Most of my team are contractors, but I brought the full-timers and we got to hang out in an Airbnb. Here are the lessons that I learned and the things I would’ve done differently.
Funny story—originally I was only going to bring four people, so the house we rented only had four rooms. That would’ve worked out, except we wound up having seven people. That meant people had to share beds.
The first night that we got there, we tried it out, and it was five guys sharing one restroom, and two girls sharing one restroom. We didn’t have enough beds so people had to share. After the first night, me and another guy decided to get a separate hotel, and we just met up with the team every day.
Conferences are fantastic opportunities to network, meet experts in your industry and get to know potential clients—not to mention spend time with your team if they are virtual. One of the important things you should do is set an agenda ahead of time, so that for each day you’re optimizing every hour you spend at the conference.
I even scheduled in some time on the agenda for group bonding and preparation. That’s why we showed up at our Airbnb on Wednesday when the conference started on Friday.
The first day we were in San Diego, we went to an Escape the Room. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s where you’re locked into a room and it’s like you’re playing a game of Clue. You find all these clues and your goal is to get out of the room before the time limit expires. It’s great for team building.
I just sat back and observed how people were acting, who was contributing, how people solved problems and things like that. Afterwards—this was kind of spontaneous—we ended up playing laser tag and that was pretty fun. Then we had dinner.
Most of this was on my agenda for the conference. I planned out every single night and it was definitely worth it.
When we were at the conference, sometimes the agenda just said “free for all.” That meant that our team members could explore and eat on their own time and just expense it to Single Grain. If you’re nudging your employees to go out to these things, I think it makes sense if you pay for their meals and boarding since you’re the one requesting that they go. When I worked for other companies and we went out to these kind of events, these meals weren’t really expensed, which I never liked.
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Anyway, in terms of learning at the conference, to be honest I didn’t get much out of it. That’s because I listened to a ton of podcasts of the presenters before even attending. I’d already learned what they’d been teaching, but my team got a lot out of the conference because they hadn’t done that.
My goal for the conference was team bonding and free, self-directed learning for Single Grain employees, so they could sprout new ideas and take action. Usually after these conferences, there’s a flurry of action. Then it kind of just dies down. Think of it like a PR spike, which kind of tapers off. I definitely feel the energy right now, and people have gotten to know each other better.
We also had two new people start last week. It was great for them to be able to assimilate with the team. I would recommend that if you hire new employees, try to hire two people at the same time so they don’t feel as alone.
The other thing that I did was throw an entrepreneur’s dinner nearby. Each month, I throw entrepreneurs’ dinners, and great people attend.
We had Pat Flynn, Neil Patel‘s partner Mike, and a bunch of other great people attend, too. Just great people doing great things, running awesome businesses, super smart people. That was probably the highlight of the event for me, being able to connect with these people.
Even though the dinner cost me $1,600, that was okay. I know that down the road, it’s more than worth it. Honestly, I’m not even trying to get clients at these dinners, I’m just trying to connect with people and build goodwill. When you connect with other talented people and they see your goodwill, they’re going to want to put you in touch with awesome people in their network that are like minded. The least you could do is pay for the meal.
With so many of us working remotely, it’s also nice to see people in person every once in awhile. For example, I hadn’t seen Pat Flynn in two years.
Overall, I think this conference experience was well worth it. One thing I’ll do differently next time is get a larger Airbnb! 🙂
I definitely recommend doing some kind of “work-cation” with your team. Bonding with teammates over non-work activities is important (like having fun at escape rooms) and there are a lot of team-building events that you can find on Yelp. Not only will you get to know your employees better, but you might even build some friendships.
This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post: