On a Retreat to Advance retreat you guide the agenda. Once you book you’ll be sent a questionnaire to tell us about you, your business and your requirements. Upon receipt of the completed questionnaire your requirements are evaluated alongside those of your fellow participants and then mapped out across a series of one-to-one and group sessions as well as dinner round-table discussions.

You might be wondering what are the sort of business challenges that get explored on a Retreat to Advance retreat? While every business is unique the following are some of the hot topics that tend to come up time and again.

  • Exit planning and exit strategy – building a business takes dedication, blood, sweat and tears. Know how and when to exit the business to ensure a good outcome for you, your family and for the people within the business is a major challenge faced by owners of SMEs. We will work with you to explore how to plan for a profitable and timely exit; when is the right time and why; what are the signs to look for; how to value your business; the key steps to increasing business valuation; the barriers to a profitable exit.
  • Raising capital – you know there is a growth opportunity in the market; you know you have a unique offer, that you’re well placed and that the time is right. But readying your business to exploit the opportunity is going to require capital that you don’t have. What are the risks/rewards of capital raising; what are the various way to attract additional funding and what cost do they come with; how to structure a deal; how to retain control and what happens if you don’t!
  • Mergers and acquisitions – many businesses operate in markets alongside others with competing or complementary offers, making mergers or acquisitions an enticing way in which for businesses to gain size and strength rapidly. Gaining scale through M&A can bring big benefits, broadening or deepening customer bases, improving efficiency, strengthening competitiveness. Discover how to know whether a merger is right for your business; how to seek a partner; how to structure a partnership; and the ramifications of share dilution.
  • Staffing for success – employing the right people is one of the biggest challenges facing all businesses large and small, but for small- to medium-size businesses it is even harder because often costs constraints make it difficult to get right people on board. Explore how to overcome this hurdle; how to retain, incentivise, motivate and develop your best people; how you can get them to share the risks and rewards without giving everything away; how to balance your team with your own skills/weaknesses.
  • Culture – It has been said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Explore how to build a high performance culture that’s right for your business, your clients and your market. Evaluate whether your values/ethics/belief systems are working for you or against you. What do you want your clients to say about you? Or your team? Or your suppliers? And do they? Vision and culture are derived from the feelings and beliefs we have about the business; they are built on the true values of the business owner, which for most remain buried, as very few people are aware of what their defining values are. Vision and culture are so much more than pleasant-sounding statements put into a picture frame and hung up in reception. There’s a science to discovering the deeply buried and transformative values and beliefs that really underpin successful communication inside and outside the business.
  • Skills and ability – do you have what it takes to make your business a success? This is a difficult subject which often requires much soul searching. You know your industry, you know your products – but are you really a CEO? Perhaps you feel your company is not where it should be. Are you capable of taking it the next stage, are you ready and prepared for that next stage, if not why not? Explore the key attributes of a CEO, and how you rate against these. Plus what to do if you’re not. How can you acquire the skills yourself; or how to hire a CEO and still remain relevant in your own business.
  • Teamwork is about understanding what makes us different as individuals in our thinking and our behaviour. Developing personal emotional intelligence as a leader and learning to understand our individual team members at a deeper level will transform our ability to get the best out of them and so transform the management of the business.
  • Leadership and communication – are you a good leader? Do you have a clear vision for your business? Do you lead with self esteem and authenticity? When leaders have a clear vision that allows them to lead with self esteem and authenticity, staff find it easy to follow in the leader’s footsteps and less time needs to be taken up with management activity. True self esteem and authenticity are difficult unless we have true self awareness; all three of which are very rare commodities in today’s world.
  • Personal wellbeing and performance – do you create the right conditions to get the most out of your business’s most important asset? Running a successful business in today’s frantic, competitive world requires real clarity of thought; unfortunately most of us succumb to stress and even anxiety. It is scientifically proven that our efficiency drops easily by as much as 40% when we are stressed, and creative thinking (essential in order to stand above the rest!) gets completely stifled. We therefore need to understand what is causing our stress and anxiety and learn how to deal with it. In addition, we need to learn the ability to change our thinking, so that we can easily move to calm, clarity and creativity.


With a small staff and a large and diverse client list, close attention to our business at every stage is critical. Eddie has helped us to understand our growth strategy, key hires and introduced us to critical steps that have helped us to shape our business strategy going forward. He’s also a great guy, approachable, friendly and an excellent mentor for our personal growth. Eddie’s helped us enormously to advance towards our goals, and set ourselves goals for the future.

Heather Catchpole & Karen Taylor
Co-Founders, Refraction Media


Eddie has all the qualities of the perfect mentor. He is honest, discrete, self reflective, wise, inquisitive and he has a generous spirit. I discuss all my biggest business issues with Eddie and his guidance and support has sustained me through some tough challenges.

He brings a depth of wisdom to any situation, and he doesn’t just share his experience with you, he tells you why he did it and his understanding of why his approach worked or didn’t work. He makes the complex simple and breaks problems down to help focus on the real issues.

He’s helped me feel more in control and I’m putting things in place to be proactive rather than reactive and to work ‘on the business’ not ‘in the business’. Eddie inspires me to work smarter, and I feel positive and optimistic about the future direction of Brains.

Rachel Courtright
Managing Director, Brains


Eddie’s business and general experience has helped me in many ways. As a young executive and CEO, I have used Eddie as a sounding board for many issues and decisions. His calm broad level of knowledge across international boundaries has assisted me to deal with some very difficult situations. Eddie understands the needs of business and the balance required to maintain financial stability and customers satisfaction. I credit Eddie et al with assisting my development and helping me to rebuild the NSCA.

Adam Baldock
CEO & Managing Director, National Safety Council of Australia




Retreat to Advance

October 2017

The next Retreat to Advance will run this October 21-27. The five-day, five-night retreat runs Sunday night to Friday morning. The retreat is held at Il Borghino, a stunning Tuscan villa perched high on a hilltop with vistas stretching over the vineyards and olive groves Tuscany is famous for. Lovingly restored the villa is comfortable and modern while retaining its traditional charm.

One of the most special things about Retreat to Advance is that the final programme is built around what you – our guests – want to discuss, debate and learn, not from what we believe you need to know.

Presumption of knowledge can often be recipe for disaster. As such you’ll be sent a detailed questionnaire before the retreat from which we will determine the specific subjects you would like included in the guided discussions and what points to be openly debated in the free discussions. We’ve compiled a list of the type of business challenges that come up most often, to give you an idea of what types of business challenges get discussed.

As well as plenty of peace and quiet to work independently throughout the retreat there are ample opportunities for guests to discuss their specific challenges, predominantly organised into the three following avenues:

  • One-to-one sessions with mentors
  • At guided group discussions led by the mentors (the first hour is led by the mentors with the following 60 minutes as open discussion and debate)
  • Discussion time over breakfast, lunch and dinner on guest-elected topics



Come prepared for a week that will transform your business – complete the Outline* questionnaire to streamline your goals for the retreat and notify us of your learning requirements.


  • Arrive at Pisa Airport or Lucca station, collected by car and transfer to villa to settle in
  • 6.30pm welcome drinks and introduction to what will be happening over the coming days
  • 7.30pm welcome dinner – during which each guest can give a brief introduction about themselves, their business and what their key objectives are for the following days.


  • 8.30am – breakfast (free discussion)
  • 10.00am–12.30pm – group session where participants complete our Identify* framework to spell out their objectives and then Validate* a working plan with their mentor.
  • 1pm – lunch (discussion on guest-elected topics)
  • 2.30–7.00pm – free time to Think* or meet with mentor for Review* sessions. Take this time, with no distractions, no to-do lists, no meetings, to do the thinking that you never get to do then review what you’ve been working on with your mentor for insights, advice and to be challenged where necessary.
  • 7.30pm – dinner (free discussion and feedback on the day)

Tuesday to Thursday

  • 8.30am – breakfast (free discussion)
  • 9.30am–11.30am – optional guided discussion
  • 11.30am–1.00pm – free time to Think* or meet with mentor for Review* sessions
  • 1pm – lunch (discussion on guest-elected topics)
  • 2.30–4.30pm  – optional guided discussion or free time to think and plan
  • 4.30–7.00pm – free time to Think*, Review* or enjoy the villa facilities and activities
  • 7.30pm – dinner (free discussion and feedback on the day)

One of the lunches will be held at a restaurant in Lucca offering the opportunity to visit the charming walled city and one of the dinners will be held at local Tuscan restaurant.


  • 8.30am – breakfast (free discussion and take-aways)
  • 10am – Conclude* your retreat with a fully stated plan encapsulating what actions you need to take back to the ‘real world’ and schedule your follow-up sessions so we can keep you honest and give you support to Implement* your hard work.
  • 11am – transfer by car to Lucca, Pisa airport or weekend accommodation*

Note: We offer guests the opportunity to extend their stay leaving on Saturday at no extra cost – but only breakfast will be provided.

*Read more about the steps a Retreat to Advance involves.

The mentors

Eddie Thomas

With some 40 years at the helm of driving business success, Eddie Thomas knows what it takes to get results. Having managed, grown and sold a variety of businesses in his career, in 2014 he turned his focus towards using his years of experience towards helping others to do the same. And so Rare Breed was born.

Eddie’s appreciation for mentoring can be traced as far back as the launch of his career in a publishing company in London – when the owner recognised a rare talent in an inexperienced 20-year-old and thus began many years of a unique mentoring relationship. The steep learning curve paid off and within 12 years he had risen to CEO and sold the company to Robert Maxwell (Daily Mirror Group). Since then he has accumulated experience in acquisitions, capital raising, mergers, equity events, MBOs, amongst many of the other challenges and opportunities businesses face, hands-on experience he is now able to share with his clients.

Eddie is a master business advisor who can show you exactly what needs to be done to take your business to the next level. He is an extremely likeable, straight shooting business advisor who can successfully identify the best strategies and tactics to see any business flourish.

Find out what clients have to say about Eddie.

Mark Newey

After 18 years of working for corporations in international marketing, Mark set up his own company. Initially extremely successful, the company went bust due to a bad debt from a major client, and triggered a personal breakdown. Mark then changed his life by training in the neurosciences and has never looked back. He set up his own behavioural psychotherapy practice in 2000 and has since helped thousands of businesses thrive by working with the leader to tackle personal limitations such as stress, anxiety, depression, lack of self esteem and motivation.

Mark has an MBA and is a Fellow of The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA); a Member of The International Stress Management Association (ISMA); an Associate of the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM); and of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Mark’s rare combination of knowledge and experience, which combines behavioural, organisational and leadership psychology, executive coaching and resilience and wellbeing, provides business owners with fast, far-reaching and effective solutions guaranteed to transform employee engagement, motivation, productivity and thereby growth and profitability.

What do business owners have to say about Mark?
“I have found Mark’s way of approaching things refreshingly different to the run of the mill. He isn’t ‘heavy’, he encourages you to think from a completely different angle and doesn’t harp on about the past. Mark is more ‘bespoke’ and with him you are guaranteed gentle support and plenty of ‘light bulb moments’, which is exactly what you need to when you are losing direction and need a reality check to help you re-clarify your vision and where to take your business. I would heartily recommend him.”
Julie Payne FIRP

“Mark is simply excellent at what he does, he truly cares and will not stop until he has helped you move forward. Well worth the investment of time and money.”
Chris Clark, Cert PFS

Accommodation & facilities

The villa offers 11 bedrooms, mostly en suite, large, beautifully furnished and with stunning views from every room. There are a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces for working solo and meeting for small and large group discussions.

Wifi is of course available within the villa. Outside guests can refresh body and mind with a dip in the pool or take a walk around the grounds or local countryside enjoying the views over the hills and vineyards. There’s also a sauna and optional massage, yoga and meditation to revive stressed out bodies and minds.

All meals and refreshments are included, with most major special requirements catered for. Morning and afternoon snacks served daily mid-morning and mid-afternoon plus tea, coffee and other refreshments on demand throughout the day. Pre-dinner drinks from 7pm. Choice of red or white wine served with dinner.

Price and inclusions

Room type:

€2950 – double bedroom with private bathroom
€2750 – single bedroom with private bathroom
€2500 – double bedroom with shared bathroom (shared with one other guest)

All-inclusive of:

  • Five nights’ accommodation
  • All meals and refreshments throughout the day
  • Local wine with lunch and dinner
  • Transfers

Note: Should you wish to bring a business partner or colleague, and are happy to share a twin bedroom, then the second guest will be charged at 50% of the rates above.

Earlybird discount: Book and pay your deposit of €650 by May 31, 2017 and a 12.5 % earlybird discount will be applied to your final payment (due August 14).

Book now and save!

If you’ve read this far then you’ve just explored what Retreat to Advance will offer your business. If your interest has been piqued and you believe one of our retreats could be just what you and your business need then don’t delay! One thing we all know in our busy working lives is that when you put things aside for later they don’t get done – so give us a call or send us an email now with any questions and to secure your place at the earlybird rate. Take this gift of time – with no distractions, no to-do lists, no meeting – to do the thinking that you never get to do, You’ll be pleased you did and your business will thank you for it.

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