Building In Public: Our First Company Offsite
Being a remote-first company, we wanted to invest in a team-wide company gathering early on to be able to forge strong relationships and have an opportunity to spend time together off screens. While several Spacemates (the Ourspace demonym 😃) have worked together in past lives, for many of us it was our first time meeting in person. Our remote-native company has teammates all across Western Europe, so we gathered for a week in sunny Costa Brava with the number one objective of getting to know each other 🙌
We hope sharing our agenda can spark some ideas for your company’s offsites and team building.
What we planned for our offsite
In addition to building relationships, we also aimed to use in-person time as meaningfully as possible - starting with explicit alignment on the big stuff (vision, mission, values) and then applying that alignment to commitments as part of our broader strategy.
We set the following objectives:
- Most important—Get to know each other and enjoy time together
- Understand everyone’s "Why" for joining the Ourspace journey
- Co-create our Culture Canvas
- Ensure everyone is clear on our launch timeline and objectives
- Kickstart GTM & product projects
Co-creating our Culture Canvas
Back at our first founders offsite, we used the Culture Design Canvas template as a starting point to put our company values, purpose, and ways of working down on paper. Now that our team had grown, we wanted to ensure the entire founding team was aligned on what we stand for and how we wanted to work together. Therefore, we came up with a draft of our values, our vision statement, and our operating principles including feedback, decision-making, and prioritization principles to share and collect feedback back during our morning workshop.
Leaving the offsite, we completed our version of the culture canvas by adding our mission statement with concrete examples of how we’d leverage our values from hiring to the execution of our brand.
The most valuable part of this session was discussing how we’d operationalize these values and ensure they could guide decision-making and ways of working every single day.
Creating the building blocks for our brand identity
Before jumping into the how, we set context for how brand is not just a component of our marketing execution but a central part of our overall company strategy to which every Spacemate contributes. We very much subscribe to Simon Sinek’s call to ‘Start With Why’ as the anchor for creating long-lasting customer connections that builds congruence between our values and theirs.
To ensure all Spacemates shared a consistent understanding of how we wanted to embody our brand, we did the following exercises:
- We benchmarked what we consider the best in B2B brands
- We created brand attributes
- We outlined our brand personality
- We brainstormed and designed a potential mascot
The part we found most enriching was the diversity of disciplines involved in brand identity exercises, most notably Product, Engineering, and Design. Not only because such work is typically reserved for those in go-to-market roles…but also because our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) leans heavily toward folks in Product, Engineering, and Design. The inclusion of these perspectives has equipped us to better build our early brand with stronger language-market fit.
Going deep on our product strategy
Everyone was already onboarded onto our product strategy, but we wanted to create space for everyone to challenge our core hypotheses and understand the role we each play in bringing that strategy to life.
The goals of this session were alignment on:
- Our Ideal Customer Profile (or at least our best guess - as we’re still early and have much to validate here!)
- The 4 core Jobs to be Done that we’re solving for
- Our Product Positioning and messaging
Our biggest takeaway from this session was that we needed to improve how we articulate our core value proposition to a distinctly different buyer and user personas - and that we need to create a custom pitch for each of them. When we reflect on this, it seems kinda obvious for new B2B brands 🙈 but this exercise made the need even more clear. In our next offsite, we’d like to bring the voice of the customer directly into the room, and get their feedback on our different pitches/angles in real time!
Designing an 11-Star Experience
We aim to create a customer experience that doesn’t just meet our customers’ expectations but wows them enough to rave about it to everyone they know! We followed the lead of Airbnb Cofounder & CEO Brian Chesky and borrowed his 11 Star Experience exercise to brainstorm some initial wow-worthy ideas. Pro-tip: The #1 way to make this exercise useful (as our CEO Megan had already discovered previously): you have to throw feasibility out the window to create the conditions for unbounded creativity. And while we can’t promise Ourspace will solve your team design challenges by cloning your team members (one of our most realistic 😬11-star ideas), we did create a long list of contenders to be prioritized in our roadmap. Stay tuned!
Aligning on our GTM strategy
As our offsite was just two weeks before announcing Ourspace publicly, we wanted to ensure the entire team knew how they were best suited to contribute toward our launch plan and could openly ask questions about our marketing strategy. We feel it’s important for folks in every discipline to understand their cross-functional teammates' plans and to have the opportunity to contribute meaningfully. One specific area that we’re looking to decentralize is content creation to allow every Spacemate the opportunity to publish and contribute to our content.
Here were the dedicated sessions and workshops:
- Content 101
- Launch milestones
- Writing our team announcement
If we had an extra day? We’d have carved more space for less-structured content brainstorming, as so many great ideas came up organically throughout the week 📝🎥
All in all, it was an energizing first full-team offsite that concluded in already planning our next one at the top of 2023 🤩 As always, we did our weekly team retro and gathered learnings and insights to improve for our next offsite.
Team favorites & things to keep:
- Time spent outdoors
- Interactive workshops
- Activities to get to know each other
Things to improve for next time
- More “unscheduled co-working time”
- Have a plan for COVID (as we had someone get sick 🎈)
- Include our customers
Our collective tips from all our offsites:
- Try to go as tech-free as possible
- Don’t undervalue down-time
- Conversation cards are always a good idea: these were our favorite ones.
- Give everyone a role (This ensures the organizer doesn’t burn out and makes everyone feel more involved.)
Again, we hope this is helpful in planning your team offsite! We’re always looking to learn from others, so don’t hesitate to share your ideas with us as well 😇
Team Ourspace 🧡
P.S. Here are some fun outtakes of our team photoshoot, which proved to be more difficult to take than expected 😬