How do I organise effective management meetings?
Q: I have seen you writing before about the importance of having a weekly management meeting. How do I go about structuring this?
A: The risk you run if you don't have weekly management meetings is that the business simply rolls on in an uncontrolled fashion and without strategic direction.
The objective of the weekly meeting is to create a kind of 'line in the sand' which holds the business and yourself accountable to have achieved certain things over the previous seven days.
This accountability is a critical part of the business process. As a business owner you don't have a boss and need to create structures which enable the business to perform at the highest possible level. This weekly meeting is one of those key structures.
It also gives you the opportunity to sit in a structured environment with your key team members and to get their input into running the business and allow you a communication platform.
Obviously at the early stage of the business this meeting can be a little bit more difficult as sometimes you may in effect be meeting with yourself, which can be a little disconcerting, however, it is still an essential part of the business structure even if you are on your own.
What is very important when structuring these meetings is to make sure that they are well planned with agendas created in advance and actions circulated to everyone on completion. It has to be a forum for accountability and where the previous week's action notes become the beginning of the agenda for the next meeting and so on. Do be careful that financial issues do not take over the meeting.
While they are critically important to review, you also need to balance this with other areas that are important to the business like customer service, etc. It would be all too easy to spend lots of time talking about numbers and to forget about the consumer.
My final piece of advice would be to be a stickler for time as uncontrolled meetings can drag on for hours and become ineffective. It might be an idea to rotate the chairing of this meeting so team members have experience at running it and it doesn't fall to any one person to organise the meeting.
Q: I am finding that most of my key suppliers are all supplying my competitors with products which were once exclusive to me and I am not sure how to approach this.
A: The fact that you are using the word suppliers tells me something.
In Superquinn we went through this transition, particularly with fresh food suppliers. It was vital for us to be able to differentiate in fresh food, but in the earlier years we chopped and changed between suppliers and because we didn't make any particular commitment to them, they were often forced to deal with our competitors to get stability in their business.
We then started to develop a partnership model where we would only deal with one main supplier for a particular fresh category eg poultry, seafood, etc.
We spent a lot of time talking to every producer in this space and offered all of our business to the one who provided the most innovation and were likely to secure a unique positioning for us in the marketplace. The competitive nature of this selection process meant that we got some really great ideas and ended up with a 'partner' who was totally committed to growing our business and saw the benefits for themselves.
We treated these partners in a slightly different way to others who supplied the business, for example, they had the codes for all the keypads in our office so that they could let themselves into the building when coming for meetings, our purchasing team had far more regular review meetings with them, and I would make sure I met the owners of these businesses at least once a year at some sort of a formal event to recognise their contribution to our success.
The result was dramatic for us. We got much higher levels of innovation, far greater dedication and a group of suppliers who viewed themselves as a core part of our business strategy. For them the prize was securing and holding all of our business. For us it was the security of having a dedicated team of partners working in our interest. A classic win/win situation!
Send your small business questions to email@example.com