September 2, 2014

The Number 1 Rule of Any Meeting

The Number 1 Rule of Any Meeting

It seems like weeks since I last wrote something on here. Oh wait, it HAS been weeks. Work has gotten hectic and I’ve been running meeting over meeting, to the point I started to notice where is that most meetings fail, and how to improve them to a whole new level with focus on just getting things done. Time and task management is a real, solid need in my company so we can’t really waste any time with meetings which are less than straight to the point and time-efficient.

So, picture this in your mind: you’re sitting in a meeting which, on paper, makes totally sense, but sooner than later you notice how things start going off track, things fall into chit-chatting and you suddenly find yourself sitting back at your desk with the same doubts you had at the beginning of the meeting.

You do remember the reasons of the meeting, but you’re not so sure all the answers have been given. Who’s to blame? Well, not sure about that, I believe it’s a mistake which is very common in startups or generally unexperienced entrepreneurs / managers. One thing though worked for me and my company, and that’s the #1 rule of each of our meetings since several months:

Before the start of every meeting, decide what problem you want to address

I strongly believe a meeting should be focused around one single subject, even if you “attack” several sides of it. For example, we had a meeting just today about an eLearning platform we are developing and even though we discussed many aspects of it, the main subject remained the same. If you include too many things to talk about in a single meeting you’ll end up sitting for hours and having your head fuzzy when you’re done. Is it really useful to do it like this? I don’t think so and this way proved itself much more time-efficient.

With this approach, it’s not uncommon to have 2-3 meetings in a single day, but when they are all 20-minutes meetings you really don’t feel them as a burden.

In our eLearning meeting the “problem” was deciding how to do things, in what timeframes and who to assign each task to.

Before the end of every meeting, ask yourself: has the problem been addressed?

This is the key point! Too many times we used to get back to work with a sense of “vagueness” (not sure that’s even a word) and uncertainty. Now I ask this question, and if the answer is “yes”, we can go back to work, otherwise, something’s wrong and we address it immediately.

In the eLearning example, the answer was an enthusiastic “yes”, and everyone’s merry and happy.

Mind you, this is a very practical suggestion which I am sure many of you won’t agree with (especially the “one-meeting-one-subject” part) but I can assure you it works.

Just give it a go and let me know.

The Importance of Being an Intern

The Importance of Being an Intern

During the years we have been particularly lucky with our interns, even if we didn’t really have many due to how things work here in Italy.

I have read a lot about how it is like in the US and the “traps” many entrepreneurs fall into when dealing when internship, and thanks to that I always managed to be quite ok at it.

The big occasion to write about this is the successful graduation (with top grades, I add) of our latest intern, Giulia Borri, who I also featured in a previous video we released (and she did much better than the other guys, too!). And since her final dissertation is about one of our projects, it was actually pretty nice to attend to.

When talking about internship, there are several keypoints to consider and quite some pitfalls to avoid in order to make the whole experience profitable for both ends. It’s far too easy to fall in the temptation of abusing your interns for the stupidest tasks or just end up giving them far too much responsibility, ending up in a huge mess.

Learn to Recognize the Value

It’s essential to understand what kind of advantage your business can have from interns in first place, beyond the simple concept of having 1 more person. In fact, if you don’t know how to use this new person, it will be exactly like not having him/her in first place.

Since most interns we had came from universities, we learnt to put the emphasis on what they know rather than assuming they are clueless, which is a typical mistake many managers do. Interns aren’t some mass of clay you can shape, but they come with a luggage of knowledge you might find useful, especially if you – as you should – get your internship deals done with university courses compatible with your niche of business and if you have your ideas very clear about what you want.

They are a valuable external opinion on your business, and believe me, if you run your company since year like we do, you kinda lose track of what it looks like from the outside. Entrepreneurs often commit the capital sin of believing everyone think like them, so external eyes are extremely valuable in order to overcome this common mistake.

Additionally, interns can become your best evangelists, if they learn to understand, appreciate