How many of you have monthly shop meetings with your
There has to be more than just a few.
This is an incredible resource tool that many just don't know how to unlock.
But, before you jump in and start holding monthly meetings, you have to know why you are doing it and what you want to achieve by holding meetings.
First and utmost, running a business is a team sport. You certainly can't do their jobs while trying to do yours and they can't do your job while they are trying to do theirs.
The next important thing to realize is that no matter how much effort is made to hide or cover up an issue, a problem or an error, it always seems to pop back up when you least expect it and most of you know exactly what I'm talking about.
For those of you who may disagree with either of these points, you will have a hard time unlocking the potential of what monthly meetings can do for your business. They will, as you might have experienced, turn into complaint sessions with no sense of progress.
So, what are the real benefits? Let's list just a few;
- Achieving sales goals
- Streamlining service procedures
- Reducing overhead costs
- Solving problems before they become issues
- Increased employee loyalty
- Increased customer retention
Okay, let's get started.
You might think that regular monthly meetings are for larger corporations as a means to stay communicated with their various departments and you are right. For large companies, it is the only way to maintain control.
In a smaller shop, let's say under 15 people, the general thought is that since you are in direct contact with everybody, every day, there is no need for a 'business meeting' because potential problems are dealt with immediately and if there are no problems, then there's no need to call a meeting, let alone having one every month.
Does that sound familiar?
Have you heard the words "Reactive Management"?
Even though this is a valuable skill required by all successful business operators, it is the most stressful and it does little to help your business advance or be prepared for next month or even the next six months.
"Predictive Management" is also a great skill but the problem is that even though it is a great tool to prevent problems from developing, it doesn't reduce the job's stress level because every decision still rests on your shoulders.
In our industry, where staff levels are low and highly interactive, the most effective management style has proven to be "Proactive Management".
The biggest reason is that this industry is in a constant state of flux and in order to keep ahead of these changes, you need to be able to tap into resources beyond your own.
What better than your own team?
Setting a date for your meetings
Choose a particular mid-week day for each month and stick with it.
Tuesdays to Thursdays are usually the best because every-body's focus is on the job and most have no evening plans. It is important to have a schedule that is least likely to interfere with every-one's personal life because you want them to be there if this is going to work. Also, you may want to include information from the previous month end and that information will need some time to review. So, plan that date carefully.
Having a regularly scheduled date like; the second Wednesday of each month, makes it easy on everyone and reduces the "I didn't know" excuse.
Setting a Time
Some of you may be thinking of breakfast meetings, but in reality, most are not morning people. Plus, if an important discussion does start, it would be a shame to cut it short before a consensus is made because you have to open the store. I have found that after work meetings work the best. You'll find that many open discussions will be from something that happened earlier that day and are fresh on every-body's mind.
Set a Location
It has to be convenient, it has to be private and it has to be cost effective.
Larger businesses may have the luxury of a conference room, but for the rest of us, every square foot is devoted to work production. So, creating a meeting place means transforming the customer area or a work bay, which may be inconvenient.
At the shop, you are the boss. What you need is for everyone to volunteer their input, their ideas and their personal comments if a meeting is to be progressive and productive. That is a difficult environment to achieve if you are mulled around the service counter. They need your undivided attention and if you are still in the shop, there is the chance of late customers and phone calls.
If it's possible, set a location away from the business. It's sets the frame of mind.
This topic always pops up, so let's talk about it.
Do you make this a requirement of their jobs? Do you bribe them? Do you pay them?
Each has their own pluses and minuses. On one hand you need everyone to attend the meeting. But on the other hand, you also need everyone to voluntarily contribute if these meetings are to be key to your business growth.
Some have made it strictly a job requirement but found too many not volunteering their ideas and just itching to go home.
Some have paid an additional hour for their time to attend the meetings or have traded that hour for time off at their choices or just added that straight time to their paychecks but still found a few not contributing.
No, buying the beer doesn't work. But, you are on the right track.
What I found that worked for me the best is yes, this is a job requirement, but buying them a 'sit down' dinner as compensation seemed to be appreciated the most. So, if you like that idea, check out the local general family restaurants close to your shop who can reserve a private or semi-private area to hold your meetings. Most will gladly accommodate you for no additional fees and ordering from an open menu will satisfy individual tastes.
Sorry, no beer.
Create an Agenda
There are things you have to talk about and there are things you want to talk about. The important reason for creating an agenda is that everybody has an idea, well ahead of time, of what will be discussed so they are somewhat prepared to contribute before the meeting. Here are some ways to break up the meetings into manageable sections.
Sales are usually on the top of the list because that's the nature of the business, But, what really keeps the doors open are profits and that means controlling expenses and losses. Ironically, most management tend to hide a lot when it comes to letting their employees know the financials of their businesses.
As an example; wages. Of course individual salaries are private and confidential but to show total wages, which include benefits, insurances and business contributions is just a cost of doing business. You might think that number will get over-analyzed, but in reality, since no one wants to cut wages, everyone will be pitching in to insure wages are not touched by looking at other cost cutting areas.
Once your people see where the hard earned money went, you will be surprised at how well their attitudes change. It is, of course, their business too and they obviously want to protect their jobs. But please, don't threaten them with that because it will flatten any enthusiasm your trying to build.
With that in mind, get some ideas from your people on how to make things better.
Every problem in the shop ends up affecting production and that directly effects sales and you, being in the office, can only assume what's happening in the shop. This is where your staff can shine.
The focus should turn to ideas that they are in direct control of at the shop level and issues they are experiencing with the service counter.
- Improve production efficiency both in the bays and in the office
- Reduce losses; warranties and comebacks, safety, equipment failures etc.
- Improve customer satisfaction
If someone has a concern or a criticism, acknowledge it but turn it around by asking for a solution. The purpose of these meetings is to not only uncover issues but to find solutions you can act on.
If someone comes up with an interesting idea that most agree with, use it. But give that person the full recognition for his/her contribution. If that idea requires additional work, give that person the authority to see it through. Finally, review the results at the next meeting so your people know you're listening and their ideas matter.
Don't forget; stay in control.
Discussions can easily go off topic and they can also get emotionally heated. Never mind 'can', they definitely will because it's human nature.
It's your job of keeping that energy focused and on topic.
Here's the perfect opportunity to get feedback on that new piece of equipment, a new supplier, a new product or that change that got implemented last month.
Too often, warranties run out on tools or equipment before you get a chance to hear the problems.
Last month you initiated a change. Now is the time to get some honest feedback to see if that idea was a good one......or not so good.
Yes, sometimes it takes 'trial and error' to find the right mix of procedures for your unique situation. So, don't consider a failed idea a bad thing because you can always erase it and try something else, until you get it right.
There are new courses coming up, one of your people just had a baby, there's a new article posted on ASBN or you want to congratulate your staff or an individual on a job well done. There's always something going on that's of interest to you and your crew. You may find that you didn't know there will be construction on your street next week. Why is it that you are always the last to hear about these things? Thank goodness for meetings.
Here's another perfect opportunity; One of your suppliers or a company rep. has visited you with a new product, a new service or a new procedure and would like to engage you and your staff to present it. There is really no opportune time, during the work week, to actually do this but your monthly shop meeting is.
They will tell you how long their presentation is so you can fit them in at a specific time. Or, if it is really important, you can forgo your normal meeting and replace it with the presentation.
Who knows, maybe they'll even foot the bill for the dinner expense.
So, does this give you some ideas?
Can you see the value of engaging everyone in the decision making process?
Does the Proactive Management style fit your idea of what a progressive shop should be?
You be the judge.
It is, of course, your business.
"Success = Profits + Customer Satisfaction"