Startup life is hard. It can include many unexpected roadblocks and long periods of stress which result in lower motivation, lack of productivity and conflicts. Also, the more the team grows, the harder it gets to maintain the company culture and build relationships.

To keep the team spirit high even in the tough times, many companies want to nurture team bonding outside of the office.

However, most startup founders tend to avoid team buildings. Some of the most common excuses not to do a team building include:

  • there's no time for a break, we gotta push harder
  • team buildings are for big corporations who have a lot of money
  • it's too hard to organize and people don't appreciate it.

The list goes on. However, we at Puzl CowOrKing did it recently and can assure you that:

  • it's not as hard and expensive as it seems
  • it can be organized in 3 hours
  • it's totally worth it.

Team retreats are simply a break from the daily grind. They are a perfect way to unwind, explore new places together, remind yourself of the bigger picture, celebrate recent accomplishments as individuals and as a team. All of that leads to a stronger teamwork force once back in the office. 💪

So, with little to none experience and a lot of devotion, our team did it… in just 3 hours! Here's how...

Brainstorming (45 minutes)

It was crunch time! First, we came up with several activity ideas that would be fun and engage all of us. Hiking and being around nature was first on the list. After that we got creative with horse riding and other outdoor game activities such as Treasure Hunt and Human Knot


Then, we did a simple Google search for places that were close to a hiking trial, had a spacious front/backyard and, of course, other special amenities such as a SPA or a swimming pool were definitely considered a plus.

Evaluation & booking (30 minutes)

In order to do the things we wanted and still not overkill our team holiday, we decided that a weekend would be enough. We ended up finding a good offer in Dobrinishte (2,5 hours away from Sofia) and went for it. This small town offered us the perfect place: beautiful nature, gorgeous views, mineral waters and friendly and accommodating people. We loved the fact that it was just 10 minutes away from the ski lift in Bansko and we could plan our hiking fiesta. 

Organizing the commute (15 minutes)

Next step was to figure out the transport. Coordinating 15 people to arrive in the same place at the same time is not the easiest activity but it ain't rocket science either. First, we thought of looking into renting a bus or two that could fit us all. However, after calculating the costs, we quickly came up with a more reasonable plan: we decided to get together and travel with 4 of our personal cars and later reimburse the used petrol. In order to make it even easier for the team, we created a Google spreadsheet with drivers’ names and available seats in their cars, posted it in our channel on Slack and invited people to choose their carpool buddies.

Drafting the agenda (1 hour)

We wanted to do something different from all the things we do on a day-to-day basis. That’s why our lovely Event Maker came up with a program for our weekend-long retreat, so we don’t waste the opportunity of creating memorable experiences for all. 

The program consisted of a 10-minute physical exercise in the mornings that raised the energy level of the team, followed by a delicious buffet breakfast. Also, we had around two hours of work-related team meetings, half a day of hiking to a beautiful peak and drinking mountain tea, and a lot of time chilling in the jacuzzi. 

The marshmallow & spaghetti tower game

One of the games that we played was the classic Marshmallow & Spaghetti Challenge.

How to play:

  1. Prepare one kit containing 1 pack of spaghetti sticks and 1 pack of marshmallows.
  2. Divide the group into teams of approx 4 to 8 people.
  3. Distribute one kit to each team.
  4. Instruct the groups to use (only) the contents of the kits to build the tallest free-standing tower.
  5. Explain that every group is permitted to use they resources as they choose and has exactly 10 minutes to complete the task.
  6. The team with the tallest (free-standing) structure at the end of the time, wins.

The secret buddy

The other game was the secret-buddy challenge.

How to play:

  1. Prepare a list of all of the participants.
  2. Separate the names and fold them.
  3. Put the them together in a jar/hat.
  4. Tell the group to pick a name randomly.
  5. Instruct them that nobody should reveal which name they've picked until the final day of the game.
  6. Explain that the goal is to do nice things for their buddy without getting noticed.
  7. The person that has managed to keep a low profile and hasn't been revealed as a secret buddy, wins.

Other cool team building games to check out:

Magic Cane (Helium Stick)
Group Juggle
Grab Bag Skits
Bridge Build

Was it successful?

Absolutely! Our team loved the experience and all of us were eager to learn when the next team building would be. In these two days outside the office we managed to spend quality time together, create some fun memories and enjoy each other's company without the office stress. Not just that, but all of us came back full of energy and passion to deliver more results.

Truth is, planning a team-building was not at all as scary as we thought it would be and we'd advise everyone, regardless of their team size, to get creative and go for it.

If you have any questions or ideas, leave a comment below or ping me at