Here at Brink we’re a remote first global business, so we know all too well how important IRL time is in building intimacy and lasting relationships amongst our peers. Last year we set the intention for two annual meetups, with the emphasis being on the summer retreat that lasts up to a week. This summer we officially launched our new entity in Kigali, Rwanda (with an office!) and so it felt fitting for all 30 of us to go out there, be together and learn all about the country's increasing innovation.
As an Ops Manager, I’m pretty used to dancing in uncertainty and putting out many fires, but this was not the time for second guessing. So here I am to hopefully lighten the load by sharing my top tips for organising a killer offsite in another country that I wish I'd been told before I planned our trip to Kigali.
Before you go
Research the culture
Different countries have different working practices. If you’re going to a place you’re not super familiar with already, do your research. For example don’t be offended if people aren’t responding to your emails, they might just have a different etiquette. If you already have a team out there, then tap into that resource and maybe even get them to do some work on the ground or speak to someone local and find out how businesses like to communicate. They may prefer to do things via WhatsApp or phone call, in which case now might be the time to ask for that work phone before you get hit with a hefty bill.
Educate your team
It doesn’t matter if your team thinks they’re the next Bear Grylls, if you’re going somewhere new you’ll want to make sure you’re setting them up for success with the social norms of the country you’re visiting. Helping your team get up to speed on things like learning basic phrases, the country’s political standing and wearing suitable clothing will be important for non western cultures. Turn this into a quick fire quiz on the Monday before you head out there to ensure it’s all sunk in (and so you don’t have to lend your clothes out to the girl who only brought crop tops). Try to keep this info light if you can and consider booking in an experience like a show, museum trip or a cookery class for when you’re there as an opportunity for further learning together through experiencing the culture first hand.
Get a co-pilot
One of my biggest regrets from organising our trip this year was not having another team member close to me throughout the process. When we got closer to the date and I enlisted my understudy (in case I was unable to fly for whatever reason), I soon realised the mammoth scale of it all and I could see the fear in my colleagues eyes. Luckily, I made it to Rwanda.
Book some time off
Do not underestimate the physical and emotional toll of planning an event on this scale. You will have spent the whole week being ‘on’ with a phone glued to your hand and so I strongly advise that you take a few days out when you get back to decompress and reflect. Write down your learnings while things are still fresh in your mind, then it’s time to zen out.
Once you're there
Over communicate… and then do it again
Your team will likely be busy working hard to clear their decks ahead of the trip. Be prepared to become a broken record and never assume that someone has read your itinerary pack, seen your Slack message or listened to your morning briefing. Create a rhythm that sticks when sharing key information and then keep repeating it throughout the day as well as reminding people where they need to be next. Your colleagues are now your giant babies and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Check in with your suppliers daily
This may seem like overkill, but trust me. Times and dates you confirmed months ago can easily get mixed up in the mess of your broken Google translate. Send your travel company pinned locations on the day and not just a description, as there may be two places with the same name (yes, I learnt the hard way). Keep checking in with your restaurant/catering bookings too and reiterating your dietary requirements, because no one wants an anaphylactic shock on their hands.
Share the load with your teammates
Give yourself a break and let your colleagues organise some fun. They enjoy taking the load off you more than you think! You may need to offer some guidance on logistics and budget for the night, but then you’re chillin’. Nothing tastes sweeter than a pizza party that you didn’t have to plan.
Be ready for things to go wrong
You can be an organisational freak like me and sh*t will still hit the fan, so make sure you have a plan B. Like when the bus didn’t turn up to our party venue in Kigali at midnight to take 30 of us back to the hotel. Luckily my ops spidey senses had already started tingling and so I scoped out the taxi situation earlier on and secured a back up (God I’m good). Don’t catastrophize, but have a few reserves up your sleeve e.g. if your colleague is too ill to host a team workshop, is there someone you could have prepped beforehand to cover this?
Stay tuned for more opsy updates... in the meantime, let's have a chat at [email protected].