Think back to the last meeting in your small business? Does your memory make you cringe?
Or was your response that you only have a couple of meetings and you talk every day, so maybe you never bother with a meeting.
And how did the meeting go? Was most of the conversation off-track and non-business related? Maybe it was business related but focused on small details. A third option was the conversation was about items that have been discussed and discussed and discussed. Finally, your meeting may have been only to make plans for the day, resolve an issue or handle a problem.
Well-run businesses need effective meetings. Yes, they may be of the type that are only making plans for the day and they may last only 15 minutes while standing in the hall. But, you must have a time to get concerned folks such as employees, investors, families, etc. together to talk.
A key thing your meeting should address is a look forward, to make sure you are spending time working ON the business, and not just in the business.
To make your meetings effective, it’s important you do two things. First, you need to have an agenda. This helps you get ready for the meeting and also focuses your effort. It is an important key to stop your meetings from becoming a time to complain or to get caught up in the issues of today.
Second, you need to take minutes or notes. Capture the topics and key points discussed for each topic. Get down on paper your decisions and assignments. Make sure you establish some goals. List the responsible person and a deadline for each assignment and goal.
Often your meetings will start with a look back. Your look back will be examining past decisions made and accomplishment towards the planned goals. And yes, it is important that those accomplishments be supported, supported by qualitative or quantitative data.
Knowing you achieved or did not achieve a goal is nice, but knowing how quickly it happened and by what degree it happened is where you learn for the future. Get into the “weeds,” examine specifics of what worked and what didn’t.
So who will be at your meeting?
The list may change but you need a core group to maintain consistency. This group should include key staff and maybe some family members. Some business owners bring in outsiders such as the banker and accountant. You may be working with an adviser or mentor who should be included. And you may bring in others for specific purposes.
How often you have such meetings can vary? Although we think often in terms of yearly, you probably need at least two meetings a year. Quarterly or even monthly meetings may work. But don’t confuse these planning meetings with meetings you may have to plan and schedule short-term needs.
So move your business forward. Plan and hold regular meetings. Make them effective, and if you need help doing this, search out someone to help get you on the right track.
Meetings are an element of success. The resources spent in developing them offer substantial returns or can be like a boat anchor. Make them the former and not the latter.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.