Last week, our team went on our first company retreat to Los Angeles, California. We had a blast, and I’m happy to share all that we learned and experienced on our trip!

Why do a team retreat?

We knew that sharing experiences together would take our team to the next level. A few months ago, we came together for an internal hackathon that yielded great results, but there’s something magical that happens when you come together and share unique experiences.

We’re a semi-distributed team. Adam and I live in the greater Detroit area, but Mike’s based out of Minneapolis. While the three of us have done numerous working sessions together in-person, we knew that flying out to the west coast would give us the chance to share some memorable experiences together.

You can see all our photos from the trip here.

Day 1: #TechweekLA

We timed our trip to coincide with Techweek’s annual conference and startup competition on the Santa Monica Pier. We had a great time at Techweek in Chicago earlier in the year, and knew that returning to the event would be a great experience.

MySwimPro Founders Techweek LA Santa Monica Pier

Before showcasing our app to the event’s over 6,000 attendees, Adam and I kicked off the day with a 5k run along the Venice shoreline. It was a vibrant start to our day and sign of things to come for our trip!

In the launch competition, there were 90 other startup companies featured. It’s always a thrill showing people what we’re up to and networking with other tech enthusiasts, startup founders and investors. Participating in Techweek was a great opportunity to hang out with other entrepreneurs and watch other startups pitch what they’re working on.

We learned quickly why the tech community has named the region: Silicon Beach. The Santa Monica Pier and our Airbnb in Venice was located just steps away from the shoreline and famous tech companies like Snapchat and Google.

Day 2: Surf’s Up

On our second full day in Cali, we dove into the local culture (literally). In the morning, we walked along the beautiful Venice Canals. The intricate architecture and color variation of the homes on these canals is simply amazing!

MySwimPro Venice Canals

In the afternoon we took a surfing lesson with the Venice Beach Surf School! Our instructor was great, and in no time we were catching waves on the pacific. Well, sort of.

Later that afternoon, we caught up with some friends at Techweek for the event’s final pitches. We decided to walk back to Venice from Santa Monica and take in the horizon’s magnificent sunset.

MySwimPro Santa Monica Pier Techweek LA

Day 3: Fitness Frenzy

We kicked off the day with a 4-mile hike in the mountains with Techweek and the Santa Monica Hiking Club.

After a refreshing and mentally relaxing hike, we went straight to the Santa Monica swim center for a workout with the largest masters swimming team in the world. Southern California Aquatic Masters Team graciously opened their lanes to us.

Our coach Dmitriy Banov was great, and the workout itself was very challenging. We were able to run through nearly 4,000 yards in less than one hour. I’ve posted a summary of the workout below.

Later, we dined at an authentic outdoor Italian restaurant called C & O Trattoria. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere was truly unique as the entire restaurant sang ‘That’s Amore’.

MySwimPro Retreat Salmon Venice CandO

In the evening I was able to catch some more waves on a boogie board and enjoy the calming sunset over the Pacific.

MySwimPro Founder Retreat Venice Fares

Day 4: Race Time

On Sunday we headed north to Pierce College for a Masters swim meet. Adam and I swam the 50m Freestyle, 50m Breaststroke, and 100m IM. A huge shout-out to Mike, for competing in his first ever swimming competition on our 4 x 50m Freestyle Relay. Adam and I helped perfect Mike’s dive the day before when we swam with SCAQ. He killed it!

USMS Masters Swim Meet Fares Adam MySwimPro Turkey Shoot Pierce College Swimming

A special thanks to Barry Heins for stepping up and anchoring our historic relay. We made some great friends at the meet, and had a great time competing outdoors in a relaxed environment.

USMS Masters Swim Meet MySwimPro Turkey Shoot Pierce College Swimming

What we learned!

Coming together to share experiences is very valuable. In a retreat setting it’s even more powerful. We had casual meals together and did fun activities every day.

MSP Founders Underwater Santa Monica

We do retreats so that everyone has the chance to experience new cultures and grow more open minded.

Retreats stretch us and remind us that we can do whatever we set our mind to. This was just the start, and we definitely plan on doing more retreats. Where will we go next? Who knows!

Have you ever gone on a company retreat? What did you do, and how was the experience? What have you found is the key benefit? I’d love to hear your feedback.