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When it comes to company retreats, I know what you’re probably thinking – trust falls and motivational speakers. Thankfully, our team-building trip goes far deeper than that. This is a company retreat designed by and for, the Wooassist team.
On August 15-18 2015, Wooassist conducted a team retreat together with its Managing Director, Nicholas Jones, in the beautiful island of Bantayan.
Lead developer, Junix Villacorta says:
The idea started when Nick informed John and me that he will be coming to Cebu on August 15. I was the one who proposed the venue, as I have already been to Bantayan Island with my friends.
Why a Company Retreat?
Changing pace with a retreat is said to re-energize an organizational team, whether you’re running a company of five or 100. It encourages collaboration and strengthens internal bonds. We also had these goals in mind:
To improve communication. We wanted to break down barriers through group activities prepared by our Project Manager, John Gamor. By working through a task, the multiplicity of skills within the team is highlighted and the group learns new ways of working together.
As a remote-team, I believe it is especially important for us to have these kinds of events from time to time to break off from the routinary days spent in front of the computer working at home.
To work toward a shared goal. Each member of the team has a different key-performance metrics, and perceptions of a successful day.
Nick asked us to answer “What do you want Wooassist to be?” The activity helped us realize the true goals of the company 3 years from now, and the role of each member in achieving those objectives.
To create a stronger-knit team. We may interact with team members in Skype or Asana every day, but spending a couple days away with them, talking, eating and sharing a bike ride, brought us closer. It enhanced our trust and appreciation for one another.
A company retreat is an opportunity for us to meet in person, and know each other beyond just online correspondence.
Travelling to Bantayan Island
The travel to Bantayan was a memorable experience for us. We had to get up really early, around 5 am, to ride the first bus going to Hagnaya port, which was about 3-hours away. From there, we had a 1 hour boat ride to the island.
Junix shares his experience:
When we got to the municipality of Carmen, the bus stopped due to a broken engine. We were almost halfway. We had to wait for more than an hour for the next bus to arrive. When we got to the next bus, most of us had to stand for hours on the bus ride as no seats were available.
Thankfully, we encountered no problems with the ferry ride to Sta. Fe. We were all seated properly and rested for the whole duration of the travel.
Company Retreat Activities
John and Junix prepared some events set-up to help facilitate social interaction. Most of the meals were also taken as a group, for light-hearted banter to ensue. Junix acted as our guide for the whole trip, and took care of our Sunday schedule.
The team decided to go to Ogtong Cave Resort. It has a white sand beach, just at the foot of coral rocks, putting the resort on an elevated position. Its cave is one of the most visited and interesting places to see in Bantayan.
Nick has this to share:
I chose the cave in the morning and kayaking and beach volleyball in the afternoon. It was a great day and I got to bond with the team through friendly banter, some more serious conversations, and generally just hanging out together in such a beautiful place.
Monday was the business part of the trip. The team got to business by discussing the company’s future plans, 3 years and 5 years from now. Nick’s piece was all about the business model and the different strategies we might take. Junix and John went on with creating more products for Wooassist, and hiring more employees.
Nick felt inspired that everyone was on the same page:
The culture of the team was much more focused on success and making Wooassist profitable and getting bigger and better clients than on the more social and community aspects of a company, while this wouldn’t work for a lot of companies, it seems to suit our personalities.
Wooassist Open Forum Session
For Monday’s afternoon session, the team planned on an open-forum activity, wherein each can air their grievances. The goal was to talk about any open conflicts and general impressions that they had with the rest of the team.
As Nick suggested, we had to write notes for each Wooassist member, and point out their strengths and weaknesses. As Nick would put it, we were very respectful to the absent team members and were honest about their assets and shortfalls and any challenges we had with them.
The team mostly had good things to say about each other, and some small criticisms were taken in constructively.
You can’t be a Wooassist team-member if you get your feelings hurt every time someone criticizes you.
Here’s an interesting story from Nick:
Then it was my turn. I knew this would be hard for them, doing it to their boss. I got some compliments that they were grateful that I listened to their ideas, and gave them more freedom to work creatively.
I explained that my goal was to employ people smarter than myself and had achieved that goal. It wasn’t going to serve me to well to not listen to what these highly talented individuals had to say. John went out on a limb and said that he had found my harsh words hurtful at times, but now looking back is grateful I was so direct with him.
We left the meeting on quite a high. We had just admitted the best and worst of each other to work with and there was this big feeling of how grateful we all were to be working with each other, and how much we were looking forward to building Wooassist together in the future.
Enjoying Bantayan Island
We spent 4 days and 3 nights on the island of Bantayan. We hired motor bikes for a quick tour around the island, and spent time on different beach locations. More or less, the team is given free rein to relax and sort out any pent-up stress.
It was also a time for Nick to get used to the Filipino culture, including riding a bike ‘Filipino style’. Junix have chosen a great place for our retreat – white-sand beaches, breathtaking landscapes, historical caves, and amazing food!
This trip has surely been a refreshing and relaxing experience. And I also got to know Nick, Junix and Alfa better and have a better understanding with each other when it comes to work.
Junix was such a good host, helping us to learn about the Cebuano culture. He and his girlfriend Joy, gave us a really fun and exciting experience.
But of course, this retreat wouldn’t be possible without Nick, who made us realize how important it is to get to know each team member. It’s not enough to just look through their Asana profiles. It’s good to learn that we’re working towards the same goal – Wooassist’s success!