Two years ago June my higher ed team practically clapped and cheered me all the way to my car as I decided to take this business full-time. There were certainly things about the corporate world that I was ready to get away from, but I truly wondered how I could replace the lunches in the conference room, doorway pop-ins, and post-meeting campus walks that were such bright spots in my long days.
I spent the summer getting my feet under me with my new schedule/day to day, and quickly found myself missing those moments. Thankfully, in August of that year I went to a The Cultivate Retreat (now Wedatelier!) as both an attendee and speaker with Lauren Grove and Megan Martin, two fairly new-to-me friends. Look how young we were (ha!)
We left hungry. These experiences are SO IMPORTANT in business- hear me say that. We spent a couple of years investing & figuring out what we needed more of from these conference experiences and that’s what allowed us to create our group and ultimately plan this trip! We came home, and Meg + L invited me to join them on Google Hangout every other week to have some accountability in life and business. I asked if we could add Lauren Carnes to the mix (someone they hadn’t met!), Christina Scalera joined us for a season, and something wonderful was born.
Fast forward to just last week and the four of us, along with 7 new/old friends we invited along, gathered in Atlanta for a weekend in person. And no lie, we patted ourselves on the back just for making it happen. Literally the feat of getting all these people to the same place for 36 hours was a miracle! Guys, OUR GROUP HADN’T EVER BEEN TOGETHER IN PERSON, the four of us– isn’t that crazy?!
And it’s easy to look at a photo like the one below and to be on the other side of the screen thinking “I’ll never be invited to something like that” or “how did they even put this together” and so Lauren and I tag teamed writing out a plan to help you decide if planning a weekend away is right for you, and how to go about doing it!
Location & space were important to us, but we had to decide what the priorities were. Did we want to meet somewhere “exoctic” and “toursity”? What did the house need that was a non-negotiable? How many beds/rooms/bathrooms would be most comfortable? And what price point would be ideal?
If you’ve never used Airbnb or another vacation rental site, the idea is that you can literally stay in the neatest of homes and sometimes even meet your owner! We settled on Atlanta as a good central point for everyone and then had to decide if it was worth a drive to the mountains, or if we wanted a pool- things like that. Ultimately we decided that we wanted this to be easy. We didn’t want people to have to drive far from the airport. We didn’t want restaurants to be far away. And we wanted a space with a living room/kitchen big enough for all of us to hangout in a shared space and enjoy meals together. Everyone shared a bed/room, and I set the goal for it to be $200 per person or less for the entire weekend, which we met.
Bonus, this particular house was even more beautiful in person and the host was so very kind! She even bought a pack n’ play for one of the babes to use and allowed us to checkout late! If you’re in ATL and needing a space for 8-10 people, I cannot recommend Roberta & her home enough!
To read about Lauren’s perspective on date/location, including rocking a doodle poll and being the house layout master, click here.
As the “details” gal, I wanted to strike a balance in curating all of the plans for our weekend together with everyone feeling like they were free falling. Basically, my goal was to come up with a schedule that considered all of the Myer’s Briggs Js and Ps- ha! Additionally, we all wanted to be mindful that this group would know each other individually on a lot of different levels– some gals had been friends for over a decade and others were meeting for the first time!
When you’re planning, remind yourself to keep the idea of “freedom within a framework” as a good way to go about it! People are thankful when they have a general outline for wheres, whats, whens & hows– with space to do their own thing, get to know other people etc. So facilitating ways for that to happen ends up being a gift they will be thankful for!
To read about Lauren’s perspective on gal pal-ing, including what to write in your invite message to them, click here.
I’m a foodie, but like Lauren says– simplicity is key these weekends! The last thing anyone wants is for one person to be slaving away in the kitchen, nor are they interested in spending a gazillion dollars on takeout. We invited girls to come with the understanding that we’d be living “family style” for the weekend– shared rooms/beds and shared tasks related to meals.
While we didn’t assign teams or anything like that ahead of time (though I think you could totally break your group up so they know what they are responsible for cooking/cleaning), we hit a wonderful rhythm that made meals seamless! Basically– let people HELP. And if a task needs to get done and you’re trying to do to many things at once, hollar out “can anyone take care of this?!” Turns out our group held an award winning grill master (seriously!) soooo we were thrilled when she seamlessly jumped in on burger bar night. We also found that a group effort in the kitchen meant community building and chatting was still happening, versus one or two people trying to take care of everything themselves!
To read about Lauren’s perspective on ALLLLLLL the food things, including how to come up with a menu and shopping list (she rocks at this!), click here.
Back to the “freedom in a framework” mindset, we wanted to be really intentional with how we were going to actually spend our time together. There was incredible knowledge wealth within our group– I could have easily spent hours learning from the expert areas each woman offered– but we didn’t want them to have to work. Seriously, prepping a powerpoint/worksheet, even for a group of 10, is not easy! So, we only had one formal teaching moment the entire weekend and it was all about the Strengthsquest inventory, which I’m certified in as a facilitator. This inventory is great because it can be taken ahead of time, is highly informative on a personal level but also has a lot of group applications and a team perspective piece! Basically– it’s a wonderful way to get a new group of people comfortable really fast, it brings a lot of “ah ha” moments to the table, and it provides a lens through which future conversations can be processed.
If you don’t have someone who is Strengthsquest equipped to teach you can bring me over (seriously, ha!) or consider other expert areas that might be present within your group and choose one that would be beneficial in both a learning and getting to know each other kind of way! A lot of people are loving the Ennegram these days– maybe try that!
Other things to consider for content during your time together:
Bonus: invite people with babies. Baby snuggles throughout a weekend like this are the best!
It’s my goal to make this happen once every year-year and a half, if possible. I have so many business friends I’d like to meet in person and it’s good to stretch outside of my circle only to build it stronger! Also grateful to be a part of The Mastermind Retreat, Lauren, Callie & I’s annual mini conference that we built with the heart of these weekends as the focus as well as our desire to not only give people an incredible business building experience but the tools to walk away really knowing how do community in business.
Regardless of what your business looks like, where you live, how long you’ve been doing this for, or how cool you feel, we are all better when we have friends around us speaking truth and cheering us on! I sincerely hope this helps you get to planning to book that weekend and hang out together! If you have any questions, leave a comment and Lauren + I will respond!
for small business, life & photography tips, foodie adventures & portrait specials! we'll chat twice a month-- wine and dessert recommended! xo, L