10 Oct Team Toast Time Together
Introductions & Connections
The last six months have seen transformational change at Toast Ale: the global team of five has grown to 22 , we’ve brought in sizeable investment, achieved B Corp certification, listed in a wealth of new stockists, doubled our revenues, released our beer in keg formats and won more awards for our beer. The upward trajectory is a reflection of the hard work, dedication and unrelenting passion of everyone in Team Toast.
We celebrated all of this in September at our Team Toast Time Together, a 3-day retreat of team building and self-reflection, where the UK and US team came together for the first time. For a grass roots start-up which boot straps every single penny, this team gathering was a purposeful investment because it’s our people who matter most. We wanted to share the story of the retreat to give you a little insight into what it’s like to be a Toaster.
We had three big ambitions:
- Build ‘one team one dream’: to get to know each other better as part of a bigger community of people trying to change the world – friendships, connections and the team all on the same page.
- Strengthen understanding: to be truly heard and share what each of us are experiencing in our respective roles and countries, and apply our collective brainpower to the greatest opportunities and challenges we face.
- Live our values: to crystalize our values and what makes us Toasty – from what our brand stands for to what our company values are (transparency, empowerment, wellness / balance).
Underpinning it all was a desire to connect with nature as we are ultimately driven to serve the environment. It’s all too easy to lose sense of that when you’re pounding the streets of London or New York selling beer, going from supermarket buyer to pub chain buyer to talk retail margins, or designing the next marketing campaign. So the retreat took us into beautiful surroundings of Toast founder, Tristram Stuart’s, family home near Ashdown Forest, Sussex which he generously opened up to us all. Immersed in and inspired by nature, we structured our time to bring Team Toast together, create a stronger understanding of ourselves as a collective, and live the values we have built the business on.
- We started with a morning of wild mushroom foraging in the woods with one of the UK’s leading professional mushroom foragers, before taking a minute on the edge of the forest to reflect on the relationship between us as a company, as people and the magnificent surroundings we found ourselves in.
- In the afternoon our Board Member and leading UK entrepreneur Paul Lindley helped us grow down and think like a toddler: Be Confident, Be Creative, Dive Right In, Never Give Up, Get Noticed, Be Honest, Show your Feelings, Have Fun, Involve Others.
- Then into a session on understanding personality styles where we realised we’re largely a team of extroverts and diplomats.
- The evening kicked off with a gourmet zero waste meal of venison pie and foraged mushroom pie made by restauranteur, chef and zero waste pioneer Doug McMaster. Even more delicious with a Toast, or two.
- A morning of testing and tasting different hops led by Toast Master Brewer, Derek Orford. Not much alchemy, but a whole heap of fun and growing down.
- In the afternoon we took a deep dive into the book ‘Reinventing Organisations’. The session included some deep listening exercises and the ‘one, two, four, all’ principles of group discussion.
- To close the day we ran a visioning exercise to picture Toast five years from now. What was most exciting was that even our wildest visions for the future felt attainable now we’d formed such an incredible team bond.
- Day two ended with an incredible feast made from surplus food and and singing around the campfire.
- We left the countryside and headed back to Toast Breadquarters at Sustainable Bankside, and enjoyed our final lunch together at local Mercado Metropolitano in Borough (a Toast stockist).
- We spent the afternoon relaxing on beanbags in the sun, learning more about the elements of our mission. We heard about the expanding B Corp community, which we’re so proud to be a part of, from Kate at B Lab. We then delved into the campaigning work of our charity partner Feedback, and shared some beers with the Feedback team as we said goodbye to our US Toasters.
It felt like we’d achieved something so much deeper and more special than we could have hoped for. Tristram best articulated it – we’d achieved true companionship. The origins of the word come from Old French ‘compaignon’, literally ‘one who breaks bread with another’, based on Latin com- ‘together with’ + panis ‘bread’.
Reinventing Toast Ale
Much of the purpose and structure of the three days were based on reflections from a book called ‘Reinventing Organisations’. The team had all read it and there were mixed feelings – some people loved and embraced the ideas, others were more hesitant. It essentially comes down to three essential elements:
- Self-Management: operate effectively, even at a large scale, with a system based on peer relationships, without the need for either hierarchy or consensus.
- Wholeness: practices that invite us to reclaim our inner wholeness and bring all of who we are to work, instead of with a narrow “professional” self or “masculine resolve”.
- Evolutionary Purpose: organisations seen as having a life and a sense of direction of their own. Instead of trying to predict and control the future, members of the organisation are invited to listen in and understand what the organization wants to become, what purpose it wants to serve.
We’re now building a manifesto based on our shared views and reflections of the concepts in the book. It’s so important to us that we can build an epic business that people want to be part of. Ultimately, the team and a culture will lead a company to greatness, not an award, a certification, or even a great year of sales. This is just the start of our journey.
If you want to ask the team anything, drop us a note on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook @ToastAle