Award Consulting is a remote team. Very remote. Since I started the company in 2016 the only team member I had seen in person was Stephen Denny. That’s one person (5 years ago) out of a team of eight people. That’s… not great.
But that all changed on May 18 when (almost) the entire team gathered for our first ever team retreat. We picked the Bavarian-themed mountain town of Helen, Georgia (for no particular reason) and traveled from all across the country to hang out in a cabin I’d rented on AirBnB for a few days.
We chatted about our business, the industry and what’s going on with our clients. We took time for some technical training, and some of us hiked and zip-lined through the forest. And we all ate good food.
In this article I’d like to share the most useful conclusions from our time together – which will hopefully be useful whether your team is fully in the office or remote like ours.
New technical services
I asked everyone what needs they saw among our client base, and they came up with the following list.
- Calix support and services
- Microsoft Teams integrations
- IP networking
- Helping folks set up virtual deployments
We have some expertise in all these areas, but there was a consensus that we should build our skills and our service offerings because that’s what you, our clients need.
Fax is not a solved problem
You’ve heard me moan about faxes before, and there was consensus among the team that we need to do better in this area. If someone’s having fax problems on a VoIP network we certainly have suggestions for what can be done, but we need to come up with a clear set of best practices that can reliably be used to make fax work – because right now we’re not excelling in this area. We now have a side-project to work on this, and we’ll share the results once we are confident in what we’ve found.
Unity of vision is important
One of the problems with most business leaders (myself included) is that we get easily excited by new ideas, and so I arrived at our team meeting with a variety of suggestions for outlandish new things we could try as a company. But my team used my own words against me. “You said this business was about providing a reliable, enjoyable working environment where we can focus on doing excellent work for our clients. So why do you want to mess that up with all these crazy ideas?”
Oh. Good point. It turns out that if you keep your core values front and center, it’s much easier to make the right decisions for the business.
The telecoms industry is evolving… but slowly
There’s a lot of chatter in the industry (and among our team) about the future.
- What impact does Microsoft Teams have?
- What about the hardware end-of-life announcements?
- Will all voice traffic move to SIP soon?
- Can we move the switch into the cloud?
- Does voice even matter any more?
There are certainly some important trends that we should keep an eye on, but the telecoms industry never moves particularly quickly, so even as we explore new areas we’re still going to have a strong focus helping ILECs with voice on the Metaswitch platform.
Even remote teams can have a strong culture
Perhaps my most important realization from the trip was that our team already knew each other really well. We all know that video conferencing is not perfect, but when you meet on camera for 30 minutes every day you can absolutely build relationships. Meeting in person was definitely beneficial, but it wasn’t shocking. Everyone felt familiar and comfortable, because we already have a strong culture, we already know each other really well – and that comes from spending time together regularly.
Look! A bear!
And finally, check out this bear that wandered past our front door. Sadly no-one noticed it, but the property owner sent us a video from the doorbell camera. Very cool.
Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this somewhat inside-baseball article. I guess my biggest question for you is this. What do you think of the list of new technical services above? Do you have a particular need for any of those items? Is there anything missing from that list that you wish we could help you with? Send me a message with your thoughts.