HR & Management

Don’t have business meetings – leave time-wasting to those going nowhere

6 min read

19 February 2018

In my experience, the most precious commodity in life is not gold, diamonds or even Bitcoin, it’s time – and it shouldn't be wasted.

The best entrepreneurs are skilled at squeezing every last second out of the day to establish and grow their businesses. Yet many will sit around finding themselves locked into business meetings.

But, it appears that more and more aspiring business owners are dragged into the pit of despair that’s occupied by the millions of sales people, service providers and the like who fill up my inbox every week.

From day one of Pimlico Plumbers I have always followed some common sense business rules, which have served me well in the last 35-odd years. One of them is that I don’t do business meetings.

If a decision can’t be made in five minutes then it’ll never be made. So why have an hour-long, sit down discussion where everyone in the room feels like they have to make a contribution and everyone has to let colleagues have their say. This is often a fruitless exercise.

And there’s a whole industry pushing this culture. Any Google search will throw up results like “business meetings feedback forms” and “meeting effectiveness surveys”. Talk about creating work for the sake of it.

To be honest I wouldn’t recommend wasting valuable time on that search, but if you are online, visit the website of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Why? There you will find, in its online store, an example of what I would call a meeting.

There’s a famous picture called “It’s okay to smile”, which has JFK Jr crawling under the Oval Office desk with a big grin on his face while his dad talks to his advisers.

For most people, it’s the sight of little John smiling that catches people’s attention, but for me it’s the president stood in a little huddle with his team. This is a man where every second of his day counts and being able to get together in a small group to bash things out is a great way to do business.

Okay, in its purest form it is a “meeting”, but it’s to the point, will lead to a decision and allows people to get on with their jobs quickly.

Unfortunately, there are many that don’t subscribe to this idea. As I said earlier, it’s often sales people with their latest miracle solution trying to collar me for business meetings. And fair play to them, sales is a tough gig and you’ve got to put the shoe leather in and get yourself out there. But do your homework fellas, don’t waste your phone calls and emails on a bloke that won’t do business meetings.

But for entrepreneurs, don’t get pulled into that trap. The honest truth is that if I went for coffee, tea or lunch with everyone who comes on to me looking to “pick my brains”, I’d never get any work done.

Do I wish everyone who’s got the guts and determination to start their own business all the success that’s owed to them?

Yes, of course I do, which is why I write numerous articles, like my column for Real Business, told my story in my book Bog Standard Business, and take a selected number of speaking events each year, to get my message of support and encouragement out there. 

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I am a completely closed shop, because I’m not against a quick “JFK-style” chinwag at an event you’ll find me at. 

But what I just don’t have is enough minutes and hours in the day to accept every offer of coffee business meetings or free lunch.

I have also written in the past about how no entrepreneur should be an island and they should reach out to others. It is something I 100 per cent believe, but how it’s done is another matter.

There are some fantastic groups out there like the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and Entrepreneurs Network teeming with like-minded people that business owners can bounce ideas off and share experiences. These organisations can also point people in the direction of mentors.

I think mentoring is a fantastic thing, but it’s best done by those with the time because they’ve retired or have sold their business. And I ain’t considering either!

So, I’m putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and using this article to share my views and experiences. Entrepreneurs, don’t have business meetings, get on with running your business and leave the time-wasting to those going nowhere fast!


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