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Performance & Growth

7 Deadly Sins of Business Meetings

Skype meetings used to be a weekly ritual for a health-care IT company with offices across various states

Lisa Girard

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However, the company co-founder and CEO felt weekly meetings influenced productivity and weren’t really needed.

The meeting schedule changed to once a month, using Google Hangouts so that 10 people can share the screen in a less formal setting. That made everyone happier—and more productive.

This company is not alone when it comes to dysfunctional meetings. For many businesses, routine meetings can lack focus and a clear agenda and end up wasting time and boring people.

“The last thing a meeting organiser wants is their attendees to be sitting in a conference room or on the phone wondering what the meeting is for, why they were asked to join, or what the output will be,” says Kathryn Hammond, owner of BlueSpire Strategic Marketing, a marketing company. “If a meeting doesn’t have a defined agenda and concrete next steps, I can almost guarantee you will see people playing with their phones or hear people typing in the background.”

What to watch for in meetings

1. Meetings that become useless rituals. Companies frequently meet simply because it’s time for their weekly, monthly or annual sales meeting. “Meetings that are ritualistic instead of necessary are often boring, and attendees eventually flip an ‘off switch’ in their brains,” says Joe Calloway, business strategy consultant and author of Becoming A Category of One (John Wiley, 2003).

Tip: First, re-examine your routine. “Do not have a meeting unless you can very specifically define why it’s necessary and how it will advance the strategy of the organisation,” he says. Also, create a specific agenda and send it out early enough for people to prepare.

2. Meetings that are a one-way conversation. People often tune out monotone lecturers and mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations. “A one-way speech is generally one of the least effective ways of teaching, informing or motivating people to action,” Calloway says.

Tip: Encourage your team to speak up, exchange ideas and comment on what they’ve heard. If you show PowerPoint slides, make them visually interesting and keep words and numbers to a minimum.

3. Meetings with lax leadership. In today’s “virtual” conference rooms, time is often wasted waiting for people to join the call and then getting stragglers up to speed on what they missed. “This punishes the people who joined the meeting on time with the likelihood you’ll run over, leaving employees stressed out playing catch-up on the rest of their day,” says Gary Bradt, business strategy expert and author of The Ring in the Rubble (McGraw Hill, 2007).

Tip: Choose a leader who is organised and forceful, leaving latecomers to catch up on their own. “Use tact, of course – you don’t have to be Attila the Hun – but if you’re too nice, it allows too much nonsense to go on,” Bradt says.

4. Meetings that harp on setbacks instead of strategies. One of Bradt’s clients spent 95% of each meeting having plant managers explain why their numbers weren’t up to par and only 5% planning future strategies. Not surprisingly, Brandt says, everyone came out of the meeting with a long face.

Tip: Use the past as a platform for understanding and planning future actions, not “a battering ram to beat people up,” Bradt says. The collective brainpower in the room should be used to avoid mistakes going forward.

5. Meetings that disrupt the most productive hours. Many companies hold meetings in the morning, interrupting employees’ most productive hours, says Jackie Freiberg, co-author of Nanovation: How a Little Car Can Teach the World to Think Big and Act Bold (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

Tip: Schedule meetings in the afternoon, when escaping the cubicle can be a welcome relief.

6. Meetings that are held in a bland environment. At the vast majority of meetings, employees gather around a conference table and keep their gaze focused on the leader at the head of the table. Freiberg believes this format does little to stimulate discussion and creative ideas.

Tip: Take your employees on a “walking” meeting in the park or just around the building and parking lot. “When you’re not eye to eye, you have the guts to say certain things,” Freiberg says. “And when walking, you look at the world differently, which stimulates fresh ideas.”

7. Meetings that are too formal and rigid. Few meeting leaders have a sense of humour. The result is a room full of bored, restless employees, says Eric Chester, author of Reviving Work Ethic (Greenleaf Books, 2012).

Tip: Break up the meeting with music, a video, jokes or an engaging story, Chester says. “In the age of YouTube and iTunes, there’s simply no reason to not inject a bit of levity in a meeting to gain attention, disarm negativity and generate enthusiasm.”

Lisa Girard is a freelance writer who covers topics as diverse as golf fashion, health and beauty, the hardware industry and small business interests. She also has been Senior Apparel Editor for PGA Magazine for more than a decade. Lisa lives in New Jersey with her four children and two dogs.

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Performance & Growth

Taking Care Of Business

Do you want to grow your business in 2019? Bear these tips in mind.

Christiaan Steyn

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SMEs are the lifeblood of the South African economy, accounting for approximately 29% of employment in the country and forming a critical pillar of the government’s 2030 National Development Plan. With funding scarce and the economy volatile, small businesses remain increasingly vulnerable to economic pressures, with many failing to last beyond the five-year mark.

Thanks to the abundance of new and affordable technology, bringing with it the potential for new industries and market gaps, there has never been a better time to conduct business without crippling costs. It is not all doom and gloom in the small business sector, despite findings in the 2018 SME Landscape Report that suggest that a meagre 6% of all start-ups have received government funding.

Do not be afraid to delegate

Many entrepreneurs are so passionate about their own undertakings that they are unable to simply let things go. Rather than empowering and enabling others to take responsibility, many Type A business leaders instead opt to do it all themselves – usually with disastrous consequences.

Learning to delegate is key to alleviating bottlenecking and freeing up capacity in your business, so make sure to utilise all your available resources if you want your enterprise to expand.

Related: 10 Questions With Tshireletso ‘Ty’ Hlangwane, Winner Of The Workspace/MiWay Business Insurance Entrepreneur Competition

Go digital

While billboards and TV ads are expensive, marketing a business can now be done quite cheaply, thanks to the abundance of relatively affordable digital channels. So while you might not be able to have your brand staring out at you from the pages of a glossy magazine just yet, digital channels like Facebook and Google now allow you to achieve the same audience reach for a fraction of the cost.

Be discoverable

Offering the best service in town is one thing, but it is worth nothing if nobody knows about it. So make sure to pay close attention to your website and its search engine optimisation (SEO). By using the correct keywords and even putting a small investment into Google Adwords, you will ensure that people who are looking for what you offer are able to find you easily.

Mobile first

With over 50% of all web traffic in South Africa coming from mobile devices, businesses simply can’t afford not to take a mobile-first approach to business. If you are offering an online service, make sure it is optimised for a mobile experience and ensure that any communication touch-points – be they blogs, social media posts or online check-out pages – are designed with mobile in mind.

Be agile

One of the key advantages SMEs have over their larger counterparts is their ability to be flexible. Without outdated systems and reams of red tape to wade through, small businesses are far better able to adapt to market conditions and revise their offerings based on consumer needs. So make sure to listen to your customers and be willing to accept that some of your great ideas simply are not feasible.

Your willingness to accept failures and move on, will ultimately be what gives you the edge over your competitors.

Plan your finances

Cashflow is king when it comes to entrepreneurship and many a micro enterprise has come undone thanks to their inability to manage it. As such, financial planning is a critical tool for any business, especially for those operating without significant investment capital. Understanding potential pitfalls and keeping tabs on your profit margins will help to ensure you keep your pricing realistic and enable you to avoid finding yourself in the red.

Related: The Entrepreneurial Case For A Co-Working Space

Network

Operating in isolation can only get you so far, so it is important that you put yourself out there and make proactive attempts to connect with other like-minded businesses. By joining a business network or attending industry events, you will be able to arm yourself with useful contacts, handy insights and perhaps a few new clients in the process.

Remember that owning a business is like raising a child – it requires constant supervision, nurturing and care if it is to succeed to its utmost potential. So make sure to look after your business and one day it will end up looking after you.

MiWay is a licensed Short-term Insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP. 33970).

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Performance & Growth

How Taking Risks – And Failing – Can Lead To Business Success

Don’t let fear of failure stop you from taking the risks you need to, to carry your business forward. But as your business grows, you’ll have to re-evaluate what risks you can take.

Grant Field

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Innovate, innovate, innovate. The war cry is so often repeated that it has become something of a bore. Yet, true innovation remains a rarity – and to our huge detriment. As South Africans, we seem to carry a deep shame associated with failure. Yet, facing the very real possibility of failure is the only arena in which a culture of innovation can take root.

The biggest business failure of my life was an investment into a software company that wrote a piece of software that was set to revolutionise the mobile landscape. It was going to be huge. It was going to take the world by storm. But unfortunately, we backed the wrong horse.

We developed the software for the Symbian platform because Nokia was way ahead of the pack. Nobody else even came close. But, given the fact that there’s a good chance you currently have an iPhone or Android device in your pocket right now, you know how that story ended. Nokia seemed untouchable, then almost collapsed. We lost a lot of money.

Get back up

But, we learnt valuable lessons from that. Of course, there’s the general lesson that everyone should take away from failure – to get up and try again. As General George Custer said, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.”

The other lesson was more specific to our business. In developing the software, we learnt a lot about different technology platforms and those lessons were invaluable as we took the next steps in Fedgroup. The same people who built that software helped in the initial stages of developing Azurite, which today is the backbone of our company’s entire operation.

Because we’d been involved so heavily in developing for mobility and the future, our minds were opened to what technology could do. It gave us the mindset to get where we are today.

Related: 2 Types of Failure and How Your Business Can Weather Them

Investing in education

It sounds like a terrible cliché, but there’s value in failure. Take the lessons you learn in failure – the genuine lessons – because even if you lose money, consider it school fees, and cheap at the price. Arguably, our failure was the “fees payable” that bought us our competitive edge.

In the United States, they are less afraid of failure. They wear their failures like a badge of honour. Elon Musk, for example, misses his targets, but he’s always pushing the boundaries. Recent (questionable) antics aside, Musk’s risk-taking drives innovation.

If people in an organisation are terrified of failure, they don’t try new things, they don’t innovate, they don’t move forward and they certainly don’t disrupt. Even though now, as the CEO of a large financial services company, I can’t afford to bet the whole business on a risky proposition, I still encourage risk-taking and a spirit of adventure – within reason.

Reckless vs reason

This is not to say that we can – or should – be reckless. There should be accountability, and the reasons for making the mistake should make sense. And, you shouldn’t make the same mistake twice. But if you take risks within those parameters, you’ve got a better chance of making a real difference in your organisation.

We have recently launched an app that is fairly disruptive, and as far as we can tell, the first of its kind in the world. Before we launched, we put our personal money behind the idea to test it. We had done our homework, but it was still a risk. If it hadn’t worked, we would have lost our personal money, but because we took that risk and proved it worked, we were able to launch it safely to the public one year later.

Related: 8 Reasons Why Failure And Focus Are Essential To Business Success

Parameters, limitations, and the ethics of risk

When you’re an entrepreneur, when you’re just starting out, you can bet the farm. You can take risks on new ventures and potentially build something out of nothing.

Once you’re an established organisation with staff and clients – and in our case, clients who have invested their pension with us – the scope of risk takes on a new set of parameters. When you are dealing with a client’s security, it is simply not acceptable to expose them to additional avoidable risk.

However, because risk taking is where the magic of innovation happens, encouraging a framework where creativity, experimentation, and risk is possible within your organisation, is critical. One of the ways to encourage this is to examine your attitude towards failure. Build an environment where failure is not taboo, but presents a strong learning opportunity, and ring fence those areas within the organisation which absolutely cannot be jeopardised. This is risk in a helmet – you might get a roasty, but you could win the race.

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Performance & Growth

Proven Strategies To Grow Your Start-up On A Scale Following These Guidelines

The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.

Joseph Harisson

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Scalability and flexibility are important properties of any business. Let’s say you’ve managed to build a successful start-up. It’s profitable and promising, but you want it to become better. The scalability of a business involves its ability to adapt for bigger workloads without losing revenue.

Even if your business is currently small and doesn’t generate huge profits, scalability can help it turn into a large enterprise. The wrong approach to developing a start-up can deprive it of an opportunity to become better.

The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.

Scaling Vs Growth

Many companies make a mistake of thinking that scaling and growing a company is the same thing. In fact, growth involves increasing revenue or the size of the company (the number of employees, offices, clients).

Constant growth requires numerous resources and may not always lead to a proportional revenue increase. In many cases, the growing number of services or products needed to boost revenue involves high costs related to the growing number of employees and equipment.

On the other hand, scaling allows you to increase the revenue without the costs involved in growth. You can handle the extra load and boost your profits while keeping the costs to a minimum.

At some point, a successful start-up needs to make a choice between growing at a constant rate and switching to the scaling business model.

Even though a single clear method for scaling your business doesn’t exist, there are some guidelines you can follow.

Related: If You Want Scale, Fail Fast And Learn Quickly

1. Get Ready To Be Patient

Scaling is not a quick process so you have to be patient. The overnight success story is not about you. In fact, scaling too fast usually results in unfortunate failure.

Allow yourself to spend the time to understand who your ideal customers are and how you can solve their problems in a better manner. Make sure you understand how to be confident about the new volume of your work.

Do research to find out how you can find the right resources to achieve scaling rather than growth.

2. Choose The Right Software

The lack of time and team members is a common problem for a startup looking for scaling methods. That’s why they need to try and automate as many processes as possible. This can be done with the assistance of the right software.

  • Trello – to simplify in-office and remote teamwork
  • MailChimp – to improve marketing campaigns
  • Brand24 – to get insights about your business
  • Survicate – to collect customers’ feedback
  • Voiptime – to increase connectivity.

Enterprise SEO specialists at Miromind also recommend paying special attention to different programmes to help you with your marketing efforts. Many digital marketing tools available today are free.

3. Take Advantage of Outsourcing

Since you are hoping to limit the expenses while growing the revenue, you have to find ways to spend the revenue in the right manner. The biggest mistake made by business owners who think they are choosing scaling is hiring a big team. By doing so, they turn scaling into growing.

Your best bet to avoid hiring a large team and paying large salaries while achieving your plans is to outsource. Using your resources wisely involves finding freelancers and remote employees who are willing to work for a lower pay on a one-time (or several) contract bases.

For example, you don’t need a lawyer or a computer specialist sitting in the office all day long. Why should you pay them a monthly salary?

Related: What It Will Really Take For South Africa’s Businesses To Scale And Create Jobs

4. Don’t Do It Alone

Even though certain team minimisation is necessary to improve your scaling efforts, don’t try to handle everything on your own. It’s important to have at least one person you can rely on to manage the business-related problems.

Conclusion

Scaling your start-up is possible as soon as you understand what scaling is in detail. You need to be careful not to start growing your business instead of scaling it in the process. Once you have all the fundamentals figured, resources managed, and the right people in place, you are ready to start.

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