How We Cultivate a Company Culture: A Weekend in Quebec

When hiring new team members, most interviewers discreetly study applicants to see if they would pass The Airport Test: “Could I get stuck in an airport for 8 hours with this person and not lose my mind?!” We recently took this idea to an entirely new level.

Every six months, the whole Abraic team gets together in person for a full day to celebrate and strengthen the Abraic culture. We share lessons learned from current engagements, discuss best practices, and develop soft skills in areas like sales and leadership. We also get updates from our CEO on financials, strategy, and business development.

Typically, we pad the special day with a nice dinner or a fun activity with spouses. This time, we spent a long weekend together in Quebec City to explore, catch up, trade war stories, and indulge in French cuisine.

 

As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” At Abraic, culture is a major part of our strategy. (Oh, and we prefer brunch—see Day 3.)

Day 1 (Friday)

We met at 8 am, checked passports, and hit the road in a couple of vans. Following James Corden’s lead, we started off the 6-hour journey from Boston with some carpool karaoke. Billy Joel, Estelle, Frankie Valli, Johnny Cash, and Adele would have been proud.

The party continued when we stopped for lunch and some brews at Siboire Jacques-Cartier in Sherbrooke.

We settled into our beautiful conjoined apartments, strolled around the historic walled city, and worked up an appetite for dinner at the distinguished Le Saint Amour, a top-rated gastronomy icon in Quebec City. Table for 19, please!

 

 

At Abraic, we pride ourselves on trust, hard-work, transparency, and execution, but I think our favorite part of the Abraic culture is our love of food. After 5 courses, and more wine than we care to admit, our first day had come to a close.

Day 2 (Saturday)

Our significant others explored Montmorency Falls while the Abraic team got down to business. The day consisted of presentations and workshops covering a range of topics:

  1. CEO Debrief: First Mikhail ran through financials, our internal investments for the coming year, an update on our strategic direction, and business development roles. This is always an important part of our biannual agenda, as the team gets complete transparency on the state of the company with the ability to ask any questions and provide comments. Our culture of trust starts from the top, and Mikhail leads by example.
  2. Case Study Presentations: We showcased select recent client engagements, to keep everyone informed of the nuts and bolts of our work in the field and to share lessons learned with our peers.
  3. Managing Remote Teams Workshop: A couple of experienced consultants led a session on best practices for managing remote teams. Whether the team is a couple of hours away or overseas, sound strategies here can make a huge difference in gaining momentum and guiding successful execution.
  4. Marketing Update: Our marketing team provided an update for the group on branding, content distribution, and strategy. Marketing is an all-hands-on-deck function for Abraic, so it’s crucial for us to be aligned on messaging and overall approach.
  5. Structural Dynamics Workshop: The Abraic team learned from our in-house expert, Nicole Mills, about how structural dynamics, emotional intelligence, and communication play major roles in project and program success. This session helped us develop stronger facilitation and communication skills.

 

 

After a full day of learning from each other, we spent the night exploring the restaurant scene, playing poker, and experiencing the Quebec nightlife.

Day 3 (Sunday)

Some enjoyed the nightlife more than others, but those who could make it without suffering got up for a group run along the St. Lawrence River.


Brunch at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac followed, where there was no shortage of mimosas, Beef Wellingtons, and desserts.

 

 

We left Quebec City with a strong sense of identity and camaraderie, and waistbands that were suddenly a bit too tight.


Abraic emphasizes the importance of culture to our clients. We encourage trust, commitment, hard work, transparency, focus, and fun. And we don’t just talk the talk. We’re able to execute these principles internally by getting the right people on the bus from the start, maintaining these values through growth, and investing in culture by taking trips like this. If the people in your organization pass The Airport Test, see if they can pass the Quebec Test. If so, you’re doing something right.

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