Last week I escaped to the Peak District to spend time in the company of two pretty amazing women. A DIY Business Retreat of sorts. We laughed and talked, shared plans and swapped gossip. We admired the light dancing on the cobwebs and ate bread around the kitchen island. We talked about our businesses, our lives, our hopes and dreams. We were gentle, kind and supportive. We lifted each other high and a week later my cup still feels full.
Running a small business is often a lonely affair. Now please don’t mistake me, most of the time I’m thoroughly happy sat in my studio with only the dogs for company. I have purposely chosen to maintain my business and grow in a particular way in order to ensure that other than occasional teenage help, (and thank heavens for helpful teens), I can avoid having to employ anyone else. I like my own company. I dislike telling people what to do. I like to listen to Radio 4, a lot, but can see that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea. That would awkward. Imagine the deadly silence that might occur if a team member suggested an alternative radio station. And all of us armed with scissors! It could end so badly.
I’m also kind of messy in my studio but I would feel obliged to be less messy if other people were in there. This would lead to my frantically stashing mess out of sight before anyone arrived for a day’s work and then I would be unable to remember where such and such a thing had been stashed. This would lead to me suspecting someone else of putting such and such a thing in the wrong place and a bad feeling would hang over us all.
However, when all is said and done …. there are times when the company of like-minded souls is beneficial, in fact down right necessary. Mr L is entirely amazing at listening to my rambles and offers great advice but I’m exceptionally bad at taking advice from my Mr L and there are some things he just doesn’t quite get. His corners of the Internet are different to mine. We don’t ‘know’ the same people and our working worlds are miles apart.
I learned early on in my business just how good it can be to get together with people on a similar journey. People who ‘get it’. So when Jane of Snapdragon Studio suggested that myself and Vanessa of The Simpson Sisters plan a DIY business retreat together, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Vanessa found us a wonderful location – a converted gramophone needle factory called The Music Mill in the Derbyshire Peak District. It had the space we needed to spread out in, soft pillows and the most comfortable of beds. Excellent food in walking distance. We liked The Bank House so much we went there two nights in a row.
And from the moment we walked through those big barn doors together we started talking and sharing. It was the easiest of meetings. We sparked ideas, gained clarity and laughed. We laughed a lot. I’ve come back with such a clear idea of what I want to do next and the first stepping-stones to get there have been laid. More than that, I have two friends who are quietly cheering me from the sidelines, friends I can rely on for feedback and support along the way and who hopefully I can offer the same in return. A team of sorts. But one that doesn’t require you to tidy your studio or switch radio channels.
Some Retreat Resources
Jenny Pace offers amazing business retreats – fully catered (exceptionally catered) in luxury surroundings. Jenny brings people together in a gentle, supportive atmosphere and offers guidance and experience. I’ve been twice and I think the fact that so many attendees return speaks volumes.
If you want to take the DIY route, as we did this time, then I recommend finding a location that offers plenty of pockets of space. It’s really helpful to be together without being on top of each other. We didn’t follow a particular agenda but we did take time to sit around the table together for some definite business discussion. Taking turns to talk through specific things we wanted to get feedback on. Of course the great thing about being together for a couple of days means that these topics are gently threaded throughout your time together. So there is an opportunity to mull and contemplate. To follow-up on thoughts and unravel knots. This is where the real magic happened, those gentle conversations about and around our subjects. Having the time to ponder.
We stayed in The Music Mill.
We ate at The Bank House