Mary’s Musings

by Mary Oquendo


hat comes to mind when you think of retreats? Is it a vision of walking barefoot across hot coals, or maybe doing yoga on the beach at some exotic location with a Mai Tai in one hand?

While a retreat can burn the bottoms of your feet to prove you’re a team player, it can also be a powerful and fun learning experience. Retreats within the grooming industry are popping up everywhere. So whether you’re planning to host your own or treat your staff to an educational getaway, it is not as intimidating as you would think, and you can get started by answering these simple questions:


Who is this retreat for?

A retreat can be anything, but it can’t be everything to everyone. Who are you tailoring the experience to? Women only, people under 30, people over 50, singles, established professionals, those new to the industry, professionals with the same specialty or interests? The more specific you get, the better you can tailor the experience.

Do you want a larger attendance or something more intimate? That alone will impact your pricing. The smaller your demographic, the less you will have to pay for marketing. Marketing is an expense of the retreat and your pricing has to include the cost of doing business, plus your time.


What is the purpose of this retreat?

Will attendees learn a specific skillset to improve their business or will the focus be on relaxation and mental health? Is it lighthearted and fun or more of a get-it-done and profound retreat? Decide ahead of time. If attendees expect fun with some education, they will be disappointed if the retreat is all work and no play. The flip side is equally important. Those expecting a working retreat will be annoyed if it’s more like a college frat party the week of finals.

What will you provide to attendees as part of the retreat? All of this needs to be added to the cost to you for the retreat. Will you bring on other instructors, and how will they be compensated?


Where will this retreat be held?

Will you be traveling to a location that needs set up sight-unseen? You will have to factor the travel cost into the retreat’s price. Is it convenient for attendees to get to, or will they have to rent cars or arrange for travel from the airport? Is it being held at a hotel with a conference center, or will attendees need to find their own lodging or rent an Airbnb? Both have pros and cons. There are also retreat centers that make it easy for you to set up all the little details needed. Your location will be one of the more significant expenses.

When will this retreat take place?

What is the local weather for the chosen dates? What possible weather problems, such as snow, heat or hurricanes, could impact your retreat? Will you schedule while the kids are in school or on vacation? Kids on vacation will increase the price of travel and accommodations. I prefer to travel when kids are in school, but people with kids might find it more challenging.

How far in advance do you have to book for your chosen location? They will want a deposit. Will the deposit come from you, or will you try to get a couple of attendees to commit financially at a better price before you offer it to the public?


Why should anyone attend your retreat?

Be clear in what you’re offering in all details—food, accommodations and the focus/goal of the retreat. If you market as a hands-on skill experience but don’t provide what’s necessary, some attendees will be angry unless you specify they need to bring supplies. Or, if you promise chef-prepared meals but provide fast food takeout, attendees will be angry. Set the expectations for your attendees. The more precise you are will help you to market to the right people. The right people coming to your retreat are the difference between happy and unhappy attendees. Remember that a retreat can be anything, but it can’t be everything to everyone.

What could have been done differently?

All attendees, as well as any supporting staff, should be given an evaluation form. Know what went well and where you could have done better. Problems will occur—that’s a given. Learn from your mistakes to provide a better experience the next time you set up or attend a retreat.

While I’m sure some large companies are still making their employees walk over hot coals, doing their best to bolster the burn cream industry, today’s retreats can be an incredible and fun way to create an impact in our industry and offer a unique learning experience.