we call it, in Amsterdam to spend time together in person, reflect on the last couple of years, work on our business strategy and brainstorm on the product direction. Even though the time we had available was short, being in the same room brought a lot of energy and will help us now that we’ve moved back to our home-offices again.
This year we opted for a mini version of the “Memritreat”, a tradition that started last year when we visited Barcelona, and something we hope to continue in the years to come. During these retreats our mostly remote team gets together in person to work on our business strategy, brainstorm on the product direction, and team building.
We’ve learned that these events, aside from a great way to get to know each other better, help us find alignment quicker and easier. At forehand we clearly define some goals for the time that we have available so that we spend it wisely. It’s always a challenge not to put too many items on the agenda, and it was not any different this time. So being flexible with the agenda is advised!
This year’s edition took place in Amsterdam. Many team-members were, for different reasons, already close to Amsterdam, making a rather ad-hoc edition possible. Unfortunately it meant that not everyone in the team was able to join in person and some had to join via video-call.
We learned that you don’t need an expensive broadcast setup to include the people who are not on site. We made sure to have enough laptops available in the office so that we could provide different view angles and also switch microphones to let them listen and join in the conversation when needed. By setting up the laptops throughout the room, the remote workers were able to see the presentation on their screen, watch the whiteboard and see+hear people’s reaction at the same time. It also allowed us to record everything, making it possible to use it as a resource later.
Next time we want to have a better microphone setup.. The built-in mics of the Apple laptops were good enough, but switching the mic from one laptop to another was rather complicated. A dedicated web conferencing microphone will be a great improvement.
The first session we started with was looking back at our history. Throughout the years some of our valued team-members have left and new ones joined the team. In order for those new people to better understand some of the decisions that have been made in the past, we looked at the history of Memri and specifically focussed on reflecting and distilling lessons we learned.
Some of the insights we gained throughout the years:
Since we find transparency important, we went through a detailed forecast of our finances. Every team-member can access our finances, see how much we spend, how we spend it and what’s entering the company as well. During the session with the person responsible for our finances we looked into expenditures, how we could save costs and the forecasts for the future.
After that we held in-depth working sessions to discuss and update our business strategy. By doing so we sought to create alignment and make sure everyone is aware of what is going on so that any decisions they make within their roles are better informed.
Although there were no dramatic changes to our short-term roadmap, we believe that having this alignment is key and will benefit us a lot in the long run and we strongly suggest doing the same if you’re contemplating organising a retreat.
Even though this was a shorter and less populated retreat we were still very happy to be together and spend some time looking forward to continuing this tradition in more depth, with more people (and in a more sunny place) in the near future!
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