The Cone Workation: From a Founder and CEO Point of View
July 2018 marked Cone’s first ‘workation’.
Collectively, we all spent a week away in Barcelona to connect, come together and share our ideas and thoughts on how we can improve our client’s lives, our own self-development and Cone as a company.
For some context, if you haven’t come across us before, Cone is a 100% cloud accounting practice but the biggest difference is we are entirely remote. Not just ‘home working’ but an entirely remote team. It’s something that not many other accounting companies do but it’s something that works really well for the entire team. I’m the Founder & CEO of Cone and we’re always looking to push the boundaries of what people perceive an accountant to be.
You can check out part 1 and part 2 of the workation series here, from other perspectives of the team;
The last 12 months have seen us take on new members of the team and we’re now a budding team of 5 and coming together for team bonding and keeping that ‘culture’ has always been my number one challenge. It’s one I feel will evolve as the team gets bigger and Cone continues to grow but it’s one that I’m passionate about and looking forward to tackling.
The idea of a workation is to bring the team together - this is especially important when 90% of the communication we have as a team is virtual via Slack and Zoom. We have monthly meetups where we do team events/nights out and we’ve found these really work. Some activities range from bowling to escape rooms, to trampoline parks and quiz nights.
It keeps things fresh and allows everyone to catch up and socialise and it all comes back to building and maintaining the culture of Cone. That this is a great place to be (hopefully) and that no one feels isolated or lonely or just a cog of the machine.
The workation is an extension of this. It was to bring everyone together so we could focus on how we could better ourselves and our clients’, from processes to just general catching up and team building exercises.
So, Barcelona was the destination for the Cone Workation 2018 so flights and hotels were booked and we all met up on 16th July 2018. We put together an itinerary beforehand which consisted of what we would be doing during the 5 days from Monday to Friday, when there was free-time, where we would be going to lunch, what activities, etc. and this was probably the engine that maintained the direction and flow while we were on the workation.
By having the itinerary, there were no wasted periods of time or aimless discussions. Everything had a purpose and there was always a “next up” - it helped to keep the structure of the workation and allowing the free-time for shopping, relaxing and of course, sunbathing!
The main thing to remember when planning the workation is that it’s just that. A workation - not a vacation. And although the term is somewhat colloquial, the workation is there for everyone on the team to come together.
All team members put together a brief slideshow on things we could do to improve or any ideas they had - it was great to see the contributions and passion behind everyone and we were able to put the majority onto our internal roadmap for the development of Cone. This was things from processes for efficiency all the way to things we could put in our welcome boxes for new clients. I loved how some of the team suggestions were eco-conscious and ways we could lower our carbon footprint, plastic use and dietary choices. It was encouraging to see that thought and care to go into the company as well.
One thing I learned is that you cannot control the uncontrollable, but you do need to be flexible and adapt on the fly. The outbound flights to Barcelona were delayed on the runway for 2 hours and so this pushed the Monday itinerary back a little bit but the beauty of the entire schedule was that it was flexible with buffers to allow for time overflows or things we finished quicker.
The free time was vital as well - Wednesday afternoon the team had to themselves to go off and do what they wanted - grab lunch, see the sights, explore Barcelona. There were other pockets of time during the trip but this was the main slot as after 12pm, they had the rest of the day to themselves. It was great to hear what everyone got up to and that moment to recharge and do your own thing went down really well.
Thankfully, not much went wrong other than that initial flight delay. The weather was perfect - sunny and 29 celsius and the itinerary kept everything within a timetable so there was no confusion or wasted time.
The biggest challenge was ensuring the company ran while we were all offline. Client queries, phone calls, training sessions, even sales calls and development time were put on hold. This happens the rest of the year. But this week was for us as a team to come together and focus on how we can improve and what to work on.
A scary task was putting the out-of-offices on for EVERYONE. No one was left back home to man the emails and phones. This was an event we had prepped our clients for and the out of office was there to notify anyone that we were on our workation and anything urgent would get picked up but otherwise, it would be attended to when we were back the following Monday.
We had no major issues on this front and no disruptions to service. There were some slots on the itinerary to check in on the emails to check there wasn’t any crisis happening back home but other than that, our clients were very understanding and supportive and most, if not all queries, were picked up when we were back the following Monday.
Would we do it again? Absolutely. In fact we’re already planning the 2019 Cone Workation as I write this and it comes with it’s own set of challenges. What do we do about new hires after booking? How do we continue to scale this? What destination and format will we be doing? What time of year works best? (so many factors in terms of pricing, weather, navigating busy periods, etc.) I’ll be sure to follow up with another post on how we get on with this.
About the author
Ben Nacca is an accountant but is nothing like the stereotype you have visualised in your mind! He has worked in the accounting industry for almost a decade and is CEO here at Cone.
Ben loves travelling the world, playing video games and playing his acoustic guitar whenever he finds the time between spending time with his two chihuahuas, Hugo and Pablo!