Happy August! Now that summer is winding down, we’re thinking about back-to-school—and specifically, to college. This month, we’re talking about a new trend we’ve been seeing lately: Families taking special trips with their college-bound kids. And speaking of bonding travel, we’re also highlighting our recent retreat in Puerto Rico—including our top hosting tips. And finally, rounding out this edition is a great Q&A with Qatar Airways, which was recently honored with the distinction of “World’s Best Airline.” We hope the rest of your summer is fun and relaxing!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
Sure, there are lots of ways for colleagues to connect, but one we particularly love: A retreat. In fact, F1S hosts two team gatherings a year: One, usually in January, is more business-minded, while the second, usually in the summer, is all about fun.
“To me, the second one is actually the one that I look forward to every year because we’re able to really come together, to learn more about each other, and bond and integrate,” says Fernando Gonzalez, co-founder and CEO of First in Service.
This year, about 60 F1S team members from around the world headed to the El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico for a weekend in July. The destination itself was chosen mindfully: “We went to Puerto Rico not only because we wanted to host the retreat in a beautiful place, but we wanted to go to a destination where we could highlight the tourism.” After the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria and other issues, visiting with the entire team was a chance to showcase some of the great amenities the country has to offer—and help put it back on people’s radars. “As a destination, it is culturally rich, there’s amazing food, and the people are wonderful,” says Gonzalez.
And the team had an amazing time. They took salsa lessons—there was lots of dancing, says Gonzalez—enjoyed great meals and spent hours in the ocean. “I can’t remember the last time, even as a child, that I spent hours in the ocean,” he says. Gonzalez calls the El San Juan Hotel, which has been a mainstay on the island for over 60 years, the “grand dame of Puerto Rico”—a festive place with lots of wonderful energy, particularly when it comes to music and food.
But the highlight for Gonzalez? The annual F1S volleyball tournament. “It encapsulated the whole spirit of why we were there: teamwork, fun and collaboration.” And his daughter, Sofia, took home the MVP award.
While there, the team also came together to make a donation to the Ricky Martin Foundation (Martin is an F1S client), which has done significant work in the country since Hurricane Maria hit back in 2017.
So why does Gonzalez feel these types of retreats are important? “I think many companies have the perspective and mentality of business versus pleasure. For First in Service, we don’t have that division. Our company is our people. It is a family. And sometimes, we have to step out of the day-to-day to be able to enjoy one another, get to know one another and reconnect as individuals,” he explains. “And that’s why it’s so important: It’s a chance to get out of the workplace, away from the computer and come together and understand one another as human beings. That is what unites any team and that is why any successful organization should make time to have a retreat; to step out of their comfort zone and share with one another on a personal level. That transcends to the day to day of business and it helps create better communication and more camaraderie.”
Here, he offers a few must-know tips for hosting a retreat:
Consider an all-inclusive resort. Having everyone stay in the same place, together, without having to leave the hotel for meals and other activities is a great time. “It allows for everyone to stay focused on one another,” he says.
Put together a great agenda. Whether the retreat is for a day or a week, it’s important to have a variety of activities for guests to take part in—as well as some downtime built in. “The sun is always a positive place,” says Gonzalez. “Ocean, pools—and then be sure to include some physical activity. We love dancing, of course, as well as our volleyball tournament.”
Work with an advisor. Putting together this type of event is no small task and working with an agency can ensure it all goes smoothly. “It takes a lot of resources, so I recommend working with a professional to maximize your time and money,” he says.