Grand Rapids team retreat (fall 2019)

Last week, our entire team met up in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a time of co-working. Like the spring retreat, this is an annual get together. The spring retreat includes a lot of vision setting and team excursions in fun locations; the fall retreat offers an opportunity for us to work side-by-side and hold breakout sessions around specific projects. It’s not quite as glamorous as a trip to Kauai, Belgium, or Costa Rica, but it’s still a whole lot of fun!

Why Grand Rapids? While our entire company is remote, almost half of our team lives in and around Grand Rapids. This makes it an obvious place for the fall meetings. There is, of course, a cost savings around lodging and travel. But it also allows us to add “family time” to our agenda and makes it a bit easier to coordinate since many of our team members know the area well.

Plus, Grand Rapids is a great city with fun workspaces (thank you, Downtown Marketplace, for hosting us for the third year in a row), great food (like Reserve, Mudpenny, and Peppinos), and gorgeous fall weather.

The chance to connect face-to-face

During our weekly stand-up meeting this week, Morgan asked everyone to share their favorite part of the trip. The clear thread that ran through the answers was the connection that’s made when we can work side-by-side and face-to-face. This is especially true for Morgan, our resident extrovert, who describes the retreats as necessary to his sanity. But it’s something we all appreciate!

Meeting our newest team member

Mellanie (on the left) recently joined us as a part-time contractor. Last week in Grand Rapids, she accepted an offer to join the team as a full-time software developer. Our time together confirmed that she’s a great fit for the team, and we all appreciated getting to know her in person.

Working on projects side-by-side

A lot of our time together included everybody sitting around a conference table working at their computer. This might be frowned upon in social situations, but it allowed us to chat as we worked. As a remote team, this isn’t something we get to do very often. It also allowed for quick movement on several projects as team members were able to bounce ideas off of one another in real time.

Breakout discussions on specific topics

In addition to the unstructured work time, we held several breakout sessions throughout the week to collaborate and brainstorm on specific topics. This included everything from current and prospective client projects and retrospectives to marketing and internal systems.

As we often say, there’s nothing like getting people together in a room. The opportunity to sit around a table and brainstorm together is a great way to move conversations forward, gain new perspective, and build on one another’s ideas.

Meals together

There is something profoundly satisfying about sharing a meal. Eating together, breaking bread together, is one of the oldest and most fundamentally unifying of human experiences.
~Barbara Coloroso

Meal time was perhaps the best opportunity for the team to connect on a personal level. In addition to a team lunch at Peppinos and a delicious 4-course meal at Reserve, Luke and his family also hosted us for a family barbecue on our last night together.

The family dinner included a round of H.O.R.S.E for Alan, Luke, and Brian’s son Micah.
Morgan’s daughters Avery and Margot prepared cupcakes to help celebrate Mandi’s daughter Parker’s 12th birthday…and they even helped her blow out the candles!

The opportunity to meet with clients in person

This year, we also scheduled a few breakfasts out with local clients. Peter, Morgan, and Brian had breakfast with Scot Rumery of Rumspeed at Mudpenny in downtown Grand Rapids. And Kedron, Jeff, and Mellanie met with a current custom app client. In the same way that we appreciated the time to connect face-to-face with each other, this time to connect with clients was one of the highlights for everyone!

Mapping the history of Agathon

This last one is a little different in that it wasn’t specifically about connection. In anticipation of Agathon’s 20th anniversary next month, we spent time brainstorming milestones throughout the company’s 20-year history. We added sticky notes of these milestones to a long blank wall outside of our meeting space. Then Alan walked us through those milestones.

For the partners and many of the early employees, much of this was reminiscing. But for those of us who are newer to the team, it was a great opportunity to hear the stories of important milestones in the history of the company and gain a new understanding of how we got to where we are today.

As always, these semi-annual retreats give us a chance not only to connect but also to remind us why we do what we do and how we can better serve our clients. Now that we’re all back in our respective homes and offices, we’re excited to put those conversations into practice!

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