Looking Back: Our 2020 Retreat

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It’s strange to think that there was a short period of time in January of 2020 where traveling and having gatherings wasn’t an issue in many areas of the world, but we here at Order Desk are especially grateful for that brief window of time as it became our last opportunity to get together for the foreseeable future.

The Destination

For our 2020 retreat we had decided on gathering at the beginning of the year in the state of Oregon, specifically because one of us (that would be me, your author Dan V.) lived nearby and was set to have a baby shortly thereafter.

If you’re ever curious about what our culture and priorities are like, you should know that our team planned this entire retreat around one person’s needs at the time, without even being asked! David and the rest of the team knew that my child was due in February, meaning it would be hard to be away from my spouse so close to the delivery date, so they chose to come to Oregon just to accommodate our needs. They even threw us a baby shower! Can you think of how many other companies would do the same?

With our destination decided, our team converged in Portland. We had folks flying in from as far as Japan and Turkey, along with domestic locations like Idaho, North Carolina, and New Jersey, totaling over 20,000 miles traveled between us! Needless to say some of us were more jetlagged than others.

From Portland, we drove to a house we rented on the beautiful Oregon coast, with tall trees lining the rocky shores and no shortage of seafood restaurants.

You ever feel like it’s dark and light out at the same time? (Photo by Dan Schenker for Order Desk)

The Work

While one might conjure images of relaxation and leisure activities when you hear about a company retreat, much of our focus was actually on the growth of our company and looking ahead to the future. You see, we don’t get many opportunities to meet up in person as we have always been a remote company, so on these rare occasions when we can be in the same room together we always choose to use it wisely.

First and foremost, we decided to use this opportunity to arrange some final interviews with candidates that we were looking at to join our support team. At the time we had gone through thousands of potential applicants and narrowed it down to a dozen or so, all of whom we talked to on Zoom throughout the week of our retreat.

Simultaneously, we were in the process of working on a surprise care package we had planned to send out to some of our customers, with handwritten notes, stickers, and a special limited edition Order Desk postcard.

Don’t worry, we didn’t actually send them with forged stamps and postmarks. (Stamps and postmarks designed by Dan Valenzuela for Order Desk)

Since getting together face to face is rare for us, we prioritized time to hold some smaller one-off meetings, and of course we also made sure to spend time answering support emails and maintain the app while we were there. Your business is important to us, so even if our team is “away” for the week, we’re still keeping an eye on things to ensure everything continues to run smoothly.

The Fun

Alright, you caught us—we did allow ourselves to have a little fun. It’s one of our company values, after all! We would all end the work day together in the early afternoon and either explore the coast, stay in and watch TV, cook, or play card games (some of us are still holding grudges that spun out of these games).

One major highlight of the trip was visiting the Tillamook Creamery, which is just as great as it sounds. We got to tour the factory, eat lots of cheese samples, bought some cheesy souvenirs, and topped it all off with an order of fried cheese curds from the quick service restaurant inside the factory.

Mentally, we’re here. Waiting in line to eat more fried cheese curds.

We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention Gracie’s Sea Hag, a local staple with an intimate atmosphere, and a must if you’re at all interested in seafood. It’s just a stone’s throw away from the shore, and always worth a visit. In-N-Out was also a must during our road trip to the coast, it’s a burger chain favored by many that you can only find on the west coast and has just recently made its way up to Oregon, so the lines were pretty long!

Our team checked out some of the must-see Portland attractions too, like Powell’s Books and Salt & Straw. If you’re not familiar with Powell’s, their downtown location is a massive store filled with books old and new (there’s even a special room where you can peruse through a collection of very old books), and we had a great time browsing through it all. Salt & Straw was simply a must because they have some of (if not the) best ice cream in Portland. Seriously, check them out if you’re ever in the area because their menu is constantly rotating through their own unique flavors.

Is it too obvious that we love food?

The Future

Ideally, this would be where I would talk about our plans for future retreats, but given the state of the world right now, unfortunately that’s not in the cards for us right now. In lieu of getting together in person, we still make intentional time to enjoy each other’s company the best way we can, like through our weekly Friday meetings. We use this time to virtually get the entire company together to brainstorm, chat about ideas or things that are important to us, and maybe play a game or two (or three or four).

A surprise ally in keeping our company close through the pandemic has been Around, a video conferencing app with features that address a lot of the fatigue and burnout that often comes from being on video calls all day. Even though it’s still in beta, it’s been extremely reliable for us since we first started using it in March of 2020, where it was an immediate hit with our team. We’re especially fond of some of its Campfire Mode feature, which allows us to virtually gather around a fire and chat, and the addition of multiplayer games that we can play directly in the app itself!

All disputes are settled in the arena.

We’re anxiously looking forward to the day when we can all meet in person again, especially now that our team has more than doubled in size! But until then, we’re still thankful for the time we spent together, and the fun memories we were able to create.

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