Business Planning Meetings

Making the Most of an Annual Planning Retreat

You only get one shot at this year's annual planning retreat so you need to make every minute count. To make the most of your time, play it smart and follow a few common sense retreat guidelines.

An annual retreat for a business can be a significant company investment.

As such, when planning a company annual retreat, you'll want to be sure to make the most of the outing. These tips for annual planning retreats should help you stay on the path to a successful annual business retreat.

  • Don't try to do too much. It's okay to have high expectations for your planning retreat. But the most common mistake business owners make in organizing an annual planning retreat is to try and do too much. You can't expect to cram branding, strategic planning, departmental reviews, budget creation, teambuilding and recreational activities into a couple of days. A much better approach is to identify your planning priorities for the retreat and organize everything else around them.
  • Lay the groundwork before the retreat. As a small business owner, preparation is probably already part of your DNA. To prepare for an annual planning retreat, you might want to consider laying the groundwork with a series of special meetings during the weeks leading up to the retreat, particularly if the retreat has a tight time schedule. By addressing mission statements, budgets, teambuilding and other issues in advance, you can clear the schedule to focus more intensely on planning during the retreat itself.
  • Communicate the agenda. If you have done your homework, you should have a pretty good idea about what will happen at the retreat long before it begins. The big question is whether or not the other participants have any knowledge about the agenda prior to the retreat. If participants aren't clear about the agenda in advance, some will come to the retreat prepared to either rehash territory that you have already covered or topics that have absolutely no bearing on your retreat goals. Instead of hoping that everything will be alright once the retreat gets underway, equip retreat participants with a written agenda and other materials at least week prior to the retreat.
  • Use a facilitator. It's never a good idea for the owner or leader to serve as the retreat facilitator. When the boss is running the show, discussion is stifled because retreat participants say what they think the leader wants to hear rather than what they actually think. Likewise, having a staff member facilitate the retreat can be counterproductive because office dynamics creep into the retreat process. By far, the best answer is to bring in an outside facilitator so that the boss and other staff members can simply experience the retreat at the participant level.
  • Follow-up items. It's not the end of the world if you don't make it through your entire agenda during the retreat. However, if there are items left undone be sure to follow-up on them in a timely manner. You should also create a plan to review the implementation of planning items that arise at the retreat and report progress to the retreat participants.

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