LARGAY TRAVEL OF WATERBURY, CT, recently held a company retreat. Here, Vice President Amanda Klimak gives her account of what it took to plan the event and explains why it was considered a huge success by everyone who attended.
Each year, countless hours and significant funds are spent training our employees in the skills we feel they need to do their jobs well. Sales and customer-service seminars and product-knowledge classes are a traditional focus at meetings and annual retreats. So what happens when the focus of a company retreat isn't on those skills at all, but instead on the employees themselves as human beings? Or the development of personal goals, desires and visions? Or each individual's aspirations and hopes for the future? Would that take away from the company's goals, or would that enhance the momentum of an incredibly successful company? Well, that was the question we asked and the focal point of the 2008 Largay Travel Company Retreat, and the results were amazing.
The idea began in October 2007, when I attended the Virtuoso Active and Specialty Travel (aka VAST) Retreat in Whistler, BC. At that meeting, I had the privilege of participating in a two-day program appropriately named "The Year of Extraordinary." This program was designed to introduce Virtuoso agents to the concept of Life Planning, a tool with which you analyze your past, your current situation and your vision for the future. The program absolutely changed my life, and with the guidance of Life Coach Dr. Alison Miller, I began a year-long program of goal setting. Upon returning from the retreat and seeing almost immediate results in my life, I could not help but want to share this gift with everyone around me.
So, as I began to plan the 2008 Largay Travel Company Retreat, I decided to pass on the traditional training and seminars and devote the weekend to life planning. Building up employees and vendors as human beings with personal goals and amazing potential was the purpose. Dr. Miller was invited to speak, and the weekend was planned for January 2008 at the Lodge at Turning Stone in Verona, NY. As the weekend approached, and everyone noticed the changes happening in my life, the excitement began to build. Soon our 50-passenger luxury motor coach was filled with owners, managers, leisure and corporate agents, independent contractors, support staff and our incredible preferred vendor sponsors, including Virtuoso, Crystal Cruises, Oceania, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, Creative Leisure, Classic Custom Vacations, Micato Safaris and Royal Caribbean Cruises. To say that the Lodge at Turning Stone was magnificent would not be doing it justice. This resort was over-the-top wonderful, with five-star service, gourmet cuisine and a spa that would rival the top spas of the world.
The focus of the weekend was on personal and professional development. This process was completely individual to each person and was guided by Dr. Miller. Throughout the first day, each of us examined our past successes and disappointments, as well as identified our true inner values and the goals that we would like to achieve in life. We worked within a confidential and non-judgmental sanctuary, in which everyone could share as much as they wanted and concentrate on what really makes them truly enjoy life. We learned about the power of positive thinking and how we identify our thoughts, feelings and emotions and what they mean. We defined our own personal values and discovered that if we can dream it, we can achieve it.
At the end of the day, our homework assignment was to create a Vision Board. This Vision Board was a poster that each of us created, demonstrating our individual goals and visions for the future. Before we knew it, the hospitality suite had been transformed into piles of magazine clippings with glue sticks flying and markers drawing. And what is a creation party without a Lartini, the official martini of Largay Travel. As people flowed into the suite and attendees worked on their own personal creations, the excitement began to mount. The evening peaked with our Gala Dinner at Turning Stone's signature restaurant Wildflowers. Awards were given, speeches were made, and each person stood and shared his or her own personal thoughts about working at, or with, Largay Travel. Paul Largay finished the evening with a speech thanking everyone who has meant so much to him, the company and its founder and CEO, Roland Largay. "I cannot begin to tell you how lucky I feel right now," remarked Paul. "I have the greatest people in the world in my life, and I am truly thankful to each and every one of you." This was surely an evening that everyone will hold dear in their hearts.
The weekend finished with the sharing of our Vision Boards and a plan to continue our goal-setting efforts for an entire year. Monthly meetings, progress tracking and continual sharing are all part of the year-long plan. As we left the resort, our four-hour ride home seemed to fly by, as we chatted and learned things about each other that we never knew. After a screening of The Secret, a movie about the power of positive thinking and believing in your vision, we all felt we had the tools we needed to begin on a new journey in life. It's a journey in which each of our individual accomplishments plays a key role in the company's success as a whole.
So let's get back to the question that I posed at the beginning of this article. Would focusing on our employees' individual goals take away from our company's goals? I can tell you that the answer is definitely "no." The momentum that has been created by helping our employees develop personally has been incredible. Our employees are energized in a way that I cannot describe. Our morale is higher here than at any place I have ever worked, and for the first time in a long time, everyone is excited about their future in travel.
To say that we went on a company retreat with employees and vendors would be an insult to the true passion that has emerged at Largay Travel. To say that we went on an amazing journey of discovery about ourselves and the people we share a large part of our lives with would certainly be more fitting. To have an opportunity to grow beside people you consider to be true friends is a gift and one that I will always appreciate.