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A Retrium retrospective: 2021 in review

Retrium Team

This time of year, we all start to slow down and retrospect 😉 on the past year. We think about the challenges we’ve overcome, the opportunities we’ve realized, and the many things we’re thankful for from the past 12 months. As we think about 2021, we wanted to share some of what’s made this trip around the sun so remarkable. 

Thankful for our growth 

Let’s start with some of the biggest news of the year. We made the list of Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America! 

We were ecstatic to be ranked 809th after experiencing a three-year revenue growth of 600%. 🎉🥳 That is absolutely because of the support of our amazing customers. We are lucky to have some of the best customers and we love hearing about the experiences of teams around the world that use Retrium to continuously improve. 

This growth allowed us to better serve our customers and add new team members! In fact, Team Retrium has grown by almost 20% in the last twelve months! Including two new Retrium advisors, Diana Larsen and Esther Derby, two people that literally wrote the book on retrospectives. This influx of new perspectives has been invaluable in helping Retrium’s success both as a company and as a culture. 

Thankful for our health 

Sometimes, exponential growth (like 600%) comes at the expense of the team’s mental and physical health. Combined with the additional stressors we’ve all experienced due to COVID-19, we needed a break. After all, work without reflection leads to stagnation and teammates without wellness leads to burnout. 

In one of our own retrospectives, we learned that people had taken less time off than ever before. With shutdowns closing vacation destinations, and the ever-growing list of things for a scaling business to do, many had foregone their vacation to just stay and work. 

So, how can we help our team feel more comfortable taking time off to do whatever they want? 

We shut down for a week. 

May 24th marked the start of Retrium’s 1st Annual Wellness Week. What does that mean? All of Retrium took a full week to do something that helped us focus on our wellness. Maybe it was going to dinner with a partner. Maybe it was working on a project in your house. Maybe it was getting a massage. Regardless of the action, each of us was able to take a real break to recharge, relax, and reflect.

“We recognize that this past year has been difficult in so many ways, and we want to thank everyone for their hard work and dedication. We know that we can’t do great work if we can’t be our best selves. So we prioritized the health and happiness of the team. ” 
- Co-founder and CEO David Horowitz

This prioritization of health and happiness has been a standard for Retrium since its inception in 2015 as a fully remote company. We want to provide an opportunity for people to work in the environment that works best for them. 

And we aren’t alone! Outside Magazine named us as one of The 50 Best Places to Work in 2021. We are thankful to be included in the growing number of companies that are prioritizing health, and learning the benefits it can bring.

Thankful for new ideas and new features 

With updates for improved performance and user experience, 2021 has brought in new features, like wrap-up and the technique picker, and completely new techniques such as Customizable Retrospectives and our newest Root Cause Analysis Retro, Fishbone! Users can go beyond project issues like never before and can address issues affecting- not just the individual team- but the entire organization. It has never been easier for Retrium users to collaborate across teams to create online retrospectives that examine morale, efficiency, productivity, and any overarching issues.  

Thankful for rest

You know that sensation when you can feel your brain struggling to process? You read the same sentence 5 times in a row, and you still don’t know what it said. Unless you are one of the google web crawlers, you probably have. And while we like to think we are pretty awesome, even our brains can get a little mushy at times. You just need a break. And after our product team released the innovative online fishbone retrospective, they deserved a ‘brain break.’

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for them to do whatever they needed to ‘hit refresh’ to prevent those feelings of burnout from happening.”
- Co-founder and CTO Ryan Detweiler

Two full days for members of the product team to do whatever they needed to feel productive in their space. For some, that meant working on features and code that they had never had time to work on. For others, it was brainstorming completely new ideas for the product. For others, it was two days without Slack. When people returned for standup on Monday, they were ready to face the week ahead.

“The whole team really enjoyed the break, it helped the team feel refreshed. I got comments like ‘I really needed that time to get my brain back online.’ In addition to the rest, we also got some great new ideas for the product and company culture. Absolutely worth the time. ”
- Product Manager Amanda Wang

Thankful for continuous improvement & learning 

Director of Digital Marketing sitting at Digital Summit
Director of Digital Marketing, Josh Weingart, sitting at Digital Summit

As a fully distributed team, it isn’t every day that we get to meet in person. But this year saw a return to in-person events, including the Digital Summit in Raleigh for a two-day conference. We were excited for the opportunity to improve our knowledge and take the time to brainstorm on how we can create a better experience for the Retrium community. As well as enjoy some of the highlights of Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Pro-tip: if you ever go to Bida Manda, Marketing Associate Alecia, swears by the Crispy Pork Belly Soup.

Thankful to be together

Building camaraderie and understanding is integral to creating a psychologically safe environment. And while some companies insist that you need to be in an office for this type of team building, we have to disagree. While it may take more planning, and a little logistical help now and then, you can create a social environment where people can learn about each other and feel comfortable asking questions and brainstorming new ideas. Whether that be through Slack channels (we have one for most conceivable hobbies), or through scheduled weekly activities like online game tournaments or presentations on personal interests. 

One of the most valuable social events is the annual Retrium Retreat. While originally a traveling event where the entire company met in a specific location, we went virtual in 2020 and chose to go virtual again this year. 

The retreat provides us a chance to learn new information about our co-worker’s personal hopes and aspirations, as well as indulge in some friendly competition. This year consisted of six primary events, each one helping our team better understand how to work together and new ways to focus on something other than work. 

We are especially thankful to the amazing vendors that helped make the retreat possible!

Origami Square created in lesson with Ben Friesen of Taros Origami
Origami Square created in lesson with Ben Friesen of Taros Origami

An Escape Room - Shout out to The Escape Game for helping us uncover the thief!

Murder Mystery - Special thanks to Red Herring Games for helping us solve the mystery. 

Cooking Class - A particularly special thanks to Chef David Lang and Rachel Lang! Particularly for the pecan bar recipe!😋 

Tai chi - A lesson from our very own, Product Manager and Tai chi Instructor, Amanda Wang. 

Origami lessons - Thanks to Ben Friesen of Taros Origami for teaching us how to bend turn the page 

Lego Building - Our inner child was thankful, even if our toes were a bit fearful. 

Thankful for what’s to come 

There is an interesting point that happens during each team member’s journey at Retrium. At some point, after hearing about all the ways we prioritize physical and mental health, a friend or family member will say, “They prioritize fun and mental wellness a lot. How do they get work done?”

Our answer? Easily. We are constantly evaluating what needs to happen and how we can work smarter, faster, better. That is kind of our thing. 

But more than being vigilant for inefficiencies, studies have shown that employees that are burnt out experience lower productivity and are more susceptible to illness. Burnout can also affect overall mental health and ability to communicate effectively.

We have been able to create a safe and fun working environment while still experiencing over 600% growth. Why would we so highly prioritize mental wellness and fun? Why wouldn’t we? 

We have an amazing opportunity to help teams reach their full potential and better face whatever challenges they may encounter. A mission we try to model here at Retrium every day. 

Above all, we are thankful for this opportunity, and for a chance to see all the opportunities to come in 2022. 

Team Retrium
Team Retrium

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