“This week, we woke up early for yoga and that was a very nice slow awakening. It’s great being relaxed but still being hard-working and do things that are mentally and physically beneficial.” Bernie Quah reflects on her BizTreat experience.
Bernie, founder of SketchPost came to us a few months ago sharing with us her goals for her company and for her team for the coming years. She wanted to increase employee engagement, grow her business and bring new solutions to the market.
Sketch Post is a unique small business operating in a creative consulting industry. They’re the best in their field in South East Asia and many global counterparts look up to them. Referred to as graphic recorders, this creative bunch can be seen at events, making them more fun and memorable by visually recording everything important that happens. Their job requires a brilliant ability to quickly wrap their heads around the new subject at every event and to translate what is often a very technical and sometimes quite dry content into stories that will become memories and knowledge. Emotional intelligence, confidence, awareness, focus, creativity are just some of the tools that the SketchPost team carries in their kit. How awesome! We thought.
Learning more about the team
As soon as we got a chance to talk to the Sketch Post team, our initial impression from talking to Bernie was confirmed. Wow! What an amazing bunch of talented people! An immediate thought that popped up was how much fun we were going to have in our workshops with these sketching and drawing pros in the room!
“I came into this feeling quite optimistic about what was going to happen because even when we had our initial discussion with you we were already pinpointing what we wanted to focus on. So I was really excited about the trip.” Eliot Lee
Before we embarked on our trip to Thailand, which was the destination of choice after considering the Philippines, Bali, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, we spent a month doing user (employee) discovery and planning work. We wouldn’t plan a retreat without it. It always helps us better tailor the experience to suit the team’s culture, needs, preferences, individual profiles and budget.
“Working with BizTreat has been very simple – we began by discussing my ideal end goals I had for this retreat. BizTreat helped us with all the logistics, choosing the right place, activities, designing the sessions – that has been very valuable because when you’re running a business you don’t have time for those things and all those little details matter.” Bernie Quah
Defining the scope of the retreat
With Sketch Post, we quickly understood that the majority of the team members were introverted and had several powerful traits that connected them. That was what we decided to build on. From the research and from having a few follow-up conversations with the team about their objectives, we knew that the team members got on well, but there were new hires who needed to be yet integrated into some of the key roles in the company, there was a tendency for people to work in silos due to the nature of their work (sometimes they get sent to events alone or in pairs) which is reinforced by the fact that the company is distributed in a few locations. There wasn’t a significant revision of their workflow done yet, since, as many other startups and scale-ups, they’ve been focused on getting things done. Lastly, as the team wasn’t really used to the formal practice of self-development, there were awesome opportunities to find everyone’s strengths, understand how these would work together and establish a healthy people development routine for the future. Bernie also really wanted to look at how we could use having everyone’s attention and the quality time in one inspiring location to initiate innovation-focused conversations for their business.
“All the touch points our company wanted to address were looked into during planning by our facilitators. At the retreat, it was great to address our physical, mental, spiritual and business health at the same time.” Bernie Quah
The grand plan
We figured that the retreat needed to cover three key areas: Empowerment, Project Management & Collaboration and finally Product Innovation. This was quite a lot to cover while ensuring that everyone also walked away from the experience feeling rejuvenated and nourished. Agreeing on the retreat theme and goals not only ensures that there is a purpose to work towards but it also helps with choosing the right activities, instructors and eventually with moulding the whole experience together.
“I actually experienced a mindset shift from before the retreat and now after. Thanks to all the exercises and activities we’ve been through. So many things that we learned about ourselves that we didn’t know. It’s been really good.” Vanessa Leong
The BizTreat way
Our way of designing experiential learning experience differs a lot from traditional events. It is a lot more integrated. We believe that this is precisely what helps us get so much done and ensures that our clients walk away with a lot of value. Literally, every single activity needs to support the learning goals, including the places we travel to, the workshops obviously, but also the choice of the physical activities, their timing and even the breaks. With this retreat, we decided to involve two instructors per theme, to outsource some of the local activities and logistics to our partners, and to interchange physical and mental exercises throughout each day.
We had 5 days to play with which was perfect for a retreat. The first day was a travel & arrival day, hence we wanted to make sure that the team got a proper chance to disconnect from where they came from and fully arrive in what would be their home for the following week. After picking up this cheery bunch at the airport, we teleported them to lunch at the beachfront of Hyatt Resort with lush garden, pool & ocean views, and of course, delicious Thai buffet.
A couple of hours later, we dropped our guests in the spa, which gave our team a chance to bring their luggage into the villa and make sure that their new home, instructors, learning materials and welcome packs were ready for their arrival. We ended the first day in the comfort of the villa, to which we got our dinner delivered. While munching, we went through the program for the week and introduced a few key concepts & rules of the game that was to follow.
Every day of BizTreat is dedicated to one theme. This helps us ensure maximum focus, presence and natural continuity of learning. First, we addressed the employees’ individual development through Empowerment sessions. That helped us to proceed seamlessly towards the application of these individual strengths to how to best work together in the context that’s specific to Sketch Post on day two. We looked at the problematic areas of the current process and came up with ways of improving them.
“Working on our workflow was really rewarding. The most valuable moments were when we realised that all of us were experiencing the same pain points, even though from a different angle, we were all experiencing the same problems. That brought us closer together. We kind of knew what we wanted to do but having it all laid out helped us make those decisions really quickly. I think we’re all really excited about how those changes are going to work.” Eliot Lee
The innovation day brought all our work altogether. Everyone felt empowered, aligned around the process and ready to contribute to the future Sketch Post in the innovation sessions. For many people, this is a new exercise because innovation tends to be reserved only to certain departments, however the best way to honour employee’s contribution is to involve them in shaping the future of business.
Rapid innovation with Alex Petersen
“Coming together and brainstorming new ideas to help Sketch Post develop made me feel really hopeful about the company.” Maya Schmidt
“All of us being here together has been empowering. I volunteered for activities because I saw the sense of urgency and immediacy and I wanted to play my part in the whole transformation. It will be good for me as well.” Vanessa Leong
Our not-so-small retreat toolkit
Amongst the tools we used were tailored yoga sessions, inner voice channeling and intuition empowerment, psychometric testing, sightseeing trips, cooking class, workflow mapping, challenges and opportunities identification, ideation, prototyping, boat trip, water slides, cycling, agile coaching, radical collaboration experiments, stand-up paddleboarding, purpose setting, 10x advantage identification, pumpkin plan, fun ice-breakers, spontaneous laughter opportunities and of course, documenting of the whole experience.
“It’s been beneficial seeing that we are stronger together than working individually. It’s been great seeing that people want to work more together so going forward, we will incorporate more of that.” Bernie Quah
Walking away with value
Eventually, we ended the retreat on the last day with a retrospective, planning and prioritisation session to ensure that everyone walked away knowing where to go next.
“I have to step up more and take on more responsibilities for the sake of things running smoothly and the company growing. I want to try new things and expand. Especially now when everyone is enthusiastic.” Timothy Chua
“Now, we all know what the problems are and there is a clear pathway for the solutions, too. We are ready to get better and go beyond what we thought was possible.” Bernie Quah
Making the learning stick
Speaking of retrospectives, that’s one of our all-time favourites so let’s talk a bit more about that. At our retreats, we organise a quick retrospective session at the end of every day. We always use slightly different questions. This allows us to get a temperature check to see if anything could be improved instantly and whether the experience could be improved as we go. It’s incredibly beneficial for the learners to reflect on what they experience on the day, especially with events like retreats, when a lot happens in one day. Retrospectives are a great trigger to help people become more introspective, to drive their learning more, which is what is very much supported by journaling practice.
“It was good to self-reflect not only on Sketch Post but also for myself. To see what came out of that. It helped me think more about what I need to do to overcome certain things.” Maya Schmidt
Do you even journal?
Journaling is the last thing I’d really love to share a bit more about because we find it incredibly helpful. At our retreats, everyone engages in journaling twice per day, in the morning and in the evening. Our journal questions are tailored to the specific retreat objectives and schedule. It’s an independent and very personal practice which proves to be a brilliant way to support people in going deeper into their learning and in accelerating their growth. If you’re curious about what a journal template like this might look like, you can get a copy of in our Resources section.
“It is important for us to go back to our journals and reflect on how we felt during the week and how are we going to accept the changes that were done during the week.” Bernie Quah
To wrap up, we couldn’t have been more delighted to be hosting Sketch Post at their very first retreat. We are always incredibly honoured to be a part of any teams’ learning journeys as it’s always great learning for us, too. Big thanks to our team who made this whole experience possible and unforgettable for both Sketch Post and us.
If this got you excited, you can hear more from our instructors who we interviewed after this retreat.
Alexander Petersen talks about the benefits that the company retreats can bring to businesses. Alex lead the product innovation workshop for SketchPost.
Alex Goldyn discussed the benefits of yoga in the workplace through its power to build a better connection to self and others. She guided Sketch Post on the whole retreat journey with tailored yoga sessions every day.
Do you have your own retreat learnings to share or discuss? Would you like to learn more about how we can help you and your team? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below the article or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“BizTreat is for anyone who wants to get to know their team better and at the same time solve problems and pain points in their company in a very non-threatening environment. I think that taking the stress out of the experience really helps everyone feel like there’s no hierarchy, when it comes to bringing in new ideas, and it helps to be further away from our usual place of work, experiencing a new environment, that almost communal I think. It really helped us to break out of our 9-5 head space. I would definitely recommend it.” Eliot Lee
Big thanks to our team of instructors, coaches, mentors and guides who made this whole experience possible and unforgettable for both SketchPost and us.