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A guide to the most important meetings you’ll have: Ongoing planning via routine business reviews

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy reports that around 404,000 firms launch each year, which outpaces figures for collective annual closures (at 392,000). Additionally, about half of all these businesses will go on to survive for at least five years, while one-third will make it to the 10-year mark (and beyond).

Intentional, strategic, regular meetings that provide insights into your business’s current “state,” where you’ve “been” and the direction that you are headed, can play a pivotal role in your venture’s viability and staying power. The quality of these reviews can vary exponentially. Quality matters more than quantity, akin to that old chestnut to “work smarter, not harder.” And, by surrounding yourself with the right partners in an advisory role, these meetings really can work for you and in favor of your business.

The power of smart, regular reviews

It’s estimated that the average employee spends six hours of his or her time in meetings each and every week. This is at minimum; managers reportedly attend nearly 23 hours of meetings, week in and week out. There is no denying these meetings are a sizeable time commitment. Less clear is exactly how worthwhile those meetings are, for you as a leader and the team that you count on. That time may no doubt be served better elsewhere.

Business reviews, however, present an incredible opportunity. They allow for one to carve out time that would otherwise not be set aside to evaluate the likes of important metrics and performance indicators. These numbers can then be linked or compared to the company’s overall strategy and goals. Additionally, benefits range from ensuring alignment to creating a sense of shared perspectives and “we’re all in this together”-ness. Well-planned, efficient, and valuable reviews build clarity as well as trust.

Now, to the question of timing. You are a unique individual. Your business is a one-of-a-kind entity. So, there is no single correct answer to the question of, “How often?” Business review meetings represent good habits to get into. The big picture takeaway is that vital documents that guide your business, such as plans, are living and breathing. These plans need to be “watered,” to allow them to flourish as intended. Rarely, a complete overhaul of said plan is necessary. Often, these plans and strategies need be evaluated and updated to serve as a bridge between the business’s “past” to present-day, and to reflect ever-evolving realities.

We’ve provided just a few of the motivators behind getting into the habit sooner rather than later, and at intervals suited to your business’s needs and current situation:

  • As a startup, forecasts may have been based on “educated guesses.” With some history behind you, your business now has the track record and experience to craft forecasts, alongside your friendly partners at OFWF, that defy mere guesswork. And, more broadly, you know what works and what didn’t work from a strategic perspective.

  • Your defined competition may push you into new strategies or from No. 1 in a phased plan to No. 2. These “external factors” might include competitors reducing prices for those services or products that are like what you have to offer, or they may have even debuted similar products or services. If the latter is the case, you may have a case for infringement of IP, and not merely a case of how to distinguish your similar product from theirs.

  • Even more “big picture,” external economic changes that affect all in your “space,” from inflation to downturns to the cascade of effects triggered by global crises, can force your hand and demand a review. We are also adept at strategies to address the impact of new tax laws or regulatory matters.

  • Other “internal” changes that require a close, second look at your operational strategy range from the onboarding (or, likewise, loss) of a valued customer, vendor, or key employee. When these pivotal partnerships and parties are altered, they can tremendously affect your business’s efficiencies and profitability, and have considerable implications for your venture’s future.

  • You are ready to execute on big plans. The time may be now to elevate your business to the next level. Moving forward with phases of your strategic plan, or drawing up new strategies, can account for the need for funding that comes with the next stages of growth. If this sounds an awful lot like your business, it may be time to have quarterly reviews rather than annual ones, or to schedule monthly reviews instead of quarterly ones.

A note on succession

Your mature business may have “grown up” to the point where it is time to move on as the owner or day-to-day manager. Failure to plan for one’s exit has several potentially devastating implications, to the health of the business you’ve worked so hard to grow, and to your personal and family wealth, as well as the livelihood of your team members. Without the appropriate planning that is illustrated, at least partly, by meetings with advisors such as our team, you can loss mission-critical knowledge for good. In a rush, a successor is tapped who doesn’t have the skills or passion for the gig. Likewise, there may be disruptions to processes that directly affect customer service and satisfaction.

As with overall operational planning, succession plans are living and breathing documents. The right partner on this front can help you to:

  • Identify key project managers, experts, senior leaders, and potential successors to move your brand forward.

  • Craft and deploy actionable steps to groom those successors and other key stakeholders.

  • Periodically evaluate the programs and initiatives that are in place to transition operations and key talent. Adjust as needed based off of progress gauged and made at the time of the meeting.

  • Launch new processes or tools as needed; for instance, learning offerings to ramp-up next-generation readiness.

  • Assess and anticipate risks associated with the transition, such as the potential loss of some employees or retirements, and the need to hire new or external talent (or additional outside resources).

In conclusion …

Each and every meeting that is focused largely on operations is, again, as one-of-a-kind as the organizations that we work with. The answer to the exact content of the business review often comes from asking some of the following questions, which then elicit specific answers that are relevant to your business and team:

  • What are you interested in knowing about your business, gaps in your knowledge that can be supported with analytics?

  • What are our pain points at present?

  • What are our goals today? And how do they compare to what we had previously projected?

  • What are our targets?

  • What is your role now?

  • How has your role changed?

  • What are the biggest or most important projects that your team is undertaking?

  • Where are you “at” with the above projects?

  • Who are your customers? Vendors? Stakeholders?

Yes, these questions and the answers that are generated by asking them represent business fundamentals. But the goalpost is always on the move, as the world and business never stand still. So, it is judicious if not essential to ask these questions routinely. The answers that you provide drive the “next step” that can help your business and assure it is well-positioned for many additional, fruitful years.

We at OFWF can take “daunting” out of this process. Contact us at 402-592-3800 to share your concerns or needs with us, your partners in smart, ongoing planning.

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