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Why Host a Partner Retreat and Tips for Success

It’s easy to find reasons to pass up having a partner retreat: things are running along just fine at your firm, you’re busy and so is everyone else, plus retreats take work to put together, not to mention you had one five years ago, so you’re pretty much set. Anyway, staff morale is at an all-time high, partners visibly support each other and the firm’s key priorities, and profitability is through the roof.

Wait. Did that last sentence sound more like a dream than reality? If so, it might be time to up your Leadership A-Game and consider having a partner retreat. It’s likely your monthly meetings aren’t making a dent in these key big-picture topics.

A retreat is great tool for achieving great things at your accounting firm. I’ve helped several clients plan and facilitate retreats, and the positive impact they can have on the entire firm is real. Partners who communicate, share a common vision, and problem-solve together demonstrate good working relationships and set the tone for all team members.

Here are my top five reasons why CPA firm owners should consider a retreat. Below you will also find some considerations for logistics to ensure your retreat is a success.   

Why Hold a Retreat?

A retreat gives partners the chance to:

  1. Think big picture and set direction, away from the day-to-day management of the firm. Exercising your leadership muscles helps bring that A-Game back to your day-to-day!
  2. Explore creative solutions and look at tough topics from a different perspective. Gain consensus on a resolution (or at least land on a roadmap for moving towards resolution).
  3. Step away from the daily grind. Look back at where you’ve been, appreciate how far you’ve come, and ensure there is a shared vision for where you are going and how you are going to get there.
  4. Reconnect and deepen relationships with your colleagues. Remember that you joined this partnership for a reason. Good retreats have a fun, social and reenergizing component. 

Regarding item #4, this is not just soft team-building talk. This is super important. Functional relationships are good for you, and for the business. If you’re not sold on building relationships for their inherent value, see if there’s a theme you like in the list below.

Better culture = Higher profits
Enjoyable work environment = Higher profits
Lower turnover = Higher profits
Talent attraction = Higher profits
Increased efficiencies = Higher profits

Retreat Logistics: The Details Matter

Now that you know why you should have a retreat, here are some things to consider to make the day a success. 

  • Who’s in the room? Typically, a firm’s partners are the core retreat participants. But depending on the topic, it may make sense to pull in other team members. Consider in advance who needs to be in the room, or not in the room, to have a meaningful conversation.
  • Head offsite. Get away from the office and be thoughtful about the environment you choose. You want people to feel engaged and creative—a tiny windowless conference room may not achieve this.
  • Comfort and configuration. Participants should be able to see one another, connect and communicate easily. A mile-long narrow table or a giant U-shape setup are not really conducive to this.
  • Allow the time needed. Sure, two days away from the office may induce panic among some, but remember all the reasons why this is important. Be thoughtful about your start and end times, and set expectations around attendance in advance.
  • Build in breaks. Breaks are necessary and it may help put people at ease if they know they will have 15 minutes here or there to make sure no one has set the office on fire.
  • Feed participants. Anticipate food and beverage needs. Have snacks and drinks available throughout the day, and ideally eat lunch in a different space for a change of scenery.
  • Set expectations. Set the agenda in advance and share it with participants. Ask them to come prepared to talk about the agenda topics, and that includes becoming familiar with any background materials shared in advance.
  • Sorry, out of the office. Encourage participants to set their out of office message and change their voicemail greeting. Identify who should be contacted onsite, and how, in case of emergency.  

Up Next

I’ll continue sharing my tips for hosting a great partner retreat next. Check back here for a post dedicated to agenda setting.

If you have questions about retreats in the meantime, I’d love to talk. Contact me at kristen@kristenrampe.com