Four Kitchens

5 steps to a successful company retreat

3 Min. ReadWork life

Four Kitchens recently hosted our company retreat here in Austin, Texas and it was a blast! The last time the whole team was in one spot was our holiday party last December. At the time we were 17 employees — 16 located in Austin and one in California. In 2014, we’ve grown to 22 employees — now spanning four time zones and two continents — so it was a momentous occasion to have all of us in town for the entirety of DrupalCon and the retreat. Memories abound!

Here’s how we made it an event to remember and how you can too!

##1. Collaborate on something out of the ordinary

The Four Kitchens team is at our best and happiest when collaborating, so to kick off the retreat we took a knife skills and cooking class at the flagship Whole Foods Culinary Center. Yes, let the Web Chef analogies run free, my friends. We split into five teams, armed with sharpened knives and the will to learn how to chop, dice, and julienne like a pro. Our chef instructors were good sports, laughing at our “Where Web Chefs become real chefs…” voiceover and general goofy humor. Working together we created, skillfully chopped, and prepared dishes to feast on with the whole team.

##2. Host ideation sessions and commit to a plan of action

After enjoying the meal we gathered for an afternoon discussion about the future of the company. First we checked-in on our annual goals to see how we’re doing at the halfway mark, and to set any necessary course correction. Then we got into the core of it with a brainstorming session where everyone was encouraged to get involved in topics of conversation — technology, design, project management, business development, or operations — even if it was outside their day-to-day role or expertise. Each group came back together and shared their results to be captured and made into a plan of action. Getting everyone involved in the big picture discussions is an important part of our culture, one that we don’t just pay lip service to but live daily.

##3. Eat and drink like royalty

Seeing everyone’s face gathered around one big table for dinner at Parkside, a fantastic restaurant in the heart of downtown Austin, was such a special moment. We dined excellently and drank delicious cocktails. There was some toasting and some toastiness. Enough said.

##4. Rent a fabulous staycation house

We were hard pressed to find a house to host 22 people, but since we were in Austin and it was post-DrupalCon (conference week exhaustion anyone?) a lot of people wanted to spend time in their own homes anyway. We found an incredible house with a pool, a must have in my book, to host our Web Chef party shenanigans and 12 people overnight. If your company needs more space there are always vacation condos and cabins, all which can be rented in blocks to accommodate large parties. Lots of indoor and outdoor sprawl space was a must since there would inevitably be small groups playing board games, hacking on laptops, or just lazing in the sun. Make sure the snacks and drinks are well stocked, then sit back and relax.

##5. Take it all in!

Enjoy it. Photograph it. Journal it. Whatever you do: you won’t forget it. Spending quality time together as a group is amazing fun!

Four Kitchens isn’t just a company that builds extraordinary web experiences, but a big group of friends all dedicated to making each other’s lives extraordinary. Every minute was a delight and I’m already looking forward to the next Web Chef retreat!

Photo credits: Kate Bowie Photography, Elia Albarran, Taylor Smith