March 1, 2023
In a lot of businesses, meetings can feel like a necessary evil. On the one hand, meetings can be a valuable opportunity to collaborate and make important decisions on your operation. But oftentimes, they can become repetitive, unproductive, unfocused and even uncomfortable if you’re dealing with sensitive subjects like succession or even your marketing plan.
Several speakers at the 2023 Farm Futures Business Summit addressed this conundrum and recognized that it is often a hot-button issue for many producers.
When, what and how often?
The starting question can freeze the best of business professionals – when should you meet, what should you discuss and how often should your group gather?
Some meetings might even be better served as a simple phone call or text instead, observes Jolene Brown, Iowa farmer and author.
“Don’t have a meeting unless you need to have a meeting, and honor everyone’s time,” she says.
Many operations have some version of a daily huddle. That’s fantastic, says Curt Covington, senior director of institutional lending with AgAmerica Lending. But you should also be setting aside time for regularly occurring budgetary meetings.
“Review costs against a budget every single month,” he says. “Otherwise, you skip a month, then you’re only doing it quarterly, and finally you’re not doing it at all.”
Covington suggests scheduling 12 meetings on the same day of every month and have them offsite if possible. And similar to Brown’s take, Covington’s No. 1 rule is don’t waste anyone’s time if you aren’t committed. And be patient – a long-term planning process by definition takes years to implement, not days.
Here are a few additional best practices to consider when navigating meetings with employees or other operational stakeholders:
Set yourself up for success. Make clear objectives before the meeting even starts. That includes defining the purpose and goals of the meeting, along with preparing an agenda. Consider setting up video conferencing or screen sharing capabilities if some of your team is remote
Encourage participation. Employees will feel more invested in the process if they are allowed to express their own ideas and concerns. Foster a positive atmosphere that values open, honest communication.
Stay organized. Do your best not to let the conversation stray to nonrelated areas.
Follow up. Write up a summary of key points and decisions that were made. Create tasks and goals that are measurable. Track changes over time, and make changes as needed. Ask for feedback on a semi-regular basis.
Review your results. “You’ll want to review your goals by year-end,” Covington says.
According to Covington, any honest assessment asks some critical questions. For example, what did we learn? What could we have done better? And should we have used an outside advisory group?
At the end of the day, having an effective meeting process will keep your team coordinated, collaborative and working toward common goals as you share information, discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions.
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