Last Friday, our team piled into a couple cars and drove up to Minnewaska State Park Preserve for the start of a company day off for everyone.
While Dan and I had scheduled this well in advance, we didn’t have much of a “plan” for our Shelby road trip. I simply stuffed my backpack with lunch supplies and we set off into the woods.
No trust falls. No drum circles. No purposeful ‘team building’ exercises… We were just together… enjoying our own company, enjoying the outdoors, and doing something other than building Shelby ‘the product.’
But we were building Shelby ‘the company.’
As a company, we work well together. Respectfully, intelligently, creatively. There are no fights and no one is burning out.
So why the ‘day off?’
A few things that Dan and I have learned while building two startups and multiple products:
- Endurance is important. You can’t sprint all the time.
- It’s better to avoid burnout, than to burnout and try to recover.
- Loosely structured time together allows for great understanding and empathy to form, as well as creativity to flow.
Furthermore, one bonus lesson really stuck out to me throughout the day…
When hiking, it’s easy to fall into deep focus on each step of the trail. A loose rock here, a log there, a puddle there… and if you go too fast without looking up, before you know it, you’ve gone down the wrong trail or worse, gotten off the trail completely. If you don’t course-correct quickly, you then find yourself in a bad way, or at best, you have to backtrack eating up precious time.
So, while hiking through the woods as a big loose group, we consistently stopped to check our location, made sure everyone knew what trail to follow, and then set out at our pace together.
We slowed down, to speed up.
This is true for startups, too. We focus intensely on our product. We get an idea and we want to sprint after it. We’re builders, so we build… and while it is a great and necessary skill to build rapidly and iterate, it is imperative not to lose sight of the big picture - the trail map, if you will. This means taking careful, purposeful steps. Taking the right trail. Doing it the right way the first time, so you never have to backtrack.
I didn’t try to hammer this lesson home, but it presented itself and I was glad for it.
All lessons learned aside, we hiked up into the mountains, breathed in the fresh air, enjoyed the views, avoided some dangerous wildlife (snakes), took some pictures, and had a few minutes of pure golden silence.
On the way home, we stopped off for a surprise whiskey tasting at Tuthilltown Spirits (Henry and I were DD’s) and capped the day off with burgers by the sunset at Pier i Cafe on the Hudson River. An awesome day, with awesome people.
Sadly missing from our day off was our teammate Mark who works remotely in CA. (We poured one out for you buddy).
Some more pics below:
Team pic. Beware of Dan.
Chris in his best ‘female superhero pose.’
Sun soaked burgers and beers along the Hudson.