This July, the Rome2rio team put down tools and headed north for our 5th annual company retreat. This time we took the retreat to a new level and went international; travelling to Bali where we spent the week at the luxurious Peppers villas in Seminyak.
This was the second retreat under the new format that consists of a variety of talks and workshops. In between productive sessions the team had plenty of time to explore the beaches, restaurants, bars, and spas that Bali has to offer.
Some of the highlights of the retreat itself included:
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
SWOT and team planning sessions that brought the team together and gave everyone a chance to discuss where we are as a product and business, where we need to go, what works well, and what we could improve. We covered a variety of topics including our team culture and processes, upcoming major projects, new hires, and our overall mission and values. We discussed our mobile apps, user engagement and stickiness, quality assurance, recruiting processes, integrations, and our core product and user experience.
User feedback and relevance testing
The retreat is always a good chance to focus on our users and spend some time studying their feedback. Justin, our head of customer experience, ran a workshop where team members spent time reading and responding to user queries.
We also ran our relevance testing exercise, where the quality of our search results is closely studied using sample queries drawn from our user logs. The team divided up into groups and focused on different part of the product; transport data quality, search routing accuracy, estimated pricing accuracy, and live schedules coverage. The results are used to help drive priorities going forwards.
During our planning sessions, our COO Kirsteene (KP) ran a workshop on our company values. It was interesting to see what values our team members hold dear. The four most common themes were:
1) Transparency, openness and honesty: We apply the default open philosophy both internally and externally (including this blog).
2) Fun and flexible: We try to be as flexible as practical around office hours and ways of working, and make coming to work both fun and productive.
3) Innovative, scientific and learning: As a start-up we need to be innovative and be comfortable that we are often figuring stuff out. We have always had a rather experimental element to our culture.
4) User centric, search first: Our team are passionate about Rome2rio as a product, and offering our users a great experience. Our multi-modal search is the core of what we do, and we need to keep investing in it.
Revenue versus product
One theme that did come up a few times at the retreat was the tension between revenue and user experience. Some of Rome2rio’s major revenue sources, such as on-site display advertising and promotions for up-sell opportunities such as hotels can detriment the site’s overall user experience.
As new revenue opportunities arise, the trade off against UX needs to be assessed. We are endeavouring to socialize these decisions as much as possible within the team.
On a lighter note, we all enjoyed Tom Hubble’s presentation about his much hyped creation, Lunch Bot 3000 V.2 Type S Whipsnake Edition. Rome2rio provides a team lunch at a nearby Richmond restaurant or cafe every Tuesday. Since the team grew too large to fit into a single restaurant last year, we have been dividing the team into three or four random groups each week.
Tom’s tool scrapes Rome2rio’s About Us page, extracts all team member names and profile pictures, and assigns them into random lunch groups.
As we reflect on another very successful retreat, we do worry about the high bar that we have set for delivering an even better retreat in 2018. With a team 50 to 60 likely next year, the event will need to evolve and may include parallel sessions based on departments or dividing topics for new and experienced members of the team.
We may just need to retreat to somewhere unexciting like Launceston or Wagga Wagga to reset expectations. 🙂