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9 Clouds Retreat 2018: Bonding + Beer + Bowling, Oh My!

9 Clouds at Surly on Team Retreat 2018

If you’re one of our clients, you probably received word a few weeks ago that we were hitting the road for our annual company retreat. If you aren't one of our clients, you probably saw evidence of our annual company retreat on social.

If you don't follow us on social (um, why not?), then let me be the first to tell you: we went on our annual company retreat to Minneapolis a few weeks ago. 

We toured a brewery, bowled a little (some better than others), and, of course, bonded as a team, talking through challenges and opportunities for 9 Clouds in 2019.

Day 1: Driving Up Hanging Out

On Thursday morning, we met at the office, split into two vehicles (one car was already in Minneapolis), and headed out!

Since we’re not a group that ever misses an opportunity connect with each other, it's not surprising that one car somehow launched into a conversation about their deepest insecurities after their driver made a wrong turn onto a one-way. 😱

Our first stop once we reached the Twin Cities was Surly Brewing Company. Of course, the brewery tour was excellent, and of course, we asked the guide some awesome questions (would you expect anything else from us?) — but when it came to playing a game of bean bags, well . . . we'll blame the wind for how badly some of those rounds went.

Jaden, Catherine, and Jacquelyn from 9 Clouds show off their cool eyewear on the Surly brewery tour.

By the way, if you're curious, here are our favorite Surly beers we sampled that day:

🍺 Rosé
🍺 Rising North
🍺 Grindcore
🍺 Furious
🍺 Vice City
🍺 Naked and Afraid

After leaving Surly, our team tackled a special challenge: our Airbnb canceled on us at the last minute. So instead of hanging out all in one place, the group was once again split into three. Coordinating team events when the entire group was so dispersed proved to be a special breed of challenge. 

To be completely honest, I was brought up to date on all of those happenings after we got back from the retreat. And that’s a really great testament to how our team handles challenges:

✅ Quickly
✅ Efficiently
✅ Without falling apart

Pretty cool, huh?

Well, anyway, we took our group pics and then headed to dinner at a fabulous Mexican fusion restaurant, Chino Latino, where there were flaming pineapple drinks, the queso of your daydreams, 😍 and primary-colored ambient lighting that made us feel like we were somehow teleported into an action movie.

Some members of the 9 Clouds team were really good at bowling. I, Kaitlynn, was not one of them.

Let’s be honest, by the time we went bowling, we were all feeling pretty good about life. Which made some of us (mostly me) a little more confident than necessary . . . so our lower-than-normal bowling skill level was comical at best and curse-inducing at worst (🙋🏼‍♀️).

Six of us ended the night by attending a drag show in an adjacent theater in the bowling alley, while the rest of the team opted to return to their respective Airbnbs.

Day 2: Working Together to Work Better

On Friday morning, we convened in one of the Airbnbs to talk with life coach Lisa Kuzman about the book she assigned us to read before the retreat: Rising Strong by Brené Brown.

The conversation was definitely a fruitful one, with several of us admitting that it’s hard to fully embrace the idea that maybe everyone is doing their best.

Group coach Lisa Kuzman led a team conversation about honesty, vulnerability, and growth.

It was a conversation about being open and trusting each other. And an aptly timed one at that. It was my birthday (which automatically makes me feel vulnerable and reflective) — and, 11 days after the retreat, I moved 👉 700 miles away from our headquarters in South Dakota and now work remotely for 9 Clouds. 

That conversation is the perfect example of why I was comfortable choosing to work remotely — and why I haven’t felt disconnected from the team, even though we’re now a 10-hour drive apart. Our team is good at talking stuff through when something isn’t right. ✨And that's because the leadership at 9 Clouds has built in a safety net that makes it okay for us to be honest and vulnerable. ✨

Jenny, our top-dog project manager, has stressed over and over again that, as a team, we have to ask for what we need. On our retreat, we saw that modeled in the aftermath of the Airbnb hoopla, our conversations with Lisa, and the company SWOT analysis we did later. 

Oh! That’s right, you’ll want to hear about this part! 👇

SWOT stands for Strengths (internal), Weaknesses (internal), Opportunities (external), and Threats (external). We individually wrote our thoughts on Post-it notes and put them on the corresponding board. Then, we split into teams and dissected that info to identify trends. We shared those findings with the rest of the team while we ate birthday cupcakes.

The 9 Clouds folks do SWOT analysis.

9 Clouds performs a SWOT analysis every year for a few reasons: it helps us shape our company goals for the next year, it gives a safe space to share our unfiltered thoughts, and it sparks fruitful conversations about where we are and where we're going.

Of course, all of that strategizing made us hungry, so we convened at Sarah Carnes' aunt and uncle’s house for spaghetti and then hit the road back to Sioux Falls. 

13/10 Would Retreat Again

Our team started doing these annual retreats back in 2014 (and still tells stories from the 2016 and 2017 retreats. Although it was my first one, I’m already looking forward to the next retreat for two reasons:

1️⃣You know that feeling you get when you know you’re working with cool people, but you’re all so busy that you never get the opportunity to really connect? Retreats fix that. We literally hung out with each other for an entire day and laughed, bowled terribly, ate amazing food, and bonded. Which makes me feel more comfortable if I need to reach out to a coworker and ask for help or express concerns — because I already know that we’re on good terms!

2️⃣Working with Lisa is literally life-changing for our team. As an added perk, every 9 Clouds employee also gets one-on-one time with Lisa after the retreat to dissect what we learned from the book, the conversations, or the SWOT analysis. Learning how we can implement those lessons in our own lives is incredibly valuable.

Want to give your team some reinvigoration and bond as a group? We highly recommend company retreats. And also having an awesome team that actually wants to hang out with each other. 😉 

If you'd like to learn from us, go ahead and request a free digital audit! We don't just hang out with each other; we also work really well together so we can share top-of-the-line digital knowledge with you. What are you waiting for? Let's work together!

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