At Zebulon LLC, we know first-hand that personalized consulting drives profitable change in outfitting. 

This spring, we conducted transformative site visits with three of our clients on retainer. These visits ranged from immersive leadership retreats to comprehensive site assessments. They also underscored the immense value of investing in leadership development and gaining an external perspective on operations. 

Read on to discover the “why” behind these site visits, and how they provided substantial benefits to the innovative outfits we work with.

Leadership Retreats: Preparing for the High Season

Setting the Stage for Success Nationwide

Our first retreats occurred in completely opposite parts of the country – the West and the Midwest. At two distinct outfits, we organized leadership retreats with strategic timing: that sweet spot between when seasonal management teams arrive on-site, and before pre-season employee training. 

We purposefully designed these retreats to equip our clients’ leadership teams with outfit-specific tools and knowledge needed to excel during their busiest time of the year. We also built each retreat around Zebulon LLC’s motto of: Work Smart. Have Fun. Make Money.

Work Smart: Building Effective Leadership Pods

The first sessions focused on our principle of “Work Smart.” We guided the leadership teams through a sticky-note activity to chart their responsibilities, helping them understand the scope of each others’ roles. This also helped them identify tasks they could delegate to up-and-coming future leaders. This delegation process intentionally creates capacity for current leaders to adopt supervisory roles, and fuels up-and-coming leaders’ desires for more responsibility. Charting responsibilities is pivotal in fostering a culture of accountability and efficiency.

In the first sessions we also introduced the concept of a “leadership pod,” emphasizing that the retreat participants were now part of a cohesive unit. This pod serves as a support system throughout the busy season, enabling members to lean on each other for guidance and assistance. By highlighting the existence of a “leadership pod,” we helped create a collaborative environment where leaders can thrive all season long.

A visual representation of a business organization chart, with teal smiley faces representing team members, with the middle

Have Fun: Discovering the 6 Working Geniuses

The second session, under the “Have Fun” motto, involved participants completing the “6 Types of Working Genius” assessment. This mapping tool helps team members identify their individual strengths and frustrations, and learn about their peer’s strengths/frustrations. The “6 Types of Working Genius” provides valuable insights into the unique makeup of an outfit’s leadership pod. Understanding these dynamics allows teams to leverage their collective strengths and address potential gaps.

By mapping out individual working styles, leadership teams gain a deeper appreciation for each other’s contributions. This understanding fosters a more cohesive working environment, ultimately helping everyone Work Smart and Have Fun.


The “6 Types of Working Genius” and the varying perspectives they give to an outfit.

Make Money: Understanding Financial Realities with “Guide Math”

The third session, “Make Money,” featured a Zebulon-original activity we like to call “Guide Math.” Guide Math illustrates the financial realities of running a seasonal business by using their outfit’s honest-to-goodness financial data. 

Now, we know that sharing financials is a particularly scary and vulnerable task for most owners. And, it’s a task that not many owners are willing to participate in. Our clients were understandably wary of our proposal to include their real numbers in this session! However, the positive results and the jaw-dropping shift in leadership pod members’ mindsets after participating in Guide Math are already generating massively positive returns for the owners.

How Guide Math Works

First, we ask leadership pod members to estimate the outfit’s annual financial numbers, including things like expenses, revenue, and profit margins. Next, we reveal the actual numbers, side-by-side with the leadership pod’s estimates. Revealing the “actuals” often highlights significant discrepancies between estimates and reality, and sometimes even reveals expense categories they’d failed to consider altogether. 

(“Whoah, you spend that much annually on bus repairs?!” and “I didn’t realize our photo provider cost so much,” and even “Whoops, we forgot about insurance entirely…” etc.)

This eye-opening activity underscores the importance of sound financial decision-making, while providing a comprehensive understanding of a seasonal outfit’s true business expenses and profits.

By confronting their outfit’s true financial landscape, leadership teams are better equipped to make informed decisions that positively impact their outfits’ profitability and sustainability. In future retreats, we’ll layer upon “Guide Math” sessions and, together with outfit owners, set profit goals and provide budgets for leadership pod members to build up their financial responsibilities and purchasing experiences. 

So, What Else Does A Leadership Retreat Get You?

Communicating Vision and Direction

Leadership retreats provide a unique opportunity for outfit owners to communicate their vision and direction for the company directly to their leadership teams. Retreats are also a great way to highlight specific initiatives for the upcoming season that the leadership pod should rally around. (Sample initiatives include cross-selling activities to capture more revenue per visitor, or reducing the need for equipment repairs.) Retreats help ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards common goals.

Investing in Key Employees

These retreats also help key employees feel valued and invested in, which is a huge component of retention and workplace satisfaction. As we saw at America Outdoors in December ‘23, finding and retaining an engaged workforce is one of the primary pain points for outfit owners & leaders nowadays. Thus, knowing that their opinions matter and their development is a priority boosts outfit workers’ morale and fosters loyalty. 

Enhancing Upward Communication

Leadership retreats serve as a catalyst for establishing an upward flow of communication, from departments to managers to the owner. This open line of communication ensures that valuable insights and feedback from all levels of the organization are heard and acted upon, all season long.

Elevating the “Stoke Factor”

After these retreats, the stoke factor of the teams was palpable! Everyone was delighted to participate, and they left the retreats invigorated and excited to tackle the busy summer season.

Site Assessments: A Holistic Approach to Improvement

Observing Operations and Gathering Insights

Our third client visit this spring deviated from the retreat format and instead focused on a thorough site assessment. 

The Zebulon team meticulously examined various aspects of the outfit’s operations, including customer flow, supply barns, check-in areas, food and dining facilities, and lodging areas. This comprehensive review aimed to identify areas of improvement and provide actionable recommendations.

One-on-One Meetings: Uncovering Departmental Needs and Visions

During the site assessment, we conducted one-on-one meetings with key employees from each department. These discussions provided valuable insights into each employee’s perspective on their department’s performance, their perceived challenges, and their long-term visions for the company. These discussions also gave supervisors the chance to share opinions and make requests that they might not have otherwise felt comfortable sharing with their outfit’s owner and managers.

This personalized approach to department meetings ensured that our later recommendations were tailored to address specific needs and aspirations.

Delivering Comprehensive Reports: Actionable Recommendations for Success

Following the site assessment, we compiled our findings and professional recommendations into a comprehensive report which we discussed at length with the client. Our goal was to provide practical, implementable solutions that would enhance the outfit’s overall performance, guest experience, key employee satisfaction and retention efforts. We also wanted to provide a clear roadmap for improvement – one with both immediate positive reverberations for this season, as well as long-term benefits for seasons to come.

The Value of Client Visits

Fresh Perspectives and Unbiased Recommendations

Our clients were vocal in telling us one of the most significant benefits of our third-party site visits was the fresh perspective we brought to the outfit. As external consultants, we provide unbiased observations and recommendations from a fresh set of eyes, for items that might be overlooked by internal teams. This objectivity is crucial in identifying areas of improvement and implementing effective solutions.

Strengthening Leadership Teams

Investing in leadership development is essential for growth-minded outfitters, and our leadership retreats are designed to foster healthy, long-term growth. By equipping seasonal leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed, we help create a strong foundation for the entire outfit, and ensure season-after-season longevity. 

Our focus on building leadership pods ensures that these teams not only have the tools needed to operate on all cylinders during peak season, but they’re also collaborative, supportive, and accountable to one another and the outfit.

Enhancing Financial Acumen

Understanding the financial realities of running a seasonal business is clutch. Our Guide Math sessions demystify the financial aspects of the business, enabling leaders to make informed decisions that drive profitability. This financial know-how is critical for long-term success and sustainability.

Tailored Recommendations for Continuous Improvement

Our site assessments go beyond surface-level observations. By engaging with managers and understanding their unique challenges and visions, we provide tailored recommendations that address specific needs. This personalized approach ensures that our clients receive actionable insights that lead to meaningful improvements.

The Bottom Line on Leadership Retreats

Getting on-site at our clients’ outposts is a transformative experience for our outfitters, providing them with the tools, knowledge, and insights needed to excel in the outdoor adventure industry. Whether through immersive leadership retreats or comprehensive site visits, our end goal is always to help our clients work smart, have fun, and make money.

By investing in leadership development and welcoming outside perspectives, outfitters can unlock their full potential and achieve season-over-season success. At Zebulon LLC, we are proud to be a trusted partner in our clients’ journeys, and these visits showcase the tangible benefits of partnering with us.

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