Delicious Brains in Nova Scotia: Our Third Annual Company Retreat

Photo of the Delicious Brains team in Nova Scotia

Back in August, our team met up for our third annual company retreat. We chose a location (literally) close to my heart: Nova Scotia.

This year was the first year we met up with the sole purpose of the company retreat. In previous years, we tacked our retreat onto conferences like WordCamp Europe or WordCamp Miami.

Planning

In the past, I’ve taken on the task of planning and making all the arrangements for our meetups myself. This year, I hired an event planner and man, it was awesome.

In previous years, I had probably spent more than 20 hours planning our retreats. This year, working with the event planner meant planning our meetup took significantly less time. And bonus, she did a much better job than I ever would have.

We still incorporated some planning things that worked well for us in the past – setting up a Google Doc with all the accommodation details & FAQs for the team for one.

Here’s the schedule we ended up with (and mostly followed):

Monday 14

  • 12-2pm Flights arrive
  • 6pm BBQ dinner at the chalets
  • 8pm Bonfire (we were very prompt with our bonfires)

Tuesday 15

  • 7am Breakfast at the chalets
  • 8:30am Work
    • Catch-up on support
    • Separate into product teams to reduce interruptions, have a product team meeting, work on the products
    • Company meeting
  • 12pm Standup paddle boarding
  • 5pm Check-in on support
  • 6pm BBQ dinner at the chalets
  • 8pm Bonfire (we originally planned to head to a pub, but found we mostly preferred bonfires)

Wednesday 16

  • 7am Breakfast
  • 8:30am Work
    • Group discussion (topic TBD)
    • Catch up on support
    • Split off into product teams
  • 12pm Lunch
  • 1pm 18-holes of golf at Chester Golf Club. We’ll do a scramble (best ball).
  • 6pm Check in on support
  • 7pm Dinner at The Club House (Chester Golf Club)
  • 9pm Head to the Fireside Lounge for a pint at the pub. Music from Cyril MacPhee, one of the first websites I ever built.

Thursday 17

  • 7am Breakfast
  • 8:30am Work
    • Group discussion (topic TBD)
    • Catch up on support
  • 10:30am Drive to Lunenburg Farmer’s Market (25 mins), see what the locals are peddling, get some supplies for supper, and pick out some lobster from the tank at
    Lunenburg Fish Co.
  • 12pm Lunch at the Salt Shaker
  • 1:30pm Work
    • Check in on support
    • Split off into product teams
  • 3pm Buddy up and play some tennis, basketball, mini putt, paddle boards, kayaks
  • 5:30pm Prepare supper
    • Cook lobsters on the beach in front of the chalets
    • Check in on support while the lobsters are cookin’
  • 8pm Bonfire

Friday 18

  • 7am Breakfast
  • 8:30am Work
    • Group discussion (topic TBD)
    • Catch up on support
    • Split off into product teams
  • 12pm Lunch at chalets
  • 3pm Shuttle to Domaine de Grand Pré Winery (65 mins)
  • 4:30pm Tour and wine tasting at Domaine de Grand Pré Winery
  • 6pm Dinner at Le Caveau Restaurant (three course dinner with wine pairings)
  • 8pm Return shuttle
  • 9pm Bonfire by the water and maybe check in on support

Saturday 19

It ended up mostly pouring on Saturday, so we adjusted to rainy-day friendly activities.

  • 9am Sleep in, then Caesars for breakfast, check in on support (shockingly few people took me up on the Caesars offer)
  • 11am Go-karts, Laser tag & Lunch nearby
  • 6pm Dinner at the resort restaurant (La Vista)
  • 7:30pm Bonfire by the water (Carolyn and possibly other guests joining)

Sunday 20 (last day!)

  • 8am Breakfast, check in on support, clean up and pack up
  • 11am Checkout, earlier flights head to the airport with Jeff, other group heads to Halifax for lunch
  • 12pm Find some parking, take the ferry across to Dartmouth and have lunch at Evan’s Seafood / the Sunday market
  • Those with late flights are invited back to my house (40 mins from the airport) to hang out for the rest of the day, have supper, and then get a ride back to the airport.

Our Accommodations

No fancy rooftop apartment this year; instead, we were in cabins on the Nova Scotia shore. Each cabin could only sleep 2-3 people which meant they were perfect for our product teams.

The cabins would have worked really well for working in teams, but the Wi-Fi was awful in all but one cabin. The WP Offload S3 team were able to work out of their cabin a bit. Fortunately the main lodge had good Wi-Fi and the resort gave the rest of us a conference room to work out of, so it all worked out fine. Just a minor inconvenience in the end.

Our Nova Scotia chalets

The cabins meant a lot more outdoor activity and fire sitting than last year. Some of our UK team had their first smores and even learned important life lessons like biting the smore stick isn’t recommended. 😆

The team gathered around a bonfire

Highlights

Seeing each other in person is always a highlight and lets us have some of the impromptu conversations we wouldn’t have otherwise.

We had new team members join us this year, Pete, Liz, and Evan. Kind of amazing to see that even as our team expands, each new person feels like a friend we haven’t seen in awhile and the joke-cracking is instant. Especially with Pete.

We did a lot more activities this year, including:

Golf (Iain’s favorite by far)

Nova Scotia golf views
Jeff’s photo of Brad and Liz taking photos

Go-Karts (Gilbert’s favorite by far)

Helmet sefliesGilber and Ashley goofing off in Go-Kart gear


Laser Tag

Very seriously listening to Laser Tag instructions

Wine Tour & Tasting

Listening the history of the Novia Scotia winery

Fresh Lobsters

Live lobsters on the picnic table

And Tons More

We put together more highlights in this Moment on Twitter:

Costs

This year’s event was almost double the cost of last year:

 $6,000  Accommodation
 $5,700  Meals, Activities, Entertainment
$10,500  Travel
 $2,000  Event Management
---------------------------------
$24,200 USD

Although we had three more people this year, the main reasons why it cost so much more is that we participated in a lot more activities, had more accommodations than we needed, and we had five overseas flights compared to just three last year. The three USA-Canada flights were quite expensive as well.

Next Time

We started talking about our next retreat almost as soon as everyone signed in to Slack the first day back.

I’ve decided that a year is a little too long between retreats and so we’ll try meet up every 8 months. With the distributed team, it can be hard to find a location that is an easy flight for everyone. For next year, we’re looking at Jamaica.

Overall, Nova Scotia was a great time and fun to show off some of my home turf to my team. Of course, we’re all already looking forward to the next one.

About the Author

Brad Touesnard

As founder of Delicious Brains Inc., Brad wears many hats; from coding and design, to marketing and partnerships. Before starting Delicious Brains, Brad was a busy freelance web developer, specializing in front-end development.

  • Alisa Cognard

    Looks like a great time! We had our first remote team retreat this summer and enjoyed connecting “in real life” and working on the business together.