Miami, 2017

Eric, Brandon, Aaron, Spenser, Carson, Laura, David, Danielle, Valerie, Odalis,
Luke, Cameron, Tom, Steve, Gabby, & Nic

In January 2017 the Knack team embarked on their 3rd corporate retreat to sunny Miami.
This is what happened.

Vital Stats

Who: 17 Knacksters

What: Our 3rd corporate retreat

Where: Miami, Florida

When: January, 2017

Why: Sometimes we like to get together in person to do normal human things.

Total miles traveled to get there: 23,087

Total cups of coffee drank: 124

Total # of sweaters worn: 1 (Luke is always cold, even in Miami's tropical weather)

Fastest Pictionairy win: 17 seconds for "yeti"

Welcome to Miami

Winter retreat requirements: sunny and warm. Check and check.

The Rooks

Meeting everyone truly felt easy. We work together so closely and “see” each other often, so it felt like we just picked up where we had left off!

Retreats are the perfect tool for onboarding new teammates: a concentrated time of getting to know the team in both a work environment as well as just having fun and sharing experiences.

This was especially important for Miami. Our team size had almost doubled since our last one, so the “rooks” represented almost half our team. Our goal was for each rook to feel as much of a part of Knack as Eric and I.

We tried a few things to help: we sent the rooks down a day early for an opening dinner where we could share our team history; we encouraged them to share their stories over our team dinners; and we recounted some of the vet’s highlights to get everyone up to speed on the always important inside jokes.

Ultimately, we trusted our team to do the hard work for us. We knew that just sharing time together would be the best way to pull everyone together. We saw this with each new hire during our remote hangouts and knew that it would be accelerated in person.

In the end, everyone came together without a hitch. We don’t see any rooks or vets anymore; we’re all simply team Knack.

Laura and I ended up arriving in at FLL around the same time (I was coming in from San Francisco and she was arriving from Salt Lake City) and we were able to track each other down and carpool to the retreat house in Miami. On our way through downtown Miami, we got stuck in rush hour traffic while the rest of the team was about to head to the restaurant so we through an audible and went directly to Peacock Garden Cafe early. We brought our giant bags with us and hit up the bar while we waited for everyone else to arrive.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when everyone arrive, but about one and a half drinks in, the rest of the crew showed up and we got taken to a private room in the back of the venue. The group consisted of the founding team, as well as all the team members that had been Hired after the last retreat (about 6 of us newbies in total). The dinner at the Peacock was a great way to gain some historical context on the company and an opportunity to meet some of those folks that you’ve worked with online for months, but had never seen in real life.

During the dinner, we were able to cut loose and wind down from the long day of traveling that had all brought us to Miami. The founding team told us the story of how Knack started and how it’s turned into what it is now. We also got a chance to talk about self-driving cars, raw fish, and the owner of the establishment gave us a thorough historical breakdown of the restaurant and it’s (seemingly tenuous) relation to Jim Morrison.

Overall, it was a great way to get introduced to the team and settle down in the city we’d be spending the next few days in.

Work

We placed a greater emphasis on work sessions during this retreat, complete with agendas, teams, and presentations.

Our team sessions were a great opportunity to discuss the future of Knack and the roles we would would play in it. I loved getting the chance to step back from the daily grind to brainstorm about big picture goals and how we could go about achieving those.

And not just about the product, but also what kind of company we want to build. Sitting together in the hot tub on our last night, we talked about how growing our company could affect our culture. The impromptu session wasn’t just business, it was personal. Which I think is amazing when you consider how rarely a company’s direction is influenced by more than the bottom line.

I was left in awe at how everyone’s input was valued and carefully considered. I think that’s why it feels like we’re all making a real impact on the company and our customers. Add to that the limitless potential that our product has and I’m reminded of why I chose to come work at Knack.

Excitement tank topped off.

Our work sessions were really focused and this felt like the most productive retreat yet. We came away with tons of great ideas.
It was like six months of meetings, lunches and happy hours crammed into four days.
Being a new team member, it was really inspiring for me to see the dedication of the team and where everyone wants to take Knack.

Connecting with customers

Visiting the Miami Dolphins and seeing Knack in the wild was a great way to emphasize our retreat theme of focusing on our customers.

As a remote team offering a software solution, we don’t find ourselves directly in front of our customers very often (well...ever, really).

We want to start changing that, and decided to start when an opportunity came up to visit one of our customers on location, the Miami Dolphins.

Our visit turned out to be nothing short of spectacular. Aryel (Manager, Creative Production) was an extremely gracious host and the private tour of Hard Rock stadium was great, but honestly, the best part of the visit was talking with Aryel and his team about Knack.

We met each of the staff, saw how they are using Knack in their day to day operations and learned exactly how the Knack is impacting their business. They shared how deeply important Knack is to their operations and how hard it was to find a solution that worked for them.

For us, this is what it is all about. We saw firsthand the impact Knack can make when it solves real problems. The highlight was seeing Knack on their screens; a vision realized.

Play

Every retreat makes me more grateful for the friends that make Knack the amazing "workplace" it is.
Our everglades excursion began with great instructions: “Please take a seat anywhere except the front row”.
My favorite retreat tradition? To mercilessly thrash Steve in ping-pong.
Being the newest member, getting to experience the more human side of each of my new teammates was invaluable. There are many facets of a person you just miss out on in a remote setting.

Team

One of the best things about our team retreats is the chance to get to know one another on a deeper level. My favorite way to do this is our team dinners.

Ever since our first retreat in Puerto Rico we've used our dinners to have each team member give a detailed story of how he or she got to Knack. Brandon calls them "Better know a Knackster" and likes to preface these by saying that we don’t want the LinkedIn version — we want the unpolished, off-the-cuff one.

These stories can start anywhere, but often begin in childhood and with someone’s first taste of technology. We get to discover our commonalities, from discovering we played the same computer games as kids to realizing that a surprising number of us (four!) have been hit by cars.

The things we don’t have in common have proven just as exciting, like finding out Sam was mistaken for a spy while he was teaching English in Russia.

At one point during his story, another of our newer team members admitted that he was surprised to find a company who wanted to know who he is as a person, not just as an employee. That reaction is understandable -- before Knack, I can’t say I’d ever been asked to give my colleagues a detailed, unedited life story, with an emphasis on any unusual anecdotes. But now that seems entirely natural.

After all, that personal touch, that attention to and care for people -- to me, that’s Knack.

Game nights are always a great way to find out who's sneaky competitive. I will always carry a resentment toward yetis.
Don't let anyone tell you that I can't draw a yeti.
Company bonding exercises, Knack style.

The Vets

I was the first to discover the band. I thought I heard music and as soon as I opened the door I was extremely confused. I thought these guys had the wrong house or something. The nearest person was David and he wouldn’t believe me.
I assumed the super loud music was Nic jamming out. He comes back into the house and says, “There’s a freaking band in our backyard!” I didn't believe him, but walked out the back door, saw the band, and my jaw hit floor.
I was behind everyone and thought they just decided to crank up the tunes and jam out. Then I think my actual words were “what the #@*!!?”

We've always held the long view at Knack -- we want to build something that will make a lasting impact.

It's taken us a while to get to this point, and it hasn't always been easy. We're here today only because each early employee was crazy enough to join us. Everyone realized it would take some sacrifice, but made that trade-off because they believed in what we're doing. That loyalty is special, and means everything to us.

Much like we brought up our rookies early, we wanted our vets to stick around an extra day. We let them know we wanted to do a send-off dinner.

What we didn't tell them was we also hired a band to be playing at our house when we got back.

The music was phenomenal - they were a local Cuban band that played authentic Cuban/latin jazz. A bartender serving tropical drinks was the bonus.

It was a great suprise and I used the opportunity to formally thank everyone: for their loyalty, for sticking around when things haven't been easy, and for being such an awesome team.

What's next?

Our team size almost doubled since our last retreat and we didn't skip a beat. What excites me most about our future is seeing what we're able to build as a result of that growth. We've got twice the passion and twice the brawn! The possibilities truly feel endless.