The Retreat: Team Building in the Windy City

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mRelevanceThe mRELEVANCE team recently gathered in Chicago for our annual retreat. We are thrilled that 14 staff members were able to participate in the four-day event that included team building, 2016 planning, a taste of Chicago, shooting a video, visiting the Arlington International Racecourse, a softball game and much, much more.  Everyone contributed to the fun and work, as well as to this blog post.

Grocery shopping for 14 people with various food preferences is an interesting experience. mRELEVANCE staff was divided into three cooking teams and each team provided Lauren P. with their grocery list. On Saturday morning before everyone arrived, Mitch, Lauren and I ventured out to the store. Three shopping carts (we say buggies in the South) and $850 later, we headed back to Mitch’s house to try to find places in the refrigerator and pantry for all of it.

While we were shopping in Chicago, the Atlanta team was flying north on Delta. They discovered a few travel tricks along the way. If you are the last ones to board the flight, chances are the overhead bins are full and you will get your bags checked complimentary. The flight was not without peril, as they flew through a storm. Account Manager Courtney states, “We saw lightning right outside of our plane window as we flew through a storm. . . scary!” Luckily for them, flying with Bryan means that you will have special Diamond status and upgraded beverages on board.

Next, we went to the airport to collect the Atlanta team. They followed very specific instructions through the airport, stopping at Nuts on Clark, Starbucks and the baggage claim before meeting us curbside, “three lanes deep.” Now, if we could only say the same about our office manager Lauren P., who got lost going to the airport in a city where she has lived her entire life, while following Mitch!

Cooking as a team provided opportunities for team work and some comedy. Highlights from cooking various meals include: Mitch dropping a steak while grilling and “no one” seeing; the grill blowing out while David was cooking salmon (to perfection I might add); Cherron almost losing her eyebrows while lighting the cooktop; making s’mores and catching marshmallows on fire;  collaborating with everyone to make lunch and dinner for 14; Cherron calling her mom for advice on making awesome broccoli and last but not least, homemade quiche made by Lauren C., Bethany and Doug (even though Doug would have preferred Pop-Tarts and cereal).

The Chicago experience was an important part of team bonding. And it included some really fun destinations such as Arlington International Racecourse and Hotdog Richie’s. Lauren C. finally had the full Chicago dog experience complete with a Vienna beef hot dog, mustard, onions, relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato, celery salt and peppers. Super picky eater Courtney now regrets not eating a real Chicago dog; she had buffalo chicken tenders instead. David joined Courtney by eating a Reuben sandwich instead of a hot dog. He commented, “I loved the look on everyone’s face when my Reuben looked amazing and was totally delicious.” Doug commented, “Eating ketchup on hot dogs is just WRONG.” And Cherron confesses that her table devoured a random extra order of fries without saying anything about it (until now).

Arlington International Racecourse was huge fun. For many of us, this was our first experience at a real horse race. Doug did his best to teach all of the newbies how to bet and help us with strategy. We learned the difference between Win, Place and Show, and it even paid off for a few of us! Our seats were in the covered area of the grandstand which served to protect us from the sun, and provided the perfect place to watch a crazy lightning storm blow past us while the horses were running. Because of the storm, it was super windy and several people commented about it being the Windy City. After losing all of his money on the first bet, David convinced Dharmin to bet on some horses during the last race. Dharmin won his bets, but lost all of his tickets! For Lauren P., one of the highlights was betting on a horse that came in “way last” without a jockey (luckily the jockey wasn’t hurt). Of course Mitch won big at the track. He bet and won BIG on the Dann Horse – $123.66 (more than Dan ever made). I was pleased that I started with $20 and ended with $22.30 – better than I typically do in Vegas.

Can you say Deep Dish? A trip to Chicago is just not complete without pizza. We enjoyed Lou Malnati’s Chicago-style deep dish. It’s truly the most delicious pizza on Earth, like combining a cookie with delicious cheese covered in a sauce created in Italy. Our picky team member, Courtney comments, “Again, I regret that I can’t actually eat a real Chicago deep-dish pizza because I’m picky.” I guess Courtney is going to have to visit again and make better food choices! Megan, who prefers thin crust, even gave deep dish a try. Cherron added, “I can’t get over all the people who picked off the tomatoes, that’s the best part! (I agree).” The Lou Malnati’s salad dressing was a HUGE hit too – delicious.

We spent all day Monday shooting a video. No, you can’t ask what it is, but you will see it soon enough! Let’s just say it is a music video and it was a lot of fun. When the crew arrived at Mitch’s house, they left the front door open, so the day started with a brisk game of hide-and-seek with the dogs. Luckily, they had not wandered too far, and the cats didn’t follow them. Mr. Bill snuck into several music video scenes, but Courtney and Lauren C. got caught immediately by the ever-aware Mitch. Doug comments that after his video performance, he should focus on a career on Broadway (ha).

2016 planning! Yes, we actually did work during the retreat. Client planning and brainstorming showed that everyone on our team is really bright and has really good ideas about marketing. We planned our 2016 webinar topics, discussed the International Builders Show and much more.

Other highlights of our retreat include:

  • Mitch and Doug playing on the Pizza Boys softball team and Doug’s new nickname, “Happy.”
  • Bryan holding Megan’s spider; well, it was more like it walked down his arm.
  • Finding out that Courtney can type almost as fast as Dave!
  • Playing Cards Against Humanity brings everyone down to the same level – need I say more?
  • Doug learning that Texas isn’t really in the South.
  • Learning through the MBIT that Doug is really warm and fuzzy.
  • David performing card tricks and Blaire commenting on how she knew all the tricks already.
  • Hanging out with Mitch’s dogs!

After four lovely days in Chicago, the account management team flew home to Atlanta – and one of the hottest days of the year. We made the long walk to a land far, far away, to get to our car in the parking lot of the airport. 98-degrees is just too hot, when can we go back?

A HUGE thanks to everyone in Chicago for their Midwestern hospitality, especially to Mitch for opening his home to all of us and to Lauren for all of the organization.