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Culture & Communication

Get your small business into a meeting rhythm.

Meetings in a small businessWhen small businesses are growing, especially undergoing fast growth, communication is critical.

As I like to say – “communication is the key to any relationship.” And as people are the hardest and most valuable thing in small business, effective relationships are crucial.  To have better relationships, regular and personal communication is needed.

Early-on in your business’ growth you probably have little structure, systems and rhythm. Putting in place set meeting times with specific agendas is one of the first steps in helping your baby grow up.

During growth it is understandable to think you need to cut-back on your meetings, to save time.  But this approach will actually cost you time and value medium-to-long-term.  The caveat is – if the Chair doesn’t see value from the regular meetings, change or cancel them.  There is no need to meet just for the sake of having a meeting.

An effective meeting rhythm has regular, punchy and value-adding get togethers with the right people in corners of the business.

Here is the meeting schedule I recommend for your growing small business.

  • Weekly One-On-One’s: each Manager should meet with their direct reports, as recommended by Mark & Mike of Manager Tools (here are their casts on 1:1s). Per direct report, 30 minutes each week, Chaired by the Line Manager
  • Weekly KRA Manager Meeting: the owners or managers of each Key Reporting Area (KRA) should meet at the start of each week to go over any company-wide issues.  KRA owners/managers, 30 minutes each week, Chaired by the CEO / GM / MD
  • Weekly KRA Team Meeting: each KRA team (e.g.  Business Development Team, Operations Team or Production Teams) should meet to collaborate, discuss issues, wins and team priorities for the week. KRA team members, 30 minutes each week, Chaired by the KRA Manager
  • Monthly Team Meeting: run through the Key Reporting Areas (KRAs), bottom-up (start with Production, then Operations, Business Development etc). Everyone attends, 1-2 hours each month
  • Quarterly Strategic Meeting: the Board discuss the strategy of the business and progress with the role in charge of executing strategy day-to-day (e.g. CEO / GM / MD).  The role in charge of day-to-day performance reports on progress for the quarter.  In the meeting you set your top 4 objectives for the next quarter, and run through the progress of the top 4 set for the quarter just complete.  Board & CEO / GM / MD, 1-2 hours each quarter, Chaired by the Chairperson

As your business grows it will grow into the full schedule above. As some corners will be small at the start (e.g. the Business Development Team may only be 1 person for some time), they may not meet until there are 2-3 people in that team.

Now, some entrepreneurs will look at all this meeting time and think their company will grind to a halt – we need to be ‘doing’ not ‘talking.’ That’s how I used to think, and it’s a natural thought to me as I’m a task-orientated High D. But over time I learnt to be effective I need to engage, motivate and lead others – not burn them out driving them with “more tasks!”

It finally dawned on me some years into small business that people are where the value is at, especially if I want to get out of the business operationally. I needed to invest in people. And as you learn from DiSC, 50% of people are people-orientated, whereas the other 50% (which I’m in) are intrinsically task-orientated. As I’m not people-orientated I have to work hard on this weakness (in the context of managing and growing a small business, not naturally being a “people person” is a drawback.)

Setting up and sticking to a meeting rhythm will add value and reduce friction in your business. Here are the benefits of setting up regular meetings:

  • Information is shared more efficiently and with greater effect
  • Confusion and duplication of work can be identified and reduced
  • Each meeting becomes a conduit for people to talk on agenda, about the right things in that forum. Everyone should think before emailing or raising things verbally “can this wait for the XYZ meeting, it would be better if everyone in this area of the business was across it?”
  • The number of emails flying around is reduced
  • The bond or rapport between the team is strengthened, as we spend less time in front of our computers and more time talking with team members

What a small business owner / manager should do to set a meeting rhythm:

  1. Adapt the above meeting structure / schedule for your business
  2. Listen to the Manager Tools casts on how to run effective meetings
  3. Communicate with each KRA Manager and ask them to send the recurring meeting invite for the meeting(s) they will Chair
  4. Be sure the Chair has an agenda for each meeting, starts and ends meetings on-time – provide them coaching on how to run effective meetings

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