Why every company should consider spending 1 month a year in Mexico.
We just returned from a magical month in Mexico. The whole Holstee team relocated for most of February. The first two weeks we spent in the beautiful city of Oaxaca working from the Hub Oaxaca, then we relocated to a house directly on the beach, in the middle of nowhere between Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel.
This sounds, of course, like fun. But then again, the whole trip cost us slightly over $10k in flights, accommodation and food. We weren’t at the “office” for a whole month. Our team was separated from their families and loved ones for almost a month.
Was it worth it?
Here is why every company on the planet should consider it.
Get out of our own universe.
I believe every company is in itself a whole universe. There is a billion things we could do, should do, have to do, want to do, plan to do. At the same time there is little time and hardly any resources. It’s easy to get lost in your own universe. There is just so much to do that it can feel overwhelming. You forget to see what’s just beyond the border (literally in the case of this trip) - and what truly matters in our lives and for our company.
Spending a month in a non-familiar environment allowed me to see all our actions and ongoing behavior with some healthy distance. Often what matters most to the success of a startup can be reduced to a couple of priorities.
Breathe. Think bigger. Focus.
New York City is one of the best cities on the planet to build a new company. Why? Because so many ambitious people are there, as an international hub new people are always passing through, and there are no shortage of events that bring people and their interests together. While this is invaluable for a startup, this also means a lot of distractions. There are so many amazing people to meet, and events to attend. While being part of the NYC ecosystem is essential for us at Holstee, many projects actually got done faster and with more clarity in a remote house with intermittent internet connection to the sounds of the beach.
Being in Mexico gave us an amazing zone of no distractions (with the exception of dolphin sightings!) that allowed us to focus and get work done. As an example, we are working on publishing a book out of selected MyLife stories. I spent some days for 5 hours just reading stories. I could have never done this in NYC, I would have gotten pulled away by a meeting, a lunch, a friend in town or a million other tasks.
Mexico allowed us to breathe and think bigger. Having a month “away from it all” allowed us to talk a lot about the big picture. What otherwise happens in strategy sessions or monthly board meetings was happening all the time, in the beautiful courtyard of Cafe Brujula over cappuccino, sitting in the astonishing library of design and art in Oaxaca or taking a walk on the beach. Free from our normal context, no ideas was too big or ambitious. We are coming back with tons of new ideas and a clear roadmap for 2013.
There is, however, a significant difference between Holstee’s February in Mexico and a classical retreat. We went to get work done, not to talk about strategy. That happened as a by-product.
Take a family trip.
This is the second year in what surely will become a key Holstee tradition. And every time we come back I feel so much closer to the rest of our team. We eat together, we cook together, we brave the Mexican stomach problems together, we watch dolphins swim by our house, we drink (too much?) Mezcal. These shared experiences and memories together break the bounds of a typical coworker relationship and we become more and more a true family, with a shared vision and goals.
The reason we all work at Holstee is that we all share the values of our Manifesto, and spending a month in Mexico is clearly another “manifestation” of these values.
Thanks to Helen, Mike, Dave, Deirdre, Tom, and Cody for their inputs and revisions on this post!