This year we celebrated our 2019 retreat at the Ranch at Laguna Beach. Our annual retreat is an important event for our team because it is one of the few times we are all together. We use the opportunity to reconnect with one another, relax, reflect on the year and prepare for the year ahead.

Each year we are fortunate enough to receive sponsorships from our vendor partners. Not only do these sponsorships help make our retreat possible, they also provide vendors an opportunity to advertise their services to our Program Managers. We are very much aware that what we do would not be possible without the incredible vendors we work with across the country and we are grateful for the relationships we have built and continue to build with them. Thank you to our incredible 2019 sponsors!

If you are interested in learning more about our sponsorship opportunities, please contact Brandon Terpstra.

By Karen Robbins, President

Last year I asked our team to hold “connection” as their inspiration for 2019. My hope was that they would look up from their tablets, computers and phones more often and put more emphasis on making meaningful connections with everyone they encounter. For 2020, our team will continue building connections through mindfulness.

Both concepts are centered around awareness. Without awareness there are no meaningful connections and without mindfulness we cannot achieve awareness. Awareness is also a principle of Servant Leadership, which is an integral part of the STS foundation. Only when we become aware of self are we able to be aware of the needs of others.

“[Mindfulness] Is the simple direct practice of moment to moment awareness, first by training our attention to focus on one single chosen object like the flow of the breath and then repeatedly letting go of distractions in order to return our attention to that object.” -Sharon Salzberg

In an effort to introduce the team to the theory of mindfulness through the practice of meditation, we asked Lori Kahn, a meditation coach and owner of Om Laguna Beach, to work with our team one morning during our business retreat. Lori led a “Foundations of Mindfulness Meditation” for our team and I think it’s safe to say we all walked away from the experience much more relaxed! (Maybe too relaxed…)

My hope is that our team continues to practice mindfulness meditation throughout the year and their lives. I want them to be more aware of their own presence and how they interact with one another. We are all human beings and we all want the same things – love acceptance, freedom, respect. I hope that in some of our most difficult moments, we can be more gentle in our approach to each other and ourselves. By practicing this intentional self-care, we will become better individuals and therefore a stronger team better equipped to serve our customers.

15 Lessons from CEO Eddie Stewart (Okay, 16 lessons)

  1. A person who is nice to me but not nice to a bus driver, is not a nice person.
  2. Character and cultural buy-in are far more important than raw talent.
  3. Leaders don’t panic in difficult situations. They must be calm in a sea of chaos.
  4. If you dread coming to work on a Monday, you probably need to look for another job.
  5. I’ve learned a lot of what to do by observing what not to do.
  6. When communicating, practice the KISS principal – Keep It Short and Simple. Brevity and accuracy with your message is all anyone wants to hear.
  7. A simple “thank you” goes further than insincere compliments.
  8. You don’t always have to wait for permission – just get it done and ask for forgiveness if necessary. If you ask a lot of people, someone will probably tell you no.
  9. A successful business leader must be a servant first.
  10. Never skip an opportunity to have lunch with your team.
  11. In business, hoping tends to be an excuse for not trying hard enough.
  12. Keep your office door open as much as you can. Be approachable to your team.
  13. Don’t step over a dollar to get to a nickel. In other words, the cheapest way is not always the best way.
  14. Don’t give people a job. Give them a career.
  15. Believe in yourself, even when no one else does.
  16. Get the right people on the bus

15 Lessons from President Karen Robbins

  1. Everyone loves to win but not everyone loves to compete in the same way in order to win.
  2. In business and in life, don’t take offense; play offense.
  3. It’s okay to cry when situations or people are more than you are able to cope with.
  4. Laugh at yourself with others but never laugh at others.
  5. Never, ever stop learning. Be curious and ask questions.
  6. Stop asking “why did this happen tome?” Instead ask, “Why did this happen? What do I need to learn?”
  7. Being the smartest person in the room sometimes requires you to be the quietest person in the room.
  8. Always keep a box of Kleenex on your desk. Human beings cry. It’s normal and okay!
  9. Earn respect in business by being accountable, knowing your stuff and not faking it.
  10. Surround yourself with people that see something in you that you don’t always see in yourself.
  11. Speak up and out more often but always know your audience.
  12. Never try to check in 250+ buses on 2 hours of sleep and not expect to make a few mistakes. Lesson learned!
  13. Let your mistakes make you better, not bitter.
  14. Sometimes people have trouble performing because they are in the wrong role. The people who work really hard in the wrong position are the ones you keep. It’s your job as a leader to help them find a role that amplifies their strengths and make changes.
  15. Pay attention to the things that bring you joy then figure out how to apply joy to create a more purposeful life.