Here’s How NOT to Have a Perfectly Planned Corporate Retreat — And Why We Love it that Way!

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Michiko Morales

Has your company ever taken a corporate retreat? Probably not one like ours. 

For our 2023 kickoff and our first in-person gathering since the pandemic, GMG chose an untraditional path, skipped the beige hotel conference rooms in downtown Washington D.C. and headed to the Caribbean instead! Our leadership hoped that our active and wellness-loving team would gel through activities focused on physical and mental team challenges in the gorgeous Mexican sun and surf. 

And, boy, were they right. But, before things kicked off, most of the team’s adaptability was challenged before the plane even took off.  

As they say, the best-laid plans…

Any well-seasoned traveler knows even the most meticulously organized trips rarely go as planned. Expect the unexpected, stay flexible and adapt to your situation — that’s the best approach. Trips abroad are fraught with logistical challenges and bringing all GMG team members from all corners of the U.S. to Mexico for this team-building trip was no different. 

Half of the team made it to Cancun just as the FAA experienced an unprecedented nationwide outage, grounding all planes for several hours — something that hasn’t occurred since the 9/11 attacks — leaving the other half stranded in airports. Everybody hunkered down, waited it out and eventually arrived at the Cancun airport — albeit seven hours late —  only to be met by a protest of taxi drivers blockading the road to the resort. 

Despite the initial setback, the weary travelers remained positive, and were excitedly greeted by the rest of the GMG team upon their delayed arrival, where everyone convalesced poolside with customary, local “beverages.” To cap off the long travel day, the team boarded a bus, which led to a late-night boat ride, crispy-fried crickets, festive dancing and more “beverages” — it was truly a funny and memorable bonding experience.

As the dawn arose over the azure blue backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico the following morning, the five-star accommodations bustled to life with our team’s “Amazing Race.” Teams of two split up to race to solve puzzles and riddles based on GMG’s corporate pillars of culture, excellence and continuity through the cenote- and jungle-hemmed paths around the resort — all on very little sleep. As the mayhem and hilarity of the race wrapped up, our team collectively decided to take a break from the rest of our best-laid original plans and simply enjoy each others’ company at the resort’s infinity pool overlooking the ocean. It was a great call, and it set the tone for the duration of the trip. We laughed, talked, explored, ate great food, absorbed our setting and simply had a blast with one another. We decided to wing it for the rest of our time.

Here’s what’s interesting about things not going according to plan: sometimes it’s for the better. Yes, some unfortunate events played out in the beginning, but those only deepened our connections and proved how much grit and loyalty we all have. We adapted and stayed nimble in the face of adversity, and we were rewarded with possibly the most epic corporate retreat ever. 

We’ll save the story of the team wading through freezing waist-deep water in bat-filled caves in the dark of night for another time. (Yes, that happened.)

From our spontaneous excursions around the beach and our poolside conversations to our adventures at the area’s theme parks, the GMG team rekindled their kinships, forged new ones and nurtured a deeper fondness for one another. 

We can confidently say that our team is stronger now having this shared experience in a stunningly beautiful setting. Our people have not only edified their already stellar team collaboration abilities, but they’ve also grown even more productive, efficient, resilient and more purposeful for our mission to connect changemakers with dynamic opportunities to change the world. Our PR and marketing professionals are firing on all cylinders as a well-oiled machine, and as a leading B2B demand generation agency, that’s exactly what clients with high growth potential need.

Our goal in sharing the experience of our corporate retreat is to shed light on our culture and values and that, even as a data-driven growth marketing agency with a focus on technology, fostering the growth of our people matters. Why? Because it takes a talented, invested group of humans that are effectively communicating and collaborating to cultivate real-world marketing and public relations results for our clients.

Last week, we conducted an anonymous survey within GMG to learn their takeaways from the trip. So don’t take our word for it; read what our team members think makes GMG great:

  • “The biggest takeaway was how much we enjoy each other’s company! My colleagues are the nicest and most genuine people, and we had so much fun together. I’m super lucky to be a part of this amazing group of industry pros!”
  • “The Mexico trip made me feel a lot closer to my colleagues. We all chat more about our personal lives during team calls now. We genuinely care about each other more.”
  • “My biggest takeaway was the camaraderie. I feel incredibly grateful to be part of a team that meshes so well. We work very hard, and it was FANTASTIC to let loose together. There’s no judgment, no stress, no awkwardness — and it unlocked another layer of bonding.”
  • “The relaxed smaller group engagements really allowed me to get to know my colleagues over a more prolonged period of time, rather than a scheduled zoom interaction. I think that is the biggest benefit of spending time together, the continuity of it. We were simply there to make time for each other.”
  • “I was so impressed with everyone’s level of inclusion, community and a sense of welcoming to each person. Regardless of who was involved in various activities, I always felt comfortable and learned something about those I engaged with. It was by far the best team-building experience I’ve had in my career —  unforced and completely authentic.”
  • “The impact on my day-to-day interactions with the team has been so incredibly positive.  Spending time with people outside of Slack and Zoom calls gave me the chance to get to know others, and enjoy their perspective on a variety of topics — and in turn, increases the respect and admiration I have for each team member!”
  • “My biggest takeaway was that we have a great, collaborative and extremely creative team at GMG.”
  • “GMG is a thriving organization because of the bright, fun, talented and exciting people that work here.”
  • “A lot of companies say they invest in the culture and the people, but this trip made that real. GMG is genuine — truly — and the Mexico trip was huge in solidifying the culture-related core values/pillars for me.”
  • “Since coming back from the trip,  I feel my communication with everyone is much better. Getting to meet everyone really helped open up conversations we have in meetings, allowing us to be more productive.”
  • “My face still hurts from laughing. Connecting in a remote environment is possible and has made/will make us stronger communicators. Spending time in a relaxed “vacation” environment makes you appreciate how much your colleagues listen and see you, even when you have never physically met. I’m glad we didn’t spend a single minute in a conference room. Swimming Pool meetings are underrated.”

At GMG, we’re an adaptive and creative team that has fun, is constantly motivated by one another and strives for excellence in our work. Our mission is to partner with changemakers that want to make the world a better place. We secure the best media coverage for them and execute incredible marketing strategies that lead to sales through our proven, measurable expertise. Whether it’s content creation services, HubSpot management services, media relations strategy, marketing strategy or anything in between, our data-driven growth marketing and PR agency offers complete solutions tailored to your organization’s high-growth needs. 

Want to find out how a GMG’s innovative expertise and dedication to excellence can grow your brand with qualified leads?

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