Retreat to Refresh: Reflections on the Pandemic and the Future of Gorbel®

Brian Reh, Gorbel® CEO
| Nov 07, 2023

Gorbel® Leaders at 2023 Retreat

If you’re reading this, congratulations! You made it through the pandemic. More than three and a half years have passed since the start of the turmoil. I’m happy to report that mask mandates, washing your groceries, and social distancing are chores of the past.  

These three plus years were transformational for Gorbel® and our team. We added the Warehouse Solutions division and embraced remote work for many positions. Our digital transformation efforts enabled virtual meetings and seamless file sharing. We welcomed hundreds of new employees. All of this happened while we were tempered in anxiety, stress, and fear… which hardened us in such a way that we emerged stronger than ever. We know that the challenging headlines of COVID — supply chain chaos, a talent shortage, massive inflation, and on and on — may come again in new forms. Yet we are now better prepared to slay threats and seize opportunities. What we see in the rearview mirror is serving us as we eagerly press our noses to the windshield.  

So, let’s look forward. Gorbel® has leveraged a “Strategic Planning” process for decades. While we used this terminology and approach for many years, nowadays we call it “Strategic Refresh” or “Refresh” for short. The clarity we have established in our Mission, Vision, and Values over the last ten years has taken us beyond the “planning” phase. To us, Refresh is a process of documented and deliberate steps that builds a bridge of action from where we are today to where we want to be in five years. One of the climatic steps in the process is a one-week, offsite retreat with our Director and Executive Teams. You might wonder how a group retreat moves our business strategy forward. My simple answer breaks it down into three categories — Commitment, Connection, and Culture. Let me elaborate. 

Strategy doesn’t just happen. It needs and deserves dedicated space where bright people can zoom in and out on our companies' goals and the water we are swimming in. Yes, we need to run our business day to day… and such work feels natural since we call on those muscles so frequently. But strategy isn’t an everyday topic and can easily be overlooked in the wake of life’s headlines. Giving strategy committed time increases the odds that we are steering toward coordinates of success. 

Just last week, I ran into a friend at the airport. He serves as a strategic facilitator for businesses like ours. I told him we just finished our Refresh, and he asked if we had anyone participating virtually… to which I answered no. He smiled and shared that he would never work with a team that wasn’t willing and able to be together in-person to work through their strategic process. We agreed that there were countless connections that happen between folks when they have multiple mornings, afternoons, and nights together working through problems, sharing personal information, and telling stories. Being together builds trust — a fundamental ingredient that enables a team to connect and converge.  

Teambuilding Exercises with Gorbel® Leaders

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This phrase has always been a favorite of mine. Where culture goes, the vitality of strategy follows. Our Mission is to “Improve People’s Lives,” and our second most important value behind “Integrity” is “Positive People in a Positive and Inclusive Environment.” These values are evidence that our culture is a paramount priority. So, we weave in supportive facilitation and elements of fun during the Refresh retreat… just like we aim to do with our day-to-day work. I believe that a business can only be as strong as the people and the culture that fuel it. Our inclusive approach to Refresh allows all participants to press their fingerprints to the playbook and enables our culture to feed our strategy instead of just consuming it. While culture can eat strategy for breakfast, it can also serve as rocket fuel for lunch. 

Commitment. Check. 

Connection. Check. 

Culture. Check. 

Hail to the new-post-COVID-normal where Gorbel® is diligently working to apply the lessons of our enduring experiences to the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. We are better equipped for the future due to the adversity of COVID, and we are committed and connected to each other as we strive to push forward a culturally rich strategy. 

How about you? Are you making room in your life and business to Retreat in order to Refresh? 

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