In my class at the University of Chicago, I teach aspiring entrepreneurs and others how to sell. You have to get selling right, or the company can't survive. Other business skills may be less imperative but still make a big difference in how efficient, productive, and satisfied you and your team are.
Take meetings. (I can't help myself. Take meetings, please!) I like to ask people how efficient their last five meetings were, just to see how quickly they go from simmer to full boil. To take that metaphor in a slightly different direction, meetings are like steam. They expand to fill the space you give them. Open the door and a few minutes later, it's as if nothing ever happened.
I don't like wasting my time. And I don't want my students wasting theirs or other people's--either now or when they are out starting their own companies. So I've embedded a few lessons on meetings in my rules for teacher conferences. Here they are, exactly as they appear in the course syllabus:
A Note on Meetings Outside of Class
When you meet with Craig outside of class, you will have 30 minutes, and you must bring three things to the meeting:
1. Your "purpose, benefit, check." The purpose, benefit, check happens at the beginning of every meeting. It is simply your stated purpose for the meeting, what benefit there will be to having this meeting, and a "check" to make sure that the purpose and benefit are okay. Example: "The purpose of our meeting is to share with you some thoughts about my entrepreneurial venture. The benefit will be in helping me gain some insights into the sales model. How does that sound?"
2. Two clear goals for the meeting. Your two goals for the meeting do not have to be explicit, but you should have them in mind before you walk into the meeting. They may or may not be stated in your purpose at the beginning of the meeting, but they are simply meant to ensure that you get exactly what you need out of the time we spend together.
3. An "ask." Your "ask" is what you want from the meeting. It may be delivered by the meeting itself, or it may be something outside of the bounds of the meeting (an introduction, a piece of information, a follow-up, etc.). You must be explicit about your ask, and I will be direct about whether I can or cannot deliver on your ask.
Oh, yeah, and Craig needs your mobile phone number. You have his. If you are late, use it. If he's late, he will call you. Thanks very much.