We spoke to Michael Fitzpatrick, Managing Director of Inch House, Ireland, to learn all about hosting team-building weekends. Discover how to expand your hospitality business and offer corporate getaways.
For the last few months, the nation has been slowly crawling out of COVID’s shadow.
The different stages of exiting a national lockdown have, so far, all gone to plan.
Since our last issue released in April, pubs, restaurants and accommodation providers have reopened, welcoming back their guests with open arms.
But as the hospitality sector gets back into the swing of things, it also means the general public are leaving their makeshift studies and returning to offices up and down the country.
With the return to offices, many companies will be jumping at the chance to get everyone up to speed with the latest codes of conduct, health and safety measures, office ethics and more.
After spending so long on furlough or working remotely, returning to work would also mean getting reacquainted with colleagues and introducing the ‘newbies’.
This is where you come in.
Why should employees have to sit through powerpoint after powerpoint? BnBs, hotels, AirBnBs, glamping sites, and so many other types of accommodation providers are perfect venues for engaging a company’s workforce.
Indoor and outdoor activities are a great way for corporate groups to learn the company’s core values, and by providing activities designed to highlight communication skills, leadership and problem solving, you may find you’re the perfect place for a corporate team-building weekend.
But where do you even start? What do you need to do to provide a brilliant team building getaway?
We spoke to the Managing Director of Inch House Ireland, Michael Fitzpatrick, who is no stranger to hosting corporate team-building weekends.
“A lot of country properties offer team building events, but we stand out because we’re boutique and we’re the only B&B/guest house that does this,” said Michael.
About Inch House Ireland
The original cottage of Inch House was originally built in 1702 and expanded in 1820, followed by another extension in the late 90’s.
With eight bedrooms, the house has a maximum occupancy of 20 guests, but an additional 10 can be hosted in tents.
Managing Director, Michael Fitzpatrick, said: “We started renovations in 2016 and we launched in 2018.
“We originally started off as an AirBnB with three rooms, then we developed it over time, extending and renovating each room as we went along.”
Inch House then decided to diversify, move to booking.com and rent room by room.
"We stand out because we are the only B&B/ Guesthouse that offers team building weekends."
“We then discovered that we were getting a lot of corporate clients. So we decided that we were going to do team-building events over a weekend to help expand our horizons,” said Michael.
Due to COVID safety measures, Michael explained Inch House has returned to exclusive house rentals.
“The team building events are with a whole house rental now,” he said.
“It’s something that a lot of people were asking about. Companies were reaching out and asking if we did any team-building events and can they have an event in the courtyard and stuff like that.”
So, where do you start?
One element of a corporate team-building weekend that will make you stand out to potential clients, are what activities you have on offer.
There are different ways you could run activities and you need to decide how you want to do it.
Do you want all the activities onsite?
Do you want to offer excursions?
Do you want an external company to run an activity for you?
Or do you want to run it yourself?
However you decide to run the activities, it’s always a good idea to research what’s available in your local area and forge relationships with those businesses.
Michael said: “You’ll have to network and build up some contacts with team-building activity providers.
“Just contact people. Go and email them. Call them.”
He added: “I would recommend going to see people and chat with them face to face, but with COVID that may not be possible. But if it is something you can do face to face, it’s a great way to bounce ideas off each other.
“They might say something you haven’t thought of before and it’s actually a great idea that you can use.”
After networking with different people and researching what’s available, how do you decide which activities to go for in the end?
What works well at corporate team-building events?
“We always look for something different, something vibrant,” said Michael.
“It should be fun too. I think ‘fun’ is probably the main word in all of this because a team-building weekend is all about camaraderie and having fun.
“Maybe someone is scared of something on that activity, but everyone else, like their colleagues who are taking part, will be like ‘It’s okay, come on, you can do it!’ or ‘Look, I’m doing it with you, let's get through it together!’
“It’s all about that element of camaraderie which makes the activity useful and beneficial.”
If you’re struggling for ideas on which activities may work for you, both archery and falconry are very popular at Inch House.
Despite being more relaxed than the muddy, outward bound activities that may initially come to mind when you think of team-building,
Michael said they are great at getting people out of their shells.
“It’s quite a relaxed environment,” he said.
“Some people might be a little bit nervous doing falconry and holding a bird for example. But it just gets people out of their comfort zone and after that, they feel like they can tackle a lot of other things because they pushed themselves to do that.”
He added: “Archery is a good one too. They will probably miss a good few times, but it’s fun and that’s what’s important. They can all have a laugh and enjoy it.”
When deciding on what activities to offer on team-building weekends, Michael stressed that it’s not always about the activity itself.
"We always look for something different, something vibrant."
“It’s about getting the team together and having fun together, doing something outside of their normal work environment,” he said.
“They’re not there to talk about monthly reports and it can often just be about getting out of the office. It’s not the same as going for a drink after work. It’s a very different structure in a very different environment and they can learn a lot more about each other.”
Inch House uses external companies for both the archery and falconry activities, but the companies come and run the activities onsite.
“There’s different ways we can do it,” said Michael.
“We can find external people to run team-building activities for them, or they can bring their own ideas and we just host the event at our property.”
Clients also have the opportunity to stay at Inch House, but go out on excursions for their team-building activities. There are plenty of local companies offering activities such as yoga, laser tag, kayaking, Japanese garden tours and more.
Michael said: “It all depends on what they want to do. If they have an idea that they throw at us, I’m just like, ‘Okay, let’s try and make this work,’ because we can be quite flexible and try to make everything possible for them.”
10 ACTIVITY IDEAS FOR TEAM BUILDING WEEKENDS
- Adventure courses
- Farm day
- Treasure hunt
- Escape rooms
- Comedy night
Quite often you’ll find that corporate team-building getaways take place over weekends, but there’s nothing stopping you from providing midweek team-building activities.
“I’d suggest that two or three days are generally long enough,” said Michael.
“It all depends on how intense they want it to be. They will have group dinners, afternoon teas, and other meal times together, as well as the activities themselves. Being around that many people for such a long time over such a short period can be quite challenging for some people, especially if you don’t know them very well.
“That’s why we recommend that they take a few hours out each day to just go for a walk, check in with family and friends, or whatever it is they want to do, so they can have a bit of a break.”
It’s important that you find out from the clients how intense or relaxed they want their getaway to be. You may find that three days isn’t enough!
Although all Inch House guests have access to a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, and outdoor fire pit, they may not want to cook for themselves whilst on a corporate getaway.
“For team-building events and bigger parties, we can bring in our own chef who is able to do breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner… Whatever you want really!” said Michael.
Whether you cater the whole event or only provide select meals such as breakfast, it’s important that you take care with meal times.
You don’t want them to overrun and eat into their activity time!
One of the main things Michael stresses the importance of, is talking to your clients to find out what they want out of their stay with you.
“Talk to them. They might say something totally different that you never even thought of, but it’s actually a great idea,” said Michael.
It’s also important that you are using the right platforms for your audience.
“For corporate team-building events you’re looking at the likes of LinkedIn and possibly people who are aged 40 plus. But on the flip side, there’s the younger audience who are more likely to use Facebook and Instagram,” he said.
“So you have two very different demographics, on entirely different platforms, looking for entirely different things concerning team-building getaways.”
There’s also plenty of free, online tools that you can use to market your team-building getaways.
Michael said: “There’s plenty of free editing apps and a lot of YouTube resources out there showing you how to figure out your target audience and how to market to them correctly.
“Spend some time watching free videos and trying free apps. You have to knuckle down and really put the time and effort into it. I would definitely recommend watching some YouTube videos.”
He added: “But you can also listen to your friends and family. Ring them up and ask them what they think about this activity or that activity, or ‘do you think our audience would like this?’ and so on.
“Asking friends and family can be very helpful. You’re sitting in, looking out. They have a different perspective and might think of other ideas.
“Don’t be scared of being creative and don’t do what Betty next door is doing. Be different. People love different.”
When organising a team-building getaway at your venue, be confident, professional and welcoming.
"You really have to knuckle down and put the time and effort into it. Believe in yourself."
Michael said: “You have to believe in yourself. Be proud of your product. If you aren’t, you won’t believe in yourself and it won’t succeed.
“Be dynamic in your thinking and in your actions. You’ve got to put your best foot forward and be confident.”
Whether you’re new to running team-building events or you’re a dab hand at it, there are always opportunities to learn.
“Learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power,” said Michael.
“Your time is precious and when you start a business, people will keep coming up to you and asking for your help or your advice and you can often start to drift away. So make sure you value your time and use it wisely.”
He added: “It’s also important to remember not to take yourself too seriously, because life’s not that serious at the end of the day. We’ve all learnt that the hard way with COVID, so make sure you have fun.”
Michael’s final piece of advice for running team-building getaways, is to “get involved”.
“Be involved with your business! Don’t sit on your backside. Get in, get your hands dirty, get working and enjoy it. Because that’s how you succeed. By working hard,” he said.
“Work with your team. They are the pillars of your business, so build good relationships with them and be as involved as you can be.”
10 TOP TIPS FOR RUNNING TEAM BUILDING WEEKENDS
- Talk to your client for a clear idea of what they want
- Choose fun & vibrant activities to get people out of their comfort zone
- Liaise with local businesses who can provide activities on-site
- Research offsite activities too so guests can also explore the local area
- Know your target audience
- Find out how intense the group wants the weekend to be
- Learn as much as you can to improve your business
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from family and friends for a different perspective
- Be confident and proud of your product
- Have fun