Monday, February 7, 2011

The Value of a Company Retreat

This past weekend HTS celebrated our 2010 successes with our annual company retreat. We met in Lenexa Kansas, a suberb in the SW KC area, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel with our entire staff. That has been our habit since the mid 90's - to gather the troops and celebrate the past year and prepare for the next one. The venue was very good and excitement was high as we gathered to get acquainted with new team members and review things.

Friday afternoon the teams were in training. Our engineering and sales teams learning about Mitel, SonicWALL and Microsoft. Our dispatchers spent time working on processes to improve service delivery. Our admin team was together working on things from their perspective. How much do you invest in training your people? Hosting a multiday retreat for a staff of 80 plus is not inexpensive - in fact it is really quite a cost - but you can't look at it as an expense but rather an investment. So often owners are short sighted in how they approach their people - the biggest cost on the P&L - but the biggest resource the company has to succeed too. And that is what we have to focus on - equipping our resources with more knowledge and skill so they are able to continue to grow and excel even more in the years ahead.

That is particularly true of leadership teams. Often companies will spend money for sales or technical certifications. After all, they are required to keep vendors happy and to remain authorized to sell their products or qualify for their programs. But how many companies are investing more in their leadership team? This group of people has the largest impact on the direction and success of a company and yet often has little or no investment in getting better. We don't spend money on the leadership - somehow they are supposed to figure it out by osmosis. It doesn't really work that way I am afraid. We need to continue to sharpen our skills as leaders and invest in ourselves as a leadership team. Without that we become stagnant and come to a point where we are no longer equipped to continue leading the charge.

Friday night we did two things - we had fun and mixed and mingled and enjoyed getting connected with each other. There were a number of our team that I had never met face to face before. Hard to imagine isn't it - but long gone are the days where I am involved in every interview and hiring decision. This is the one time we try and connect all the dots for everyone from our 7 locations. Unfortunately the ice in Oklahoma prevented that team from attending, but most all the others were with us. People are able to work more closely and effectively when they can put a face to a name. They can relate better and feel more confident when they have shaken the hand of their teammate. It just makes for better working conditions even with all the across the wire collaboration tools we have today. There is nothing quite like a face to face connection!

The other part of our Friday night event was our annual awards presentation. Each year we honor a number of our team for their exceptional work during the past twelve months. We realize that it is the team that makes a successful company - not just the leadership. We recognize the top sales and service producers and rookies of the year. We hand out go-giver awards to those who embody our company vision and mission and reach out to help others. We honor those who are leading the way in driving our business, and those who embrace the spirit of HTS. It is a fun time of recognizing those who go above and beyond to make it happen every day. Team is what makes HTS successful and we want to make sure those who really help us succeed are given their just rewards.

Saturday we did a review of the past year - not spending a lot of time dwelling on the past - but looking at areas we can improve in. While it is important to learn what we can from past performance - we can't drive effectively by looking in the rear view mirror. Far too many leaders spend all their time dissecting the past and far too little planning for and executing for the future. So we spent much more time looking at the plans for 2011 than our performance in 2010. We also broke the group into smaller groups to talk about our personality traits and how we can work better together with those who might think a bit differently or be wired in a different way.

We closed the day with some motivational comments from our President - Connie Arentson - and then I did a Q&A session for the team answering the proverbial question of when our next M&A will occur. I shared my perspective on the market, on China and other big picture items and focused the team on our big rock for 2011 - getting our processes and customer experience consistent for every interaction we have.

So was the investment worthwhile? I definitely think it was and the feedback from the team indicates they enjoyed it much as well. We have to take time to celebrate our successes and share our vision for the future if we want to succeed. Our teams don't read our minds. We have to be intentional about how we lead. And by the way - as I shook each employees hand on the way out we gave them their bonus for 2010 which always leaves a smile on their face as they head home. Sharing our success with them is our way of saying thanks for a job well done. We are blessed to have the team we do - and want them to know we really appreciate all the hard work. Have you been intentional in leading and investing in your team? If not, now is the time to start. They will take you to the next level!

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