First, I was reflecting on where we were as a company late last year. I realized January 3, 2017 was 10 years since I started my first printing business in college (which has since morphed into Real Thread). I figured, what better way to celebrate 2016 and an amazing 10-year journey together then finally taking the company cruise I’ve always dreamt of. So we did it.
Second, I wanted to treat our team. Like I said, Jan 2017 was 10-years since I started my first printing business. A lot has happened since and we all work our tails off, day in and day out. Everyone on our team deserves tons of credit for where we are as a company. You don’t make the Inc 5000 list two (soon to be three) years in a row by your team being slack asses. Everyone earned this trip.
Third, we needed this trip. We, as a team, needed a chance to get away from the office, uninterrupted, and grow together as friends, not employees. For our culture, it’s important we see each other as friends, not just co-workers. I think there are intangible and immeasurable benefits when we’re more than simply co-workers. Our customers ultimately benefit from our team loving and respecting each other in a significant and meaningful way.
Fourth, there is something magical about getting away from work together for several days. Words can’t explain it, it’s just a feeling, a connection, an appreciation and a bond that’s created by experiencing life together outside of the workplace. It’s priceless from a team bonding standpoint.
Finally, living out a personal motto, people over profit. I’ll be the first to say, we run a pretty tight operation from a financial standpoint. I like to think of it as tightly generous. We try to be very intentional how we spend and a trip like this is an easy-to-forgo $15k expense. But knowing it’s the right thing to do and through the faith that it’ll be replaced, I wanted to put our money where our mouth is.
(And a side note about culture spending like this, we’re not venture backed. It’s easy to do these kinds of culture trips when you close a four million dollar round of funding, but that’s not what we’ve done. We’re bootstrapped and it makes this spending all that much more meaningful.)
And why a cruise? We could certainly have done a number of other fun things, such as gone to the mountains or hit the beach at a hotel for a few days. But a cruise is different. One of the beauties of a cruise that those other options don’t offer is the lack of cell reception. Without having our phones to escape to, we were forced to hangout with each other and have a great time, without our social network or email in tow.
Besides the lack of cell reception, a cruise offers a number of other benefits too. There are tons of activities on the boat, such as unlimited food & drink, a piano bar, casino, karaoke (see the video for more on that), basketball, a comedy show each night and a great dinner together (where no one is interested in the cost since it’s included in each ticket).
We kicked off the trip in our office on a Friday morning with some vision casting for 2017. We had our targets set for the year and had recently updated our core values, so we spent 2 hours going over that with everyone. Being headquartered in downtown Orlando, we then made the 45 minute drive to the coast to board the boat.
We set sail on Friday afternoon and had 3-nights together on a (mostly) smooth sail. Our first stop was Nassau in the Bahamas on Saturday followed by Royal Caribbean's own island, Cococay on Sunday. The Cococay stop ended up being canceled because of bad weather, so we had a day-at-sea instead.
Far and away, the highlight of the trip was our scooter adventure in the Bahamas. We rented 15 scooters (some of us doubled up) and tore up the island for 3 hours….and once or twice, tore up ourselves (not unexpected, there were two minor, self-inflicted accidents and a $250 damage bill).
Believe it or not, it’s hard to keep 15 scooters together in a pack as you cruise around a Bahama island. Like Mowgli tells us in The Jungle Book, “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” We stuck together. When we lost someone, we all waited together while a few went to look for them. Once reunited, we ventured on. On the far side of the island, we found a cave to explore and a beautiful beach which we had to ourselves. We had a great time in Nassau.
We learned a few things as well. Here are 5 things we’ll do differently next time.
Anyhow, we had an amazing time and will certainly repeat this trip. I hope this inspires you to think about doing something similar for your team.