Nowadays, business meetings that bring like-minded professionals together for networking and self-improvement are a hot draw. The business convention sector of the economy accounted for $280 billion in direct spending in the United States alone in 2012. It’s always a reliable money-maker for companies and solo entrepreneurs alike. If you’re the type of hustler who likes to take the path less traveled, you can make a mint by organizing personal retreats for fellow entrepreneurs . Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide to launching your own personal retreat side business.
Perform the Necessary Market Research
Before you can formulate a business plan, you need to figure out where the demand for your product lies. Focusing on the development of personal business skills and strategic business planning is always a good way to go. You need to figure out what kinds of entrepreneurs and professionals you’d like to go after. Look at convention attendance numbers for professionals in fields like law, medicine, engineering and skilled trades like welding to get the lay of the land.
Select a Profitable Niche to Pursue
Most strategic planning retreats revolve around one group from one company getting together to talk shop. However, they don’t all have to go that way. Some can be meetings of the minds that allow solo entrepreneurs to better themselves and trade ideas. You’ll have to decide whether your personal business and strategic planning retreat is about a company, an industry or entrepreneurs in general. Furthermore, you’ll have to decide on an approach like self-improvement, team-improvement or business planning when it comes to strategy development.
Pick Out an Attractive Venue to Host
One of the big draws of your retreat will be the location. The best location depends on how you wish to present your retreat. An old summer camp in the northern Maine woods could work and be very cost effective if you play up the rural aspect. In other cases, you might want to book a real beach-side resort with all of the amenities. Be sure to plan things six months ahead of time to get the right location.
Come Up with a Schedule of Events
If you want your retreat to really succeed, a blockbuster agenda is a must. Try to mix up more serious activities like lectures and group workshops with recreational activities like beach volleyball to break up the monotony. The key is to have a set structure that participants can improvise on as they see fit. Good retreats allow attendees to play it by ear and plot their own courses. Just make sure that your retreat is structured well at the outset.
Deal with the Legal Red Tape Early On
Prior to finalizing your plans, consult an attorney to get an idea of the taxes and regulations you’ll be up against. While forming an LLC is a given, doing so may not protect you from having to pay taxes if your retreat venue is located in another jurisdiction. There might be zoning issues that you’ll have to address if you’re planning a large gathering. Just make sure to have the wrinkles ironed out well in advance.
Source the Required Materials in Bulk
If you’re going to cater the affair yourself, you’ll obviously need the usual banquet equipment like chafing dishes and silverware. You’ll probably want to pass out binders of retreat materials so it’s a good idea to stock up on office supplies. Buying cheap 16GB or 32GB USB thumb drives to give to attendees is another good idea since they can store so much more data. Have a few quality scanners and portable printers on hand for copying materials.
Team Up with Quality Freelance Partners
Whether your retreat is all business or mixes in a bit of R&R, it’ll be tough to do everything on your own. That’s why hiring a few guest speakers that are experts in their fields is a must. It’s easy to secure a discount on speakers if they happen to be pushing a book or video that they can potentially sell to attendees. Hiring a yoga teacher or a recreational specialist will make your retreat far more memorable.
Test-Drive the Concept with a Dry Run
Running a great personal or business strategy planning retreat is a tricky balancing act that takes time to master. That’s why a dry run is so important. Contact local entrepreneurs and professionals that you’re familiar with in your area and offer them a free or highly discounted retreat to test the waters. You’ll gain invaluable experience and pick up some ideas on how to make your debut retreat a resounding success that’ll eventually lead to greater profits.
Market the Outfit to Your Target Audience
Eventually, you’ll need to find a way to get the word out regarding your retreat. Using social media is the best option for an organizer that doesn’t have an established brand to drive reservations. You’ll need a professional website advertising event details to begin with. In the months leading up to your retreat, use Facebook and Twitter to forge connections with thought leaders in your target demographics. Word of mouth advertising is ultimately the most effective promotional tactic.
Zero in on the Right Price Points
Settling on an appropriate fee for your retreat is never easy. When you first start out, charging a few hundred dollars for a weekend might make the most sense. Until you’ve developed a reputation for excellence, it’ll be hard to command more than $1,000 for a multi-day experience. If you’re not sure how to proceed, err on the side of caution when hiking rates. Price should be based on the quality of the experience and your track record.
Improve the Enterprise via Feedback
No successful retreat business operates in a vacuum. You’ll need to constantly improve your product if you want to make it over the long haul. Sending out personalized surveys via email to attendees will demonstrate your commitment to making them long-term clients. With any luck, they’ll tell their friends and help you to organically grow your business. Use the feedback to help you select venues, amenities, speakers and retreat offerings that will appeal to a broader spectrum of entrepreneurs.
Build Out Your Service Offerings
At a certain point, you should definitely consider building out your retreat by tacking on extra amenities to your core service package. For instance, having an on-call masseuse or personal trainer that can work with attendees during breaks is always a good idea. You might also consider adding optional recreational activities like golf or zip line tours for an additional fee. At the end of the end of the day, there are a million ways to improve retreat revenue.
Taking Your Retreat to Another Level
If you keep your nose to the grindstone, your retreat business may outgrow your ability to manage it. If this happens, franchising your personal retreat brand is the obvious next step. If you’d like to keep things small, pursuing increasingly impressive guest speakers and booking high-end resorts is the best way to boost revenue. As long as you keep your finger on the pulse of the industry, a personal retreat side business can be a lucrative long-term concern.