Make Business Meetings Positive and Informative, Firms Advised

Make Business Meetings Positive and Informative, Firms Advised

Like death and taxes, business meetings are an inevitable part of operating a kitchen and bath firm of any type unless you're a one man band.

You simply must conduct meetings to keep your organization on the same page. You also need to get feedback on business conditions, potential problems and opportunities for new business. Moreover, you need to be sure company policies are spelled out clearly, and are effectively put in place.

The popular belief is that business meetings are unnecessary wastes of time where nothing gets done and all too often that is the truth. However, there are ways to keep your business meetings lively, informative and positive.

What follows are some suggestions:
Be sure the meeting is necessary. Ask yourself if the same work might be better handled by phone/e-mail/memos, etc., and conduct the meeting only if none of those other forums will work.

Limit the meeting's size to seven people or fewer. A larger group than that is unwieldy. If you have more employees than that, conduct two meetings or, better yet, have a meeting only with your middle managers and let them meet with the people they manage.

Make the meeting's purpose specific, and limited. Make sure all meeting attendees know what that purpose is beforehand.

Set a reasonable time limit. Most business meetings are much longer than they need to be. Set a shorter time limit than you think you need and press people to finish on time. If you do, they probably will.

Split meetings up into at least two parts. In the first part, the problem or opportunity should be presented and commented upon. This must be as "open" as possible. Try to limit the number of objections that arise during this period including your own. One way to help this process is to suggest that all objections be handled later on. In the second part of the meeting, problems and implementation should be dealt with.

As a business owner, you must recognize that the worst kind of meeting are the ones where everyone sits silently listening to what you have to say, then spends the rest of the time discussing your ideas. You'll inevitably discover, with this type of meeting, that no matter what plan is developed, little or nothing ever gets done.

According to Ram Charan, a consultant to top business executives, "the problem is the meeting itself." Charan cautions that what looks like general agreement on a specific game plan is, in truth, "silent lies and a lack of closure," leading to a culture of "indecision" and "false decisions."

According to Charan, business leaders who want to make sure good decisions get made and are implemented have to create a dialogue. The dialogue has four characteristics:

1. Openness: The outcome should not be predetermined.
2. Candor: There should be a willingness to discuss even the most unpleasant things to air the conflicts.
3. Informality: Formal, prepackaged presentations stifle candor.
4. Closure: At the end of the meeting, everyone should know exactly what he is expected to do.

Obviously, you as owner have a better understanding than anyone of how your business works, and a more aggressive attachment to its primary goals. But try letting someone else such as your senior employee state the purpose and objectives of the meeting. This will give you a chance to get a feeling for where everyone is, roughly speaking, on the issue at hand.

In the beginning, ask only open ended questions (questions that can't be answered with a "yes" 
or "no").

When people ask you for your opinion, as they inevitably will if they've been trained to follow your lead, turn the question around toward them, asking: "What do you think about it?"

Make a mental note of anyone who hasn't said anything. After others have chimed in, ask his or her opinion.
If you can't engineer a sensible plan of action from the group, put one together yourself. But talk about it as if it had come from them. (In fact, much of it should have come from them.)

Use the meeting to create a written action plan with specific deadlines and responsibilities. That way, there can be no question later on of employees saying, "Oh, I thought you meant . . ." or "I guess I missed that part . . ."