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When To Throw In The Towel Or When To Persevere

When To Throw In The Towel Or When To Persevere

It goes without saying that persistence is the most distinguishable and important characteristic of a successful person and most definitely a successful entrepreneur. Lack of creativity can be overcome with persistence and hard work. (Interestingly, while a person may not be terribly imaginative, persistence always helps the imagination to figure it out.) Lack of money can be overcome using the same formula.

Why? You need the persistence to get you through the rough patches and over the mountains that will inevitably be in your path to succeed. Sitting by the roadside gets you nowhere.

It all comes down to persistence and hard work.

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Persistence is Vital

In The Strangest Secret,[1] Earl Nightingale, one of the fathers of personal development, shared a statement from President Calvin Coolidge, “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”[2] (This excerpt from Nightingale’s recording became so associated with him, many believed it was his.)

The fire of your vision for the future of yourself, your family and enterprise is the fuel that pushes you forward when things, makes you work the extra hours, and gives you the creativity to solve problems you never thought you could solve on your own.  It gives the meaning to your goals,[3] and expands your vision, letting you see the broad view as well as the long view of things. It opens worlds to you didn’t know existed.

It’s that persistence which anchors you. As John McCormack, founder of Visible Changes, and 1989 Entrepreneur of the Year, says in his book Self-Made in America, “The essential ingredients of entrepreneurship are a vision, a sense of mission, and a will to keep going forward when everyone else is telling you to go back. . . . It wasn’t brains, brawn, or even our business plan that resulted in our ultimate success.  It was persistence, plain and simple.”[4]

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It’s the thrill ride—the ups and downs of a roller-coaster—and you’re the ride operator.  And when you reach the summit, you look back on everything you’ve done and see what’s happened and you wouldn’t change it for love or money.

Should You Throw in the Towel?

But even with all that, sometimes you have to throw in the towel.

The question is when is that time?

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Before you chuck it all, there are some things to consider.  First, is your attitude.  Sure things have gone bad for the moment, but you need to realize it’s not a failure.  As long as you can pull valuable lessons from the experience, you haven’t failed.  I knew a man who priori to the recession of 2008 was pulling in six figures. The recession hit and his income plummeted. He had to get a job, which allowed him to use all of his skills. Was he a failure? Of course not, circumstances beyond his control forced him into an unpleasant situation. But he still has his business, and the other job has given him other benefits that helped him with other situations.

So if you’ve got to shut down the business—throw in your towel—learning is essential.

A legendary anecdote about Thomas Edison’s search for the perfect filament for the incandescent light bulb is that a reporter asked him how it felt to have failed over 6,000 times in his search. Edison replied, “I haven’t failed 10,000 times. I’ve just found 10,000 things that didn’t work.”  History shows only the triumph, not the time it took to reach the triumph.

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So how do you know when?[5]

Some are easy. When there is no longer a demand for what you have to offer, and you can’t figure out a way to retool the product or business. Time to shut it down.  (But then again, look at the resurgence of vinyl, which was declared dead in 1990s. Sometimes maybe put it in suspended animation, instead.) No repeat customers is deadly. If you can’t get fresh faces to your business it’ll be a slow, agonizing death, but it will be a death.

The costs are too high.[6] Losing your family, your health, the person you once were, you look at everything with jaded skepticism. At this point it’s time to reevaluate and if you can’t fix them, get out fast. Good family relationships, health and an optimistic attitude are all essential ingredients to success.  If you’ve lost your vision of your project and can’t recover it, again, it’s time to go.

But if you must throw in the towel, remember to take lessons away, because that’s what entrepreneurs do.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash.com via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Earl Nightingale: The Strangest Secret
[2] AZQuotes: Calvin Coolidge Quotes
[3] George Ambler:Persistence: The Key to the Achievement of Meaningful Goals
[4] Google: Self-Made in America, Page 77
[5] Fox Business: Knowing When to Throw in the Towel
[6] Entrepreneur: 3 Signs That You Should Shut Down Your Business

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Last Updated on September 30, 2019

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

Minutes are a written record of a board, company, or organizational meeting. Meeting minutes are considered a legal document, so when writing them, strive for clarity and consistency of tone.

Because minutes are a permanent record of the meeting, be sure to proofread them well before sending. It is a good idea to run them by a supervisor or seasoned attendee to make sure statements and information are accurately captured.

The best meeting minutes takers are careful listeners, quick typists, and are adequately familiar with the meeting topics and attendees. The note taker must have a firm enough grasp of the subject matter to be able to separate the important points from the noise in what can be long, drawn-out discussions. And, importantly, the note taker should not simultaneously lead and take notes. (If you’re ever asked to do so, decline.)

Following, are some step-by-step hints to effectively write meeting minutes:

1. Develop an Agenda

Work with the Chairperson or Board President to develop a detailed agenda.

Meetings occur for a reason, and the issues to be addressed and decided upon need to be listed to alert attendees. Work with the convener to draft an agenda that assigns times to each topic to keep the meeting moving and to make sure the group has enough time to consider all items.

The agenda will serve as your outline for the meeting minutes. Keep the minutes’ headings consistent with the agenda topics for continuity.

2. Follow a Template from Former Minutes Taken

If you are new to a Board or organization, and are writing minutes for the first time, ask to see the past meeting minutes so that you can maintain the same format.

Generally, the organization name or the name of the group that is meeting goes at the top: “Meeting of the Board of Directors of XYZ,” with the date on the next line. After the date, include both the time the meeting came to order and the time the meeting ended.

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Most groups who meet do so regularly, with set agenda items at each meeting. Some groups include a Next Steps heading at the end of the minutes that lists projects to follow up on and assigns responsibility.

A template from a former meeting will also help determine whether or not the group records if a quorum was met, and other items specific to the organization’s meeting minutes.

3. Record Attendance

On most boards, the Board Secretary is the person responsible for taking the meeting minutes. In organizational meetings, the minutes taker may be a project coordinator or assistant to a manager or CEO. She or he should arrive a few minutes before the meeting begins and pass around an attendance sheet with all members’ names and contact information.

Meeting attendees will need to check off their names and make edits to any changes in their information. This will help as both a back-up document of attendees and ensure that information goes out to the most up-to-date email addresses.

All attendees’ names should be listed directly below the meeting name and date, under a subheading that says “Present.” List first and last names of all attendees, along with title or affiliation, separated by a comma or semi-colon.

If a member of the Board could not attend the meeting, cite his or her name after the phrase: “Copied To:” There may be other designations in the participants’ list. For example, if several of the meeting attendees are members of the staff while everyone else is a volunteer, you may want to write (Staff) after each staff member.

As a general rule, attendees are listed alphabetically by their last names. However, in some organizations, it’s a best practice to list the leadership of the Board first. In that case, the President or Co-Presidents would be listed first, followed by the Vice President, followed by the Secretary, and then by the Treasurer. Then all other names of attendees would be alphabetized by last name.

It is also common practice to note if a participant joined the meeting via conference call. This can be indicated by writing: “By Phone” and listing the participants who called in.

4. Naming Convention

Generally, the first time someone speaks in the meeting will include his or her name and often the title.

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For example, “President of the XYZ Board, Roger McGowan, called the meeting to order.” The next time Roger McGowan speaks, though, you can simply refer to him as “Roger.” If there are two Rogers in the meeting, use an initial for their last names to separate the two. “Roger M. called for a vote. Roger T. abstained.”

5. What, and What Not, to Include

Depending on the nature of the meeting, it could last from one to several hours. The attendees will be asked to review and then approve the meeting minutes. Therefore, you don’t want the minutes to extend into a lengthy document.

Capturing everything that people say verbatim is not only unnecessary, but annoying to reviewers.

For each agenda item, you ultimately want to summarize only the relevant points of the discussion along with any decisions made. After the meeting, cull through your notes, making sure to edit out any circular or repetitive arguments and only leave in the relevant points made.

6. Maintain a Neutral Tone

Minutes are a legal document. They are used to establish an organization’s historical record of activity. It is essential to maintain an even, professional tone. Never put inflammatory language in the minutes, even if the language of the meeting becomes heated.

You want to record the gist of the discussion objectively, which means mentioning the key points covered without assigning blame. For example, “The staff addressed board members’ questions regarding the vendor’s professionalism.”

Picture a lawyer ten years down the road reading the minutes to find evidence of potential wrongdoing. You wouldn’t want an embellishment in the form of a colorful adverb or a quip to cloud any account of what took place. Here’s a list of neutral sounding words to get started with.

7. Record Votes

The primary purpose of minutes is to record any votes a board or organization takes. Solid record-keeping requires mentioning which participant makes a motion — and what the motion states verbatim — and which participant seconds the motion.

For example, “Vice President Cindy Jacobsen made a motion to dedicate 50 percent, or $50,000, of the proceeds from the ZZZ Foundation gift to the CCC scholarship fund. President Roger McGowan seconded the motion.”

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This vote tabulation should be expressed in neutral language as well. “The Board voted unanimously to amend the charter in the following way,” or “The decision to provide $1,000 to the tree-planting effort passed 4 to 1, with Board President McGowan opposing.”

Most Boards try to get a vote passed unanimously. Sometimes in order to help the Board attain a more cohesive outcome, a Board member may abstain from voting. “The motion passed 17 to 1 with one absension.”

8. Pare down Notes Post-Meeting

Following the meeting, read through your notes while all the discussions remain fresh in your mind, and make any needed revisions. Then, pare the meeting minutes down to their essentials, providing a brief account of the discussion that summarizes arguments made for and against a decision.

People often speak colloquially or in idioms, as in: “This isn’t even in the ballpark” or “You’re beginning to sound like a broken record.” While you may be tempted to keep the exact language in the minutes to add color, resist.

Additionally, if any presentations are part of the meeting, do not include information from the Powerpoint in the minutes. However, you will want to record the key points from the post-presentation discussion.

9. Proofread with Care

Make sure that you spelled all names correctly, inserted the correct date of the meeting, and that your minutes read clearly.

Spell out acronyms the first time they’re used. Remember that the notes may be reviewed by others for whom the acronyms are unfamiliar. Stay consistent in headings, punctuation, and formatting. The minutes should be polished and professional.

10. Distribute Broadly

Once approved, email minutes to the full board — not just the attendees — for review. Your minutes will help keep those who were absent apprised of important actions and decisions.

At the start of the next meeting, call for the approval of the minutes. Note any revisions. Try to work out the agreed-upon changes in the meeting, so that you don’t spend a huge amount of time on revisions.

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Ask for a motion to approve the minutes with the agreed-upon changes. Once an attendee offers a motion, ask for another person in the meeting to “second” the motion. They say, “All approved.” Always ask if there is anyone who does not approve. Assuming not, then say: “The minutes from our last meeting are approved once the agreed-upon changes have been made.”

11. File Meticulously

Since minutes are a legal document, take care when filing them. Make sure the file name of the document is consistent with the file names of previously filed minutes.

Occasionally, members of the organization may want to review past minutes. Know where the minutes are filed!

One Caveat

In this day and age of high technology, you may ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be simpler to record the meeting? This depends on the protocols of the organization, but probably not.

Be sure to ask what the rules are at the organization where you are taking minutes. Remember that the minutes are a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said at the meeting.

The minutes reflect decisions not discussions. In spite of their name, “minutes,” the minutes are not a minute-by-minute transcript.

Bottom Line

Becoming an expert minutes-taker requires a keen ear, a willingness to learn, and some practice, but by following these tips you will soon become proficient.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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