Monthly Archives: July 2016

Some Easy Ways to Help Streamline Business Meetings

Today’s leaders often recognize the power of smaller and briefer meetings. Shorter meetings are often easier to schedule and fit in to everyone’s calendars. When meetings are disciplined and streamlined, they may also seem less intimidating. People may be less likely to duck them. Shorter meetings often tend not to get bogged down in too much detail or sidetracked by tangents. More gets done.
For those reasons, Strategic Meetings Management Program (SMMP) is an important concept for you to know. In basic terms, SMMP means coming up with a clear plan for managing your business meetings to stay on-task and productive. Once you have a plan, you can communicate it to your team.
Create an SMMP meeting plan incorporating these seven ways to help streamline business meetings and keep them strategic, consistent and productive.
1. Communicate a clear objective in advance.
Require every meeting to have a clearly stated objective.
While the reason may be clear in the mind of the person organizing the meeting, to others it may not be nearly as clear. Instead of a cryptic description, meeting invitations might state the objective in terms of the result expected, such as, “The objective of this meeting is to redesign our company newsletter.”
2. Add an agenda to the calendar invitation.
Outline a brief agenda and include it in the emailed meeting invitation.
Train your team to review agendas in advance and show up prepared. They can think about the agenda topics, look up facts and figures in advance, and come in with suggestions. To access the agenda, people just pull up the meeting invitation—no hunting around for a separate document.
Here’s another tip: If you’d like people to refer to a backgrounder document, consider loading it onto the company’s shared cloud storage (such as Google Drive or One Drive). Then put a link to that document right in the calendar invitation. Everything participants need for the meeting can then be found in one place.
3. Cut the participant list to bare bones.
While it might seem efficient to include everyone in one giant meeting, the opposite is often true. Inviting people who aren’t essential may waste their time, and may make it harder on others who are essential. The more people, the longer a meeting tends to take.
People who are bored and typing emails in the background of a conference call, or responding to instant message pings, may be a distraction to everyone else.
If you need to share information resulting from the meeting with someone, consider calling or emailing the information later.
4. Stick to start and end times.
Meetings should have both start and end times. Start on time. End on time.
To do that, the organizer must often manage the discussion and put limits on each agenda item. For example, if it’s an hour long meeting with six agenda items, the organizer may need to bring discussion to a close on each agenda item after 10 minutes. If you haven’t finished everything for that agenda item in the time allotted, consider scheduling follow-up actions.
One technique that some companies use to keep meetings timely is to hold them standing up. Not ready to go that far? Then how about putting large clocks in your conference rooms? Or do what I do when holding Skype conferences: Use the built-in timer in Skype to stay on time.
5. Have a clear leader.
One of the quickest ways for meetings to get sidetracked is when too many people try to take control, or go off on tangents.
Even if more than one person is sharing information, it typically helps to have one leader—or facilitator—who’s in charge.
Being in charge doesn’t mean monopolizing the conversation. On the contrary, it means making sure everyone who has something to contribute has a say. Team members in your company should be made aware that the leader’s role is to keep the meeting moving. If communicated that way upfront, long-winded participants hopefully won’t take umbrage at being cut short. It’s nothing personal—just process
6. Take notes.
Have you ever been in a strategic planning meeting, and the moment everyone left, they promptly forgot about what was discussed?
Ideally, key decisions, brainstorming “aha moments,” and to-do’s should be captured.
Consider leveraging technology for taking notes. If you’re using a meeting room with a whiteboard or a flip chart, you might snap a picture of the notes with a camera phone. Later, those notes can be transcribed.
Or use a notes app, like Evernote. There are also drawing/handwriting tools that let you take handwritten notes and transform them into text. For instance, Microsoft One Note has a drawing function for drawing graphics and notes. And the Surface Pro 3 keyboard transforms handwritten words into typed text.
If you’re holding the meeting on a conference call, consider doing what we do in my company: take notes on a shared Google Doc or Office 365 document that everyone is logged into. It may be helpful, with this process, to assign a “scribe” at the start of the meeting to capture all key points.
7. Follow up.
After your meeting, participants will hopefully feel confident about what’s expected of them. To be sure you’re on the same page, a simple follow-up email may be effective. Or simply list to-do items and assign responsibilities in a shared cloud document, if that’s what you used to take notes. If a follow-up meeting is required, consider setting it before ending the first meeting, so it doesn’t fall through the cracks.
These seven meeting processes can become part of your company’s strategic meeting management plan. Get your team to understand them and buy in, and hopefully your meetings can become more productive.

10 Important Business Tips You Should not Overlook

Since there are so many different things that go into running successful businesses, it can be easy to overlook some things. But members of our small business community have learned the importance of those overlooked elements. Here are 10 sometimes-overlooked ways to keep your small business on the right track.
– Learn the Habits of Successful Female Entrepreneurs
Female entrepreneurs have a whole different set of obstacles to overcome than their male counterparts. So if you want to learn the habits of successful female entrepreneurs, it can be beneficial to hear from the experts. This ebook from Well Polished features advice from expert female entrepreneurs including Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell.
– Show Employees You’re Thankful for Them
Your employees can make a huge impact on the success of your business. But many business owners still tend to overlook all of the contributions their employees make. That’s why this CorpNet post by Rieva Lesonsky offers some ways you can show your employees how thankful you are for them.
– Find Success in Your Less Successful Content
Not all of your content marketing is going to be successful. But that doesn’t mean you have to just forget about the pieces that don’t perform well. In this Resonance Content Marketing post, Rachel Parker explains how you can benefit from that content. And BizSugar members chime in with their thoughts here.
– Adopt These Hyper-Efficient Marketing Automation Methods
When you’re considering new marketing methods for your business, you might not consider automation to be of the utmost importance. But for small businesses that have limited time and resources, marketing automation can be a huge help. This Right Mix Marketing post by Rohan Ayyar goes into more detail on the subject.
– Generate Creativity in Five Minutes or Less
Creativity is an essential component of many successful businesses. But it can be easy to take it for granted instead of actually working to generate more creativity. This post by Ivan Widjaya of Biz Epic includes some quick tips for generating more creativity.
– Surround Yourself with the Right People
Ideas are certainly important to growing businesses. But if you surround yourself with the right people, then those people can actually be more valuable than ideas, as Martin Zwilling of Startup Professionals Musings points out. The BizSugar community also comments on the post here.
– Use These Security Tools for WordPress Blogs
Security is something you definitely don’t want to overlook when it comes to your blog or website. In this post from Basic Blog Tips, Christopher Jan Benitez shares 15 different security tools you can use to keep your WordPress blogs secure.
– Build a Foundation of Happy Staff Members
Happy staff can be the foundation of any successful business. But employee satisfaction can sometimes be overlooked when considering how to improve service excellence. This post by Itai Elizur on the Smallbiztechnology.com blog details how important a happy staff can be to a business.
– Sell Your Digital Products Online With These Tools
When you think about online sales, your mind probably goes right to physical products. But your business can potentially also benefit from selling digital products online thanks to the tools named in this Social Media Today post by Lilach Bullock. You can also see commentary on the post over on BizSugar.
– Identify Critical Success Factors in Project Management
When it comes to project management, determining success factors is essential to managing effectiveness. This Nutcache post by Sebastien Boyer includes some critical success factors for project management, along with some tips for identifying them.

Tips for the First Time Business Owner

I write Entrepreneur.com ‘s Young Entrepreneur column because I believe there are far too few resources directly addressing the nonacademic trials and tribulations young entrepreneurs face along their journey. Whenever possible, I encourage up-and-comers and established entrepreneurs to mentor the next generation of dream-seekers; for it is this insight and insider education that will provide the foundation for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. With that, here are 10 pieces of advice that I wish someone had given to me before I launched my first venture.

– Focus. Focus. Focus.
Many first-time entrepreneurs feel the need to jump at every “opportunity” they come across. Opportunities are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. Avoid getting side-tracked. Juggling multiple ventures will spread you thin and limit both your effectiveness and productivity. Do one thing perfectly, not 10 things poorly. If you feel the need to jump onto another project, that might mean something about your original concept.
– Know what you do. Do what you know.
Don’t start a business simply because it seems sexy or boasts large hypothetical profit margins and returns. Do what you love. Businesses built around your strengths and talents will have a greater chance of success. It’s not only important to create a profitable business, it’s also important that you’re happy managing and growing it day in and day out. If your heart isn’t in it, you will not be successful.
– Say it in 30 seconds or don’t say it at all.
From a chance encounter with an investor to a curious customer, always be ready to pitch your business. State your mission, service and goals in a clear and concise manner. Fit the pitch to the person. Less is always more.
– Know what you know, what you don’t know and who knows what you don’t.
No one knows everything, so don’t come off as a know-it-all. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors who will nurture you to become a better leader and businessman. Find successful, knowledgeable individuals with whom you share common interests and mutual business goals that see value in working with you for the long-term.
– Act like a startup.
Forget about fancy offices, fast cars and fat expense accounts. Your wallet is your company’s life-blood. Practice and perfect the art of being frugal. Watch every dollar and triple-check every expense. Maintain a low overhead and manage your cash flow effectively.
– Learn under fire.
No business book or business plan can predict the future or fully prepare you to become a successful entrepreneur. There is no such thing as the perfect plan. There is no perfect road or one less traveled. Never jump right into a new business without any thought or planning, but don’t spend months or years waiting to execute. You will become a well-rounded entrepreneur when tested under fire. The most important thing you can do is learn from your mistakes–and never make the same mistake twice.
– No one will give you money.
There, I said it. No one will invest in you. If you need large sums of capital to launch your venture, go back to the drawing board. Find a starting point instead of an end point. Scale down pricey plans and grandiose expenditures. Simplify the idea until it’s manageable as an early stage venture. Find ways to prove your business model on a shoestring budget. Demonstrate your worth before seeking investment. If your concept is successful, your chances of raising capital from investors will dramatically improve.
– Be healthy.
No, I’m not your mother. However, I promise that you will be much more productive when you take better care of yourself. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, not a 9-to-5 profession. Working to the point of exhaustion will burn you out and make you less productive. Don’t make excuses. Eat right, exercise and find time for yourself.
– Don’t fall victim to your own B.S.
Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk. Impress with action not conversation. Endorse your business enthusiastically, yet tastefully. Avoid exaggerating truths and touting far reaching goals as certainties. In short, put up or shut up.
– Know when to call it quits.
Contrary to popular belief, a smart captain does not go down with the ship. Don’t go on a fool’s errand for the sake of ego. Know when it’s time to walk away. If your idea doesn’t pan out, reflect on what went wrong and the mistakes that were made. Assess what you would have done differently. Determine how you will utilize these hard-learned lessons to better yourself and your future entrepreneurial endeavors. Failure is inevitable, but a true entrepreneur will prevail over adversity.