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How To Run More Productive Meetings

Inefficiency is a big drain on your bottom line, so meet wisely.

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We all know that meetings are expensive. Time is precious, and having many people in a room is costly by any measurement. The cost of an interrupted work flow is even worse, especially for a small business. Adequately utilising valuable employee time is one of a leader’s key responsibilities.

You might be especially productive early in the morning, from the moment you start working. I might require an hour or so of build-up time before I’m ready to get cranking. But when a meeting starts, our preferences and differences are cast aside. Meetings strip us of the core tenet of the creative process: autonomy.

Creating useful meetings

We can’t rid the world of meetings. After all, the benefits of meeting can outweigh the costs. But we can meet more wisely. Here are a handful of the tips I have observed in productive teams:

1. Beware of ‘Posting Meetings’
If you leave a meeting without action steps, then you should question the value of the meeting (especially if it is recurring). A meeting to ‘share updates’ should actually be a voice-mail or an email.

2. Abolish Monday Meetings
Gathering people for no other reason than ‘it’s Monday!’ makes little-to-no sense, especially when trying to filter through the bloated post-weekend inbox. Automatic meetings end up becoming ‘posting’ meetings.

3. Finish With a Review of Actions Captured
At the end of every meeting, go around and review the action steps each person has captured. The exercise takes less than 30 seconds per person, and it almost always reveals a few action steps that were missed. The exercise also breeds a sense of accountability. If you state your action steps in front of your colleagues, then you are likely to follow through.

4. Make All Meetings ‘Standing Meetings’
One best practice I observed in the field was ‘standing meetings’ – meetings in which people gather and remain standing. The tendency to sit back and reiterate points – commentate rather than content-make – dwindles as people get weak in the knees.

Standing meetings become more actionable. Most impromptu meetings that are called to quickly catch up on a project or discuss a problem can happen in ten minutes or less.

5. State the Purpose of Every Meeting at the Start
Start every meeting with a simple question: “Why are we here, and what are we supposed to accomplish?” Laying out the objective and setting the meeting’s tone is one of the leader’s key responsibilities.

6. Bring Back Transit Time
Building in 10-15 minutes of travel time between meetings can significantly reduce stress. In an article for Harvard Business Review, entrepreneur and business writing teacher, David Silverman, makes the point that, in grade school, when the bell would ring, we knew we had 15 minutes to get to the next class.

“Why is it?” he asks “that when we graduate, they take away our bells, replace them with an irritating ‘doink’ sound signaling ‘five minutes until your next meeting’ and assume we can now teleport to the location?” What could cause such madness?

In two words: Microsoft Outlook. It seems that the default principles of corporate scheduling have stripped us of the precious transit time that keeps peace of mind between meetings. To bring it back, Silverman suggests that, when scheduling an hour-long meeting, put it in the calendar for 50-minutes.

7. If You Must Meet, Meet on Tuesday at 3pm
LifeHacker reported a retrospective study from the online meeting scheduling service “When is Good” where, after reviewing over 100 000 responses to 34 000 events on their platform, they realised that Tuesday at 3pm was the most ‘available’ spot for a meeting.

Such a finding suggests that there may be certain times (and days) during the week that, despite varied work flows, work best for your team. Hey, it’s not scientific, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Think before you meet

Admired leaders recognise the need to measure the value of meetings. Among the most productive leaders and teams I observed throughout the research for my new book, I found that the vast majority of teams shared a healthy hesitation to call meetings.

Consider the above tips as ammunition against wasting precious resources in your small business.

Scott Belsky studies exceptionally productive people and teams in the creative world.

Leading

Crisis Management In A Digital Age

If you’re at a loss for how to go about jumping into the fray of social media commenting and opinions, here are a few tips to protect you, your business, and your brand’s reputation.

Darren Mansour

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In business, you can’t ignore what’s being said about you online. Most importantly, you need to respond appropriately. The internet is a free-for-all of consumer commentary, inevitably, some of it can be damaging.

Crisis management comes with the Online reputation management (ORM) territory of changing negative sentiment around your brand into a positive.

It can be difficult to know how to respond, keep things positive, or change the sentiment around your brand. If you’re at a loss for how to go about jumping into the fray of social media commenting and opinions, here are a few tips to protect you, your  business, and your brand’s reputation.

1. Avoid a Knee Jerk Reaction

Reading what could be perceived as negative commentary on your brand, business, products, services, or employees, can cause you to jump straight into responding by justifying yourself or trying to show that the consumer is off the mark and misinformed. These are normal reactions, but it isn’t necessarily going to help your brand or positively push your online presence.

Rule number one is not to place blame, especially on the consumer or commenter, even if the comment is negative, false, or misleading. Rule number two is never to take it personally and do not to respond emotionally or in an accository fashion.

Pay attention, think it through, then respond in a calm, professional and appropriate way. Set a clear ORM response policy around commenting and responding to comments.

Related: Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail

2. Consider Comments as Free Research

Think of the comments you receive on social media, both good and bad, as consumer research. Keep a record of your comments and responses, tips, questions, suggestions, and key problems. You’ll find that your customer, fan, and follower will give you valuable information that you would not otherwise have.

The idea is to change negative sentiment around your brand into positive while at the same time leveraging off the information and data gained through this process. This perspective will assist you to see the value in this engagement with your brand. Online Reputation Management should be a daily task. This is all part of maintaining your online reputation and digital media presence.

3. Remember That Everyone’s Reading Your Responses

The most important reason to respond to both positive and negative comments is because everyone else on that thread is reading the banter. The amount of people reading the comments usually outweighs those actively participating in the conversation by commenting. They are all paying close attention to how the business and brand responds.

Related: How To ‘Crisis-Proof’ your Company

Appropriately responding to less negative comments presents the opportunity to demonstrate how connected the brand is with their consumer, it is the perfect platform to solve potential problems and defuse particular situations. When a business listens and responds to feedback online, in an appropriate manner, a sense of trust is created. It shows that the brand is prepared to go above and beyond. This can stretch far beyond the commenter.

4. Hire Talent To Do Your Responding

In order to fully tap into the benefits of social media you should consider getting a specialist on board to manage your social content along with the responses that this content creates. It is important to be on the same page as your marketing team. If you are looking for an agency with the experience, guts, and glory to carry your brand, then get in touch with So Interactive for your digital marketing needs.

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How Entrepreneurs Can Make Good Decisions Quickly

Below are some tips on how you can do just that.

Amy Galbraith

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As an entrepreneur, you have to face difficult decisions on a near-daily basis. These can range from deciding on what marketing strategy suits your business best or choosing what new talent to hire for your team. Making good decisions quickly can be tricky, even more so if you are pressed for time. However, there are methods you can use to do this.

Decision-making is an intrinsic part of being an entrepreneur, and once you know the answer to “What is decision-making?” you will be better able to make good decisions, quickly. Below are some tips on how you can do just that.

Acknowledge what you are trying to accomplish

Making decisions can be difficult if you do not know what, exactly, you are trying to accomplish. Before you reach a decision, you will need to carefully look at what you are trying to accomplish and optimise. Once you have done this, you will be able to make the right, and quickest, decision.

An example of this is changing a marketing strategy. Are you trying to reach a new audience? Are you trying to release a new product to the public, or are you trying to change your brand’s image? Once you have acknowledged what you are trying to accomplish, you can decide on what options best suit the situation. This process might take time at first, but, once you have done it a few times, it will become second nature.

Related: 6 Common Decision-Making Blunders That Could Kill Your Business

Use available data

Having evidence or data to help with a decision can be highly useful for any entrepreneur. And in today’s online world, you will be able to find enough of both to help you make any decision, whether it is big or small.

Using data and evidence, you will be able to see how your company is currently performing and make a business decision based on this data. The key to making good decisions in the shortest amount of time possible is having the right evidence and information available. You will need to be sure that you understand the data and evidence in order to use it as part of your decision making.

Give yourself a deadline

It is important to set deadlines for decisions. This way, you will be able to make them quickly, effectively and before any problems become bigger than they need to be. For example, set a deadline for deciding on a new employee a week from their interview date. This gives you time to examine their strengths and weaknesses in depth before deciding.

Having a deadline creates a sense of urgency, meaning that you will spend less time procrastinating and more time on the actual decision-making. It will keep things moving forward and you will avoid “paralysis by analysis”, a common occurrence in entrepreneurs and business owners. Deadlines help to keep the goal in sight, allowing you to make a decision quickly and easily without overthinking it.

Get an outside opinion

Even the Khaleesi in Game of Thrones has an advisor to help her make decisions. And if she has one, it makes sense that a business owner or entrepreneur should too. It is a good idea to get an outside opinion, especially if you have been thinking about a decision for a long time.

An objective voice can help you to reach a final decision, as they can help you consider points that you might not have thought of. You could ask your friends or your colleagues for help, but be sure that they do not have any attachment to the decision. This can make it difficult for them to give objective advice. If you have a mentor, this is the best person to ask for advice.

Related: 5 Bad Decision-Making Habits That Can Destroy Your Business

Reframe the problem

Step back from the problem or decision you are facing and look at it from another angle. Often, reframing a problem or situation can help you to reach a speedy conclusion, especially in terms of business.

Try to see the issue from as many perspectives as possible, as this will help you to ensure that you are not emphasising one aspect and neglecting another. This is all a part of the answer to “what is decision making?” as seeing a problem from another perspective can help you to see the bigger picture. You should try to think of at least three different ways to see the problem and work from there.

Keep calm

One of the most important ways to make good decisions quickly is to keep calm. By keeping your emotions in check, you will better be able to make a decision that is smart and objective. The steps in decision-making include knowing what you want to accomplish, using the data available to you, giving yourself a deadline and asking for an outside opinion. Once you have taken all of these steps, you will be able to make efficient and effective business decisions.

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Simple Ways To Make Your Small Business More Professional

If you are looking to boost your business success and look more professional to clients, read on for some top tips on how to do so.

Amy Galbraith

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Owning and operating a small business can be tough, time-consuming and at times, frustrating. There is always a business out there that is more efficient, funky or more professional than you. But you can get an edge on the competition if you strive to be better.

One way to bring in more professionalism is to send your staff on office administration courses so that they are able to perform administrative tasks to improve efficiency, or you could hire a professional administrative assistant to do the job. If you are looking to boost your business success and look more professional to clients, read on for some top tips on how to do so.

Create a modern website

In today’s modern, digital age, the very first thing that people see when looking for your business is your website. And, having an unprofessional, outdated and badly designed one will send potential clients running for the hills before they even contact you to find out about your products or services.

It is not enough to have a Facebook Business Page, you will need to have a professional, modern website that tells clients exactly who you are, what you do and (most importantly) what you can do for them. You will also need to include your contact details, office address and business hours, so that your clients can reach you when they need you. A modern website will entice customers to find out more about your company, too.

Related: Government Funding And Grants For Small Businesses

Always use a business email

You might think that creating another email address is tedious, but think about how embarrassing it would be to email clients from your current one that you might have created in high school (BarbiePrincess89@hotmail.com is hardly going to impress anyone).

If you already have a business website, then setting up a business email is quick, simple and more often than not, free. You can use Google My Business or other similar tools to create a business email that reads YourName@yourbusiness.com, which is much more professional and will send the right message to your clients. A business email also makes it easier for you to answer work emails quickly and efficiently, as you will not be scrolling through your personal inbox, trying to find them.

Have someone to answer your phones

If you have employees for your small business, you should look into sending someone on office administration courses so that they are able to answer your office phone quickly, effectively and in a professional manner.

Having a receptionist or office administrator to answer your phones immediately makes your small business seem more professional. And it will allow you to focus on more important tasks, rather than having to answer a ringing phone all day. Your office administrator will be able to forward calls to you, take messages and answer any queries that clients may have. This will give clients a positive experience when dealing with your business too.

Avoid formal titles on your business cards

If you are a “one-man-band”, so to speak, it can be tempting to call yourself the CEO of your business, or a similarly formal title. After all, you are the one putting in all the work, right? However, clients will not be impressed by this title and it could backfire rather than work in your favour.

More often than not, calling yourself the CEO of a one-person company will make you look unprofessional and appear to be a “small-time” operation, especially as the CEO is the one chasing up clients and running around doing all the grunt work. It is best to simply leave it at your name and the name of your business. You do not need a title to prove that you are good at your job, rather let your products and/or services speak for you.

Related: How South African Small Business Owners Can Overcome Economic Uncertainty

Lease a professional office space

If you are just starting out or your small business has not yet taken off, you may not have a professional office address or space. While it can help to cut costs to operate out of your home, it will not help to raise your level of professionalism in the eyes of your clients.

You could look into leasing a workspace in a coworking space such as No 80 Hout Street in Cape Town or Worq in Pietermaritzburg. Having a professional space to meet with clients and to conduct your business will increase your success and will help you to stand out against the competition. Coworking spaces are highly popular among young entrepreneurs and you might even meet like-minded people who you can collaborate with on projects for clients.

Professionalism is in the eye of the beholder

Going on office administration courses, having a modern website created for you, creating a business email and hiring someone to answer your phones are all highly effective ways to make your small business more professional. Clients will appreciate the effort that you have put into crafting a professional presence, no matter if you have one employee or ten.

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