Leadership & Strategy mentor Keith Lamb responds:
We've been trying to improve our meetings for years now, and we think we've come up with a good formula. Generally speaking, a systematic -- and lively -- meeting process ensures that everyone's business and financial acumen is constantly reinforced and enhanced. Here's some advice:

  • Develop your own unique meeting format. We're big on weekly staff meetings that focus on our key financials and operational issues, and we address those issues, one by one, as they relate to information, communication, accountability, and education. If we're trying to correct a cash flow problem, for instance, we talk about the source and quality of the information, who is responsible for finding the solution, and how they're going to make it happen. Then we try to work in a cash flow lesson that relates to our current situation. We stick to that format as best we can, keeping the meeting under an hour long.
  • Make your meetings flow. Meetings flow when people know what to expect. Our associates know that our weekly meetings always focus on how the group's activities are tied to our overall company goals. We just take a different cut at the numbers, depending on which ones need to be watched and what issues need to be addressed. Our goal is to identify challenges and then brainstorm action items to tackle them. We hold our meetings at the same time every week; a tight agenda keeps things moving. We also give everyone the opportunity to lead a meeting, which helps keep the communication fresh and interesting.
  • Give everyone at least one takeaway lesson. Our associates want to know how they can improve our business, so we teach them. If, say, our overall goal is to improve profit before tax, then someone in purchasing might learn that he or she can negotiate with one of our vendors to reduce the cost of a particular product we use regularly. Our salespeople might learn that they have to better understand the profit margins for each service, and then build a sales strategy that emphasizes higher-margin items. Delivery people might leave with the goal of reducing errors in shipping.
  • Host quarterly learning events or workshops. These meetings might be led by your financial team, which can develop a series of courses such as Income Statement 101, Balance Sheet Basics, Cash Flow Forecasting, Fun with Ratios, How to Create a Budget from Scratch, and anything else you can dream up. Workshops are a great way to gather everyone in a more social setting. We bring in some food and try to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Once you finish the learning, you can share business-related know-how, best practices, and lessons learned.

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