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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Business meetings: Control and freedom

Businesses all have distinctive cultures, usually initially set by the founder but ultimately defined by the employees and managers over the years. Businesses which survive (and thrive) through good and difficult times combine some "right place in right time" luck with a healthy dose of adaptability and change.

Businesses differ in the level of hierarchical and management control, from extreme autocratic enterprises to free wheeling and independent cultures. Is one approach to management control better than another? This answer is simplistic, but . . . it depends.

For example, in the early years of the business I sought to be a non-boss type boss; encouraging freedom, independence, self-responsibility, and individuality. But this anything-goes attitude I found almost destroyed the business (and as things started falling apart, I can't say that the company's employees really enjoyed their freedom). However, people don't change their fundamental selves very easily, and I could never see myself routinely ordering the troops to "do as I say". Generally, the only time I raise my voice in anger is with our landlord, who has trouble finding a way to keep the office building's washroom's clean. (We work in a C-class building -- luxury is not essential, but the garbage needs to be emptied and toilet paper replaced.) Here, my employees cheer when I turn on the boss attitude in calls to the landlord (and yes, after I call, the washrooms are cleaned.)

I still needed to learn a management control system that works well for my style of business, and finally found it (with some help from consultant Bill Caswell). The not-so-secret answer: Regular meetings.

Everyone gets together (remote workers by teleconference) for a weekly Monday meeting at 1:30 p.m. The sales team gathers at 3:00 on Thursdays. And twice a year we have major sit-down meetings (we fly in out-of-town employees for these planning sessions). Meetings always start on time and the regular weekly meetings never last more than an hour (we are usually finished in 20 to 30 minutes). Action items define accountabilities and responsibilities, business issues are resolved, and we make decisions. I also can smell out potential problems and conflicts.

The structured and regular meetings provide cohesion and order -- they create discipline without a heavy hand of management authority.

To succeed in construction marketing and business, I think you need regular business meetings. Do you have them and how are they structured? What is your experience?

If you would like to peek into our regular meeting, at least partly, you can visit at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great article, on a great blog!