Our first international team gathering took place in Mallorca, the largest island in the Balearic Islands, which are part of Spain and located in the Mediterranean Sea.
As a fully distributed company with team members living in 8 different cities around the world, the company retreat offers an opportunity to connect team members in real life, align company values and have fun!
We stayed in the Castle of Sant Elm! It was commissioned in the 13th century. The roof had a real canon and the view was spectacular! The retreat was a full week of team building, strategy, and content!
Our team’s last gathering was at the 2018 United States Masters Swimming Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana with five team members. In 2019, we doubled our team size and had 10 team members fly into Palma from four continents across eight time zones!
As a company, we believe we don’t have to be in the same building (or even on the same continent) to do great work together. There are an incredible number of benefits which come from us being a distributed team. At the same time, nothing replaces in-person facetime.
If we don’t arrange retreats, some of us would never have the chance to meet each other in real life. There’s something special that happens when you meet in person. In this retreat setting it’s even more powerful! This retreat had four core objectives:
- Team Building
- Celebrate Successes
- Vision Alignment
- Document Content
The opportunity to be in the same location for a full week allowed us to get to know each other better. We benefited from collaborating in-person and aligning towards the company’s vision. We produced amazing content documenting the journey that will amplify the company’s brand.
It’s not all work and no play! We had a good bit of time to hang out face-to-face and share lots of fun times and memories together. We had casual meals together and did activities that none of us have ever done before. We learned about what makes each other tick and what our true passions are.
Traveling to a new part of the world gives all of us a great new perspective on gratitude and the extreme privilege we have to be able to work and live the way we do.
Serendipitous moments happened every day. We had crucial conversations we didn’t even know we needed. Unplanned, unexpected things come out of our time together, and often those moments lead to changes we would never have known we needed. The model of the team retreat will certainly change overtime as the company grows and our challenges diversify.
To get the most out of our time together, we set-up a comprehensive schedule for each day in advance of arriving to Mallorca. Each day’s activities had a theme with ample time to interact with each other during meals, downtime and the activities we organized as a company. Below is our day by day schedule in Mallorca:
Most of our team arrived to Mallorca around lunch-time and we started off with a tour of the Castle we would call home for the week. If you’re into castle’s you can learn more about the one we stayed in here.
We toured the Castle, and walked around the local beach town of Sant Elm before grabbing a late lunch and chilling at the beach.
We had our first official team dinner on Sunday night in a restaurant overlooking the bay of Sant Elm. We closed out the evening with an activity we do at the end of each weekly All Hands meeting called: Collective Voice.
In Collective Voice, each team member shares what they’re most excited about and what warrants concern.
Monday: Retreat Day 1
We kicked off our first full day in Mallorca with a morning dryland workout at the beach next to our Castle! It was great to kickoff the day by moving our bodies and being active. By the end of the week, the some of the town’s locals recognized our team as the group doing organized workouts at the beach every morning. It’s appropriate for our team to get that reputation because we all enjoy being fit!
Every day we ate breakfast together at the Castle prepared by two team members. We took turns for who was in charge of preparing the breakfast club on each day. After breakfast I kicked off the day with a welcome keynote where I shared the founding story of the company and walked the team through the company’s evolution over the years to where we are today and where we’re going.
Adam, our CTO gave a similar presentation focused on our development evolution. Paige, our Marketing Director shared what our marketing team has been working on and Heath, our MyTriPro Marketing Manager overviewed our triathlon marketing strategy. Charlie, our Community Champion shared our top 10 Gold Medal Moments from our community members around the world.
One of our activities was called Emoji Expressions where each team member had five minutes to share the five emoji that best represent one part of their personality. You could be as philosophical or literal as you’d like. The idea was to share a brief story or explanation why you chose each Emoji. Each team member also chose one emoji to explain their role at MySwimPro. The purpose of this activity was to get to know each other in a new and creative way. It was an opportunity to self-reflect and share with the team fun stories about themselves.
Paige lead our team through an interactive exercise to refine our company’s brand voice. The purpose of the activity was to align and articulate the core attributes of the MySwimPro brand.
The 60 minute exercise helped us define how MySwimPro looks and speaks to make better decisions. There were four phases:
- Brainstorm possible values and attributes for the MySwimPro brand.
- Separate those into what belongs and doesn’t belong to it.
- Group the ones which belong into abstracted groups.
- Distill them into values, key attributes and analogies.
We also had our global ambassadors do a similar activity and it was interesting to see the brand start to formulate as we all collaborated with each other.
We did an activity called Group Timeline, where each member on the team lined up from left to right in increasing order of: Height, Age, Distance traveled to get to Mallorca, Duration at the company, Number of countries visited before 18, Number of countries visited in lifetime, Number of workouts logged in the MySwimPro app, Number of apps installed on your phone, Number of steps for the day. It was a fun activity to learn about each other. Guess which attribute we’re lined up by in the picture below??
Using the ‘Castle’ as the environment, we created a start and finish line with obstacles in the way. Each team member had a partner. One team member is blindfolded and their partner must verbally navigate them to the finish line without touching any of the obstacles. Once the team member reaches the finish line, we swapped the blindfold and rearrange obstacles to repeat!
This was very challenging and the goal is to communicate clearly and listen through the noise of multiple instructions being delivered in an unfamiliar environment at the same time. Growing a business, launching a product or creating a marketing campaign is a lot like navigating a minefield. There’s a lot of noise and distractions so it’s important to communicate effectively and trust your team.
We created a spiderweb in the main entrance of the Castle. The opening where the bottom of the web is was 1 meter high and the top of the web’s opening is less than 2 meters tall. The opening was less than one meter wide. The activity called for the team to get all members through the web’s opening without touching it. This was a difficult and required everyone to work together to determine the best way to carry each other through the spiderweb. We all snuck through without touching the spiderweb and it was a lot of fun (and struggle) along the way.
Tuesday: Let’s Build Something
Similar to the first day of the retreat, we started with a workout at the beach, only this time it was in the water. There was a small island about 500 meters off shore that you could swim to.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday we swam the island, around it, and back to shore for a fun open water swim that was about 1,600 meters. The water temperature was perfect for open water swimming and while not every team member swam around the island, everyone was able to get in the water and swim with the fish!
Hackathon’s are an integral part of MySwimPro’s culture. Our first hackathon gave birth to the MySwimPro Apple Watch App which was named by Apple as the Best App of the Year in 2016.
Each hackathon has taken a different form and evolved as we’ve grown the team. This year’s hackathon was no different and allowed the development team of 5 work through the planning and implementation of a new feature called ‘Training Plan Series’. Stay tuned as this feature will be live in the MySwimPro app for iPhone and Android soon.
While the development team was deep into the code, the marketing team took to the beach to film some amazing content. What better location to film swimming than at the Beach of Sant Elm. We captured some iconic photos and videos for both MySwimPro and MyTriPro. You’ll be seeing this content for weeks (and months) in the app and on social media!
Jeopardy! is an American television game show that features a quiz competition in which contestants are presented with general knowledge clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in the form of questions.
We played company Jeopardy, where I was the host and the remaining nine team members formed into three teams. Our categories for the evening included: Company History, Team Members, Ambassadors, Content, Product, and Industry.
Wednesday: Exploring Palma
We kicked off the morning with a short hike up the mountain next to our Castle. The views in the morning were breathtaking. It was also cool to see our Castle in the same frame as the Sant Elm bay.
When you’re in a new city (or country) it’s best to explore your surroundings by foot. We planned on exploring the neighboring town of Andratx and Palma, the Island’s biggest city after our morning open water swim and activities. One of the activities was called the Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower.
Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower
We split into two teams. The objective is to create the tallest Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower possible using only the supplies provided: 20 straight spaghetti, 1 meter of duct tape, 1 paracord package, 3 table tennis balls, 1 package of popsicle sticks, 4 marshmallows. The tallest marshmallow will be used to determine height. All the supplies need to be used and you only have 30 minutes to create the tower.
This activity took shape just as expected. Both teams came up with something completely different and felt the crunch for time. It’s one thing to strategize how to build a structure, and anther thing to actually build it. Neither team came up with a very tall tower, but that wasn’t the point of the activity. This exercise amplified the importance of moving fast and make decisions with limited knowledge or experience.
Palma de Mallorca
Palma is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. The old town is filled with history and our team enjoyed wondering the sights, smells and tastes of the city. Checkout more photos from our retreat here.
Thursday: Filming Focus
We swam around the neighboring island in the morning and filmed some open water shots with a drone. The content turned out epic! After breakfast we had a brief working session then loaded up our rental cars and headed to a neighboring city where we rented road bikes for the day!
Our bike excursion was both fun and productive. We were able to document awesome content representing our MyTriPro triathlon and cycling jerseys. We looked like a professional cycling team taking on hilly streets of Mallorca! We broke off into groups for the ride-portion of the day and met up at a restaurant on the beach for an early dinner.
Paper Plate Awards
As a kid growing up on summer swim team, I would always look forward to the banquet and not just because there would be a buffet of food. Each banquet provided the opportunity for every swimmer on the team to get an award. Something that recognizes each team member for their contributions, achievements, or special talents.
At MySwimPro, we’re no different and each team member received a custom Paper Plate Award! After presenting our paper plate awards we each shared what we’re grateful for and it was a special moment to reflect on the awesome experience we were having with each other in Mallorca.
Friday: Athletic Day
We shared our final morning together at the beach with another open water swim around the island. We filmed some more content and then ate a hardy breakfast before our first activity!
This activity was inspired by both the television series that features American business owners pitching investors for money and also the experience we’ve had at MySwimPro to pitch the company in various pitch competitions.
Seven MySwimPro team members had to pitch to the sharks (Adam, Mike and I). Contenstants had up to two minutes to pitch their idea and each shark was allowed one follow up question. After all the pitches, the sharks provided feedback on all presentations and we decided which ideas to invest in and how much funding to grant each project. We evaluated pitches based on the following criteria:
- The Idea – what, for whom, how, when, why
- Ask for money – how much, when
- Impact on company
- Uniqueness of idea
The context of the Shark Tank was that Fares, Adam and Mike are partners in the $10M “MySwimPro innovation fund” to invest in the future of MySwimPro, Inc. The goal of the activity was inspiring innovation and creativity. We hope to implement some of the ideas from this activity in our future initiatives. Stay tuned…
On the Beach
We enjoyed the final afternoon in Mallorca on the beach! We rented a couple of kayaks and stand up paddle boards to enjoy the blue water and each other’s company. It was a long week filled with activities so it was nice to kick it back and enjoy the view!
Most of us had early flights departing Palma International Airport. It was sad to say goodbye, but we were all energized by an incredible retreat in Spain! Here’s what each team member had to say about their recent retreat experience:
“Our first international retreat was a huge success! We brought together 10 team members from 8 different cities to the Island of Mallorca for a full week of team building activities, strategy, and content creation. It was an unforgettable trip that energized our team that will set us up for continued growth.” – Fares Ksebati, Co-Founder & CEO
“The MySwimPro 2019 Team Retreat was LEGIT! Empowering aquatic prowess in all swimmers is the Mission of MySwimPro and spending an entire week with the team, you could really tell that every one cares about the mission and the success of every swimmer in the Global Community. Jellyfish!” – Charlie Brown, Community Champion
“LEGIT” – Benjamin Hendricks, iOS Developer
“It was amazing to hang out with everyone in person in such an incredible place! I’m glad we all got a chance to meet, swim, bike and run together.” – Michael Allon, Co-Founder
“Our team worked hard during whole year and met to play hard this time! I collected unique memories with people who deeply share the passion for swimming. Can’t wait for next year!” – Cenk Arıöz, Backend Developer
“There’s nothing better than laughing with my team, watching the sunrise from the ocean and enjoying meals together. I loved getting to know everyone a little better, and sharing stories about our lives outside of work.” – Paige Walters, Marketing Director
“Never visited events like this, it’s the very unique experience for me and I recharged from the best people and ready to make something great. Saying in one word it was legit!” – Max Bilan, iOS Developer
“It was a wonderful retreat, at a beautiful location. A great way to meet and work with the MySwimPro and MyTriPro team, and to help build our bonds together. A real highlight was the terrific activities we did together, particularly the group bike ride where we encouraged each other to have fun and push harder.” – Heath McKnight, Marketing Manager
“Mallorca is such a beautiful island, and perfect for a meetup for a fitness company – swim, bike, run, beach workout – you name it we did it! Being able to meet everyone in person and work next to one another was invaluable for our distributed team. We got a better sense of how everyone approaches problems, and bonded over a fun trip! I think we got enough inside jokes to last us until the next one!” – Adam Oxner, Co-Founder & CTO
“It was a great way to know more about each of our team members and the way we connected was incredible.” – Lorenza Padilla, Digital Media Producer
Are you interested in joining us on our next retreat? We’re hiring! Checkout our open positions here and shoot me a message if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.