Company Retreats – Planning the Perfect Company Outing in Lincoln

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Company Retreats are a vital part of your business.  It’s easy to think that you and your staff are too busy to take some time off from the office for a retreat, but the truth is that if you don’t take the time for a company retreat, you will ultimately doing your business more harm.  Why are company retreats so vital?  Read on for more information and some great ideas on local retreat options!

“Company retreats, even short half-day events, are an important way for people who work together to see each other in a new way,” points out Jennifer Davis-Korn of 48 Bowl. “At a retreat, there is no pressure of a deadline or project, the boss becomes just a “regular person”, and everyone gets to show a little more about him or herself beyond what defines them at work. It usually leads to a deeper trust among coworkers and a renewed focus and drive towards the goals of the company.”  Here are a few more reasons.

Why Retreats Are So Important

Employee Morale
What do you think is one of the most important parts of your employees’ job satisfaction?  If you think it has to do with how large their paychecks are or how many days off they get per year, you’re wrong!  For the vast majority of employees, much of their job satisfaction stems from how appreciated they feel at work.  So the question becomes, how do you make your employees feel appreciated?  One of the answers is to take time to plan events for them, such as holiday parties and yes, company retreats!  This shows them you care about them more than just employees, but also as people.

Employee Relations
Depending on how large your company is and how it’s set up, it could be likely that some of your employees have very little contact with each other and have never really gotten a chance to socialize or get to know each other.  Even if your employees have regular contact with each other, their relationship may go no further than the walls of the office.  Company retreats are an excellent way to give your employees a chance to get to know each other outside work, thus making their work relationship a more comfortable and enjoyable one.

Thinking Outside the Box
You may often find that when you take your staff to a new environment and get them away from the daily pressures of the office, new ideas may spring forth that never would have in the regular meetings you hold.  A change of scenery, change of mood and just plain change is sometimes the prompting your staff needs to really think outside the box and bring some fresh new ideas to old processes, restructuring or just a new way of thinking that can make a huge difference in your business.

What You Need to Plan

Once you have determined a company retreat is important to your business, it’s time to get down to planning!  There should be a number of things on your checklist, and the sooner you can mark them off, the better!

Refreshments

If people are spending the day at a retreat, they have to eat. But don’t underestimate the importance of the menu. Russ’s Market Catering Manager Heather Casebolt says retreat planners should put themselves in the position of those who will be attending. She begins by discussing with clients the basic information about the size and location of an event, then focuses on the experience that organizers want for their guests.  When planners contact her about catering, she helps them to determine the types of food that will best fit the schedule for their event.

“Our full menu is available for any size of group,” said Heather Casebolt. “But certain types of foods can help make a retreat more successful. We work with clients to understand the agenda and goals of their meeting and develop a menu to help keep their group energized and focused.”

According to Heather Casebolt, it’s probably best to avoid foods with a lot of carbohydrates. “Foods affect our bodies in different ways,” she said. “A heavy pasta dish with garlic bread for lunch might lead to a lot of sleepy people in the room for the afternoon activities.”

Here’s an example of a menu Heather Casebolt might recommend for a daylong retreat:
• Breakfast – light pastries, bagels, fresh fruit, juice and coffee
• Lunch – baked chicken breast, rice pilaf, broccoli, tea and water
• End-of-Day – fresh fruit, fresh vegetable tray, half-sandwiches, baked chips and water

Heather Casebolt also recommends having healthy snacks such as granola, fresh fruit and a fresh vegetable tray available throughout the day. And she says it’s important to provide plenty of water so attendees stay hydrated.

Kevin Mandigo with Greta’s Gourmet Catering agrees with the idea of providing meals that will keep participants awake and alert.  “We work with our clients to ensure they have the perfect complement of meal options for their event,” he says.  “For some clients, this has included tailoring their menu to prevent “post meal naps” by providing low-carb meals that keep their people fresh and ready to participate.”  Greta’s Gourmet Catering offers a full complement of options for companies on any budget.  They can provide box lunches, hors d’oeuvres, hot lunch and dinner options, snacks for breaks and breakfast if needed.

Location

Deciding where to hold your retreat is an important part of the decision making process.  Here are a few ideas.

In-House Retreats

“Bringing the retreat to your business can be an effective way of building morale and camaraderie within your employee ranks,” states Ryan Cairns of Dogs & Spuds.  “Catering a lunch and providing fun group activities can help to tear down the barriers created by the pressures of the workplace.  The dinner table is a person’s greatest social setting, allow it to inspire them.  As many people know, Google offers its employees free lunch and dinner at the campus where they work.  They have proven that their employees still talk about work while dining, which improves creativity and makes the company more productive in the long term.  The more opportunities you’re able to create for your employees to interact during meals, the more they will become a team.”

Dogs & Spuds can bring that carnival type of an atmosphere to your next employee lunch or retreat with their New York-style hot dog carts.  Dogs & Spuds serves all beef hot dogs on fresh baked Rotella buns with several different toppings to choose from when dressing your hot dog, as well as a choice of over 30 different sausages from Cetak’s Gourmet Meats.  If hot dogs or sausages are not your thing, they have the ability to do many other food products upon request.

If you’re planning a retreat at your office, you might want to consider inviting more than just your staff.  Consider inviting your employees’ families, clients, colleagues or those in your professional or networking groups.  Of course, if you are planning on doubling or tripling the number of people who are normally at your office, you will have to make some arrangements so there is room for all of them.  If your building isn’t that large, one option is to have people gather outside.  This will necessitate seating for everyone, which you can accomplish through renting tables and chairs, asking your employees to bring in folding tables or lawn chairs or just making it casual and having a few tall tables that people can stand around and visit.

Of course, we do live and work in Nebraska, so even if you are planning your retreat during the summer months, you just never know about the weather!  If you are concerned that rain, wind or even too much direct sunlight will hamper your event, you should consider renting a tent.  A tent not only instantly makes the event more festive, but it also helps protect your guests from the elements, whatever they might be on that day!

Golf Courses in Lincoln

“Golf is an excellent choice for a company retreat because it gets staff away from the office to an outdoors setting,” comments Steve Hiller with Lincoln Parks and Recreation.  “No four walls and a boring power point presentation on a golf course, just nine or 18 holes of fun and excitement.  All of our five City golf courses are in excellent shape right now.  We are so fortunate to have a course located in each corner of the city within easy driving distance.  Highlands Golf Course is a links style course with few trees and wide open spaces.  With four sets of tees on each hole, the course can play very long or more easily from the forward tees.  Pioneers Golf Course is our grand old course built in 1937 with tree-lined fairways over rolling hills.  Enjoy the great view down the first and tenth fairways as you tee up!  Holmes Golf Course is 18 holes of rolling hills and great views of the State Capital Building and downtown Lincoln.  Mahoney Golf Course is the only golf facility located in northeast Lincoln and offers a great opportunity for shot makers to score low.  Located in the heart of the city and a great place to play your first ever round of golf is the Ager Golf Course.  This nine hole, par three course is a great starting place for youth and first time golfers.”

If you are planning your retreat on a golf course, Steve Hiller has some suggestions.  “I would suggest they contact any of our golf professionals and select a date to see what other events may be scheduled at the course.  Discuss with the professional what the group might be interested in doing, depending on the size and their experience level.  Maybe a large group lesson or clinic may be in order before hitting the links.  Do all of those attending have equipment or should the pro have additional equipment available?  The golf professional should be able to arrange any type of golf experience to fit the level of skill in the group.”  He concludes with, “Any one of our city golf facilities would make an excellent location for any type of business or company retreat, from a two person one-on-one private discussion to a 150-175 person event.”

Bowling Alleys in Lincoln

“Our centers are perfect for a quick day or half-day retreat,” says Jennifer Davis-Korn of 48 Bowl. “Bowling never fails as the activity that gets everyone laughing together as a group. It’s either the rental shoes or the gutter balls, but everyone in the office comes through the door united, immediately, by the game of bowling. Besides the bowling, our centers offer private meeting rooms, wi-fi, projector screens, catering and beverage service. Our staff will also offer you suggestions for optimizing your bowling experience when you first call to book. If it’s friendly competition you are after, we are capable of giving you the scoring results you want. If it’s uncommon fun, Parkway can offer Glo-Zone bowling for some group sizes and times of booking, but both centers offer games within the game of bowling, like No-Tap, Red-Pin, Casino, and Bingo bowling, where you can award prizes to participants. If you have certain goals and outcomes for your group, we are happy to help you get there.”

“When planning a retreat, know your budget first,” she continues. “Then, before calling one of our centers to inquire about booking an outing, its best to have some date and time in mind, as well as group size. The answers to those questions immediately help us to quote you pricing. Then, if we meet your budget expectations, we can get down to the business of planning your fun.”

“Over 70 million people bowl every year, making bowling the largest participatory sport,” says Shawn Herout from Sun Valley Lanes.  “Our Bowler Entertainment System allows companies to pick from 14 bowling environments to help make a themed event.”  Shawn also mentions that having an event at their facility is easy and customizable.  “We can host events where we provide just a room with non-alcoholic beverages to catered events including a wide variety of food and beverage menu options, with optional bowling lanes available for family and friends to enjoy during the event.  Our party options vary based on the budget, size and needs of the party, so every party is basically custom designed.  We provide all the amenities and do all of the clean up, so all you have to do is enjoy!”

Unique Venues and Locations

Carrie Myers, Director of Special Events for the Nebraska Alumni Association says, “Company retreats get employees out of the office and into an environment where they can brainstorm and dream.  The Nebraska Alumni Association’s venues offer a unique atmosphere in which to do this, on a university campus that promotes learning and celebrates success.  The Wick Alumni Center provides a perfect space for companies to host a large group retreat with the flexibility for smaller, breakout sessions or other activities.  Companies have the ability to rent our great hall space, along with one of the Wick Alumni Center’s board rooms and meeting rooms.  The Nebraska Champions Club is large enough to provide a luncheon space and meeting space, all in one.  Plus, Memorial Stadium provides a pretty inspiring backdrop, mixing tradition and a standard of excellence.”

Carrie Myers goes on to say, “When planning a retreat, I encourage people to look outside of their company building for a unique location where employees can learn and develop ideas, but also celebrate the year’s achievements.  You do not have to be a member of the Nebraska Alumni Association or the Nebraska Champions Club to rent our venues and we encourage retreat planners to set up a tour of either facility.”

Restaurants

If your group is a smaller one, a restaurant might be the right option for your retreat.  You can either consider just all going out to dinner together and sitting at a regular table (if your party is under twelve or so) or reserving a party room for larger groups or if you want more privacy.  Restaurants make great locations because you don’t have to worry about providing refreshments and you don’t have to worry about cleaning up.  You can also control costs by either asking the restaurant to provide only a limited menu, by letting everyone know their meal is covered but drinks are at their own expense, or other options.  Of course, if you really want to treat your employees, you can arrange a full menu or buffet and open bar.

Activities

A company retreat is not just about getting everyone together and hoping they talk, of course.  To have a really successful company retreat, you need to plan activities.  How do you plan the right activities?  First, you need to figure out what your goals are for the retreat.  Do you just want to provide an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other better?  Do you want to motivate?  Do you want to keep everyone entertained and laughing?  Or do you actually want to get some work done and perhaps plan out next quarter’s sales goals or brainstorm new marketing options?  If you’re not sure what you want to accomplish at your retreat, it’s nearly impossible to be satisfied with the results.

If you want to motivate

If the goal of your retreat is to motivate your employees, you might want to consider bringing in a speaker or trainer.  Although you probably work five days a week trying to motivate your staff (and are probably successful at it), bringing in someone with a different style and outlook and who specializes in motivation will provide that extra push that your employees might be in need of.

If you want to entertain

If the sole goal of your retreat is to get everyone laughing and having fun together, an activity is probably the best way to go.  Whether you are bowling, golfing or just playing board games, giving your employees a chance to have fun together is a great team building idea.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking they will just entertain themselves by talking, though.  Nothing is worse than having a stilted, awkward retreat where no one is talking.  Stimulate conversation and create fun with lively activities that no one can resist participating in.

If you want to brainstorm

If a goal or at least partial goal of your retreat is to generate some new ideas for the company, make sure this is clearly stated BEFORE the retreat day.  You don’t want your employees thinking they are getting a day off to cut loose and relax, only to arrive at the retreat and finding out they are expected to work.  Give your employees an agenda of the day’s activities and point out to them that some of the retreat will be work, but that you want to generate new ideas in this different setting and then they will be rewarded by having fun and relaxing the rest of the time.  Be specific on what type of work and ideas you want to achieve so everyone knows what to expect and so they will be able to prepare beforehand.

Company retreats are a vital part of your business plan.  Whether you are able to hold them on an annual, semi-annual or even quarterly basis, keep in mind where you’re going to have it, how you will feed your guests and what you want to accomplish with the event and you will have a great chance of holding an event that will bring your team closer together.