Obstacles & Advice

We asked retreat owners to name their biggest obstacle, and describe how they are solving it.
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Raquel Salvador

Tribe Yoga

Advice to follow your heart

Obstacle

At the end of the day its putting feet on yoga mats. It is very time consuming to properly advertise and get individuals interested in coming to the retreats. Most people that have chosen the yoga path and are dedicated to the path of sharing yoga with others usually want to deviate from spending time in front of computers, working from 5-8 at night, navigating social media and twitter and things like that. We don’t even have mobiles. In running a retreat business you have to learn things you don’t want to learn. The admin pulls you into those things.

Advice

Follow your heart and do what you truly believe. Everything will put itself together to make it happen. Make sure you delegate, then trust the person you delegate – or its pointless. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Our company grew very fast and not enough people were trained for the expansion. Can’t do everything yourself.

Tierza Eichner

Pura Vida Adventures

Advice to create an excellent product

Obstacle

One of our primary obstacles is competition. There is much more competition now than before. In our area when I started out 12 years ago there were three surf camps. Now there must be over 20 and another 10 yoga retreats. Another obstacle is the ever changing environment of the internet. Before we had just traditional advertising. Now you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on on many levels. This is huge. I know it’s been a detriment to us because we are a small company and it’s difficult to keep up to speed with the many ways to bring exposure to ourselves.

Advice

Your product must be excellent. Word a mouth and return customers are critical. If you don’t build it as a business and built it more as a passion, it will probably die sooner than later. Many retreat people are not business people. Just because you love surfing and love yoga doesn’t mean your good at the business end. It is good to get a consultant or consult with somebody who has experience. But ultimately go for it! What do you have to loose, unless your buying a hotel.

Advice from the hotel business side

Obstacle

Retreats are very hard work. Dealing with administration, flight details, schedules, personalities, last minute issue. Always working with peoples expectations.  Also, we live and have our retreat center in the jungle of Costa rica and some participants have a hard time settling into the different flow of life here. If it is difficult for some to let go of certain things, it’s going to be challenging on a retreat organizer.

Advice

Because we work on the other side of the business – the hotel side; the provider of the yoga space; the lodging and food – we have a perspective for those trying to organize retreats. It is really important to do your homework and talk to the people who will be your location provider. Don’t just go on google, that is not enough. Need to reach out and talk to the people you will be doing business with. Reach out and interview them. See if they can provide what you need. Create relationships.

Dolores Watson

Flower Lotus

Pearl of wisdom

Dolores is the founder of a popular Buddhist retreat center located in the middle of the bible belt in Mississippi. Dolores is a walking example of what you can do when you make a decision to make a difference. She decided to follow her inspiration to create Flowering Lotus despite the fact that she was in her late 60s, that most people in the area had never been to a retreat before – let alone a Buddhist one, and that she didn’t know exactly how she was going to make her dream a reality. When asked for her advice on making dreams a reality, Dolores said “You don’t need to know everything. You simply need to identify what you are passionate about creating – especially if it involves serving others – and the right people, finances, and situations will show up. You need to be prepared to do whatever it takes, and eventually people will be inspired to help you. The universe will help it unfold. Don’t let fear stop you! It is so gratifying to move beyond fear. Now I get to hear the closing circle at the end of each retreat and people share how their lives have been transformed, and I can tell you – everything it took to get to this point was worth it!”

Leonard Sussman

KMEC Hawaii

Advice on selecting a great manager

Obstacle

We’ve had a lot of managers over the 12 years since our inception, and it is only in the last year that operations are running smoothly, our costs are covered and we’re making a bit of profit.

Advice

Having good management is the key. Here are some tips on what qualities to look for in a great manager: They should be aligned with your mission statement, and have an authentic desire to help others. They need to have business acumen, and the background/experience to do the job well. They need to be energetic and keen to create something during their time at your center. They need to be good at managing people because running a retreat is a balancing act, and it is more than a one-person job. A good manager will empower others to get involved, and ensure everyone is truly on board and working as a team. In the words of KMEC’s new manager James, “It is about allowing others to step into their gifts”.

Rosalind Pressman

Ketanga Fitness Retreats

Pearl of Wisdom

Ask as many questions in advance as possible! This applies to the hotel or venue you book, tour guides, transportation people, caterers. You want to find out as many details as possible before you start advertising your retreats so that you can price your retreat accordingly. For example, is Wifi included in the hotel prices you were quoted? If not, you need to know about it now so that you can add that into your budget. That said, no matter how prepared you are, there are always going to be unforeseen charges, so we recommend adding about a 10% buffer into your retreat prices. So instead of $1000, make your price $1100. You’ll be glad that you did.

Peter Mallard

The Barn Retreat

Pearl of Wisdom

I recommend giving all participants a feedback form that you collect before they leave the retreat, and once and a while doing a more in depth survey as well. This can inform your decisions going forward, and ensure that you’re hearing the voices of all instead of making changes based on what you’ve heard from the most vocal people in the group. A good example of this is regarding the length of our meditation sessions. At The Barn we do 40 min. meditation sessions, and during the course we sometimes hear people complaining that that is too long. However, when we have surveyed the whole group via a feedback form asking “Do you think the meditation schedule should a) be left at three 40 min. sessions per day, b) changed to two 40 min. sessions and one 30 min., or c) changed to be all 3o min. sessions?” we have found that 80% of participants said “Leave it at 40 min. Although I find it challenging I think it is good to push myself in that way”. This data was so useful in helping us to stick with our existing meditation schedule knowing that it suits the majority of our retreatants (even if it causes few complaints).

Linda Andrews

Capuchin Retreat

Pearl of Wisdom

I think it’s important to recognize that every role at a retreat center is vital. Whether you are the janitor, the housekeeper, the retreat leader, or someone running the front desk – you have the opportunity to make a difference for someone. Here at Capuchin, for example, our housekeepers will often chat with the guests and if they find out that someone is going out for a walk they will offer a map and some information about the beautiful trails that surround the center. Every staff member has the ability to make someone feel safe and that they belong here. I also think it is important to appreciate your staff, and acknowledge their actions in the moment to encourage the behaviour that you like to see.

Siobhan Hughes

Yoga in Italy

Advice on thriving in a competitive market

Obstacle

When I first opened our centre in Italy, we were one of the only yoga centres in our area. Now, there seems to be much more competition, and the challenge is how to continue attracting clients so that we aren’t “flying our plane 2/3 full” so to speak.

Advice

First of all, we focus on providing the best service so that we have a great brand reputation (and that means hiring a great team). Getting great reviews and spreading positive word of mouth is critical in the retreat industry. Second, we are working on a new marketing platform which includes leveraging Facebook advertising, Google adwords, and improving our organic search rankings (SEO). I also recommend hiring a business coach so you have someone with solid business experience to talk with about running and growing your centre – someone who can help you to make good decisions.

 

Swami Karma Karuna

Anahata Retreat

Advice on staying inspired while managing a retreat centre for years

Pearl of Wisdom

There are several factors that have made it possible for me to stay inspired while running Anahata over the 20+ years since we started it. First of all, we built a community from scratch. This community is vital to my ongoing success, and keeps me connected to the reason I do this work. Living what we teach in our retreats is also important, and I not only live at a retreat centre, but I make time to reflect on our weekly topic and do my own daily practice. As a community we gather for practice 4 times a day. Staying connected to the lineage where I was trained has also been a major factor in staying inspired as well. When I have had doubts about my purpose or lacked the motivation to continue on, I have turned to my teacher and my lineage for support. I wouldn’t still be on this path without that ongoing support.

 

Liz Heffernan

Soma Yoga Institute

Advice on succeeding even though there is ‘competition’

Pearl of Wisdom

There is competition, especially in the world of yoga and yoga retreats, but I feel that when we get caught in the competitive mindset we are drawing to us the energy of lack. Instead, I think that we should all look at what we are offering that is unique (I would say that in my work I do have a niche in the yoga space), and then we will attract the people who need us the most. Also, when we collaborate with other teachers and connect to the feeling that there is unlimited possibility, the energy we bring towards us is that of abundance.

Marcelo Cwerner

Maloca Viva

Advice on dispelling misconceptions and encouraging people to try your retreats

Obstacle

Maloca Viva is located in the Amazon, and our accommodations are very much a part of nature – guests sleep in hammocks under shelter with no walls. This is an experience that is very foreign to most people, and it can be intimidating to consider leaving the city behind and venturing into the jungle for a week. When people think of sleeping in a hammock they often cringe, but the feedback from guests has been overwhelmingly positive.

Advice

We have found that testimonials from previous guests as well as providing lots of good information on our website has been helpful for those who are curious but hesitant to book one of our retreats. Also, networking with people who can write articles about us and help us to get exposure has been useful. Over time the word of mouth builds, and more people start to hear good things about us.

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