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15 Secrets To Running Meetings Like The World’s Top Innovative Companies

15 Secrets To Running Meetings Like The World’s Top Innovative Companies

Meetings can be a source of creativity and motivation – a time when team collaboration and leadership combine and create the space for achieving organisational goals. Maybe in an ideal world. Unfortunately, more often, meetings are just an unproductive and inefficient waste of time.

There’s a secret to running meetings that energise rather than demoralise. Here are 15 things the world’s top innovative companies do to keep meetings productive:

1. Apple – Small groups of smart people

A meeting is not a party, so “the more the merrier” does not apply. Steve Jobs was notorious for insisting that meetings should be small groups of smart people – and he wouldn’t hesitate to let someone know if they weren’t needed. Experts suggest there should be no more than 10 people at a meeting – so pick your invitees wisely.

2. TED – Keep it short

There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a meeting watching the clock tick by. Meetings should not drag on for hours – or even half an hour. Research shows that our attention span is between 10 – 18 minutes, so the most innovative organisations know that meetings should be short. TED has proven that a lot can happen in 18 minutes:

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In a 15-minute TED talk, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg inspired millions of women to “lean in.” Steve Jobs gave one of the most popular commencement addresses of our time at Stanford University and he did it in 15 minutes. It took Dr. Martin Luther King a bit longer to share his dream of racial equality—he did it in 17 minutes.

3. Google – Appoint a decision maker

The secret to Google’s success is not acting like a large multi-billion dollar company – it’s acting “like a hungry startup”, according to CEO Larry Page. A problem with big companies is the increased red tape and bureaucracy that comes from having so many separate departments (corporate, operations, sales etc). This leads to increased meetings and slower decisions. So, Google has adopted a “buck stops here” approach to streamline decision making in meetings.

As Larry says: “There are no companies that make good slow decisions”.

4. 3M – Allow free time

Meetings need agendas and purpose – but innovation and creativity also need room to breathe. 3M created the 15% Program to allow its employees (paid) time out of their working day to generate ideas and pursue creative endeavours – that started in 1948! Over 50 years has proven that the best-selling products and services come out of allowing this free time and space. Google has followed suit and upped the ante with 20% free time, which famously led to the creation of Gmail and Google Earth. So, whether it’s before/during/after a meeting, allow free time for creative thoughts to flow. 

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5. Virgin – Location, location, location

A boardroom and powerpoint is enough to put anyone to sleep. Richard Branson suggests innovative ideas will come from innovative spaces. He says that the novelty of holding a meeting in a park or cafe will inject a breath of fresh air into any group meeting and likely generate new ideas and ways of thinking. If you don’t have a private island or yacht to discuss this month’s P&L, try getting outside or using a different space in the office, like the kitchen.

6. Facebook – Think on your feet

Experts say that for every hour that we sit, we reduce our life expectancy by 22 minutes. Considering we spend approximately 40 – 80 hours per week sitting at our desks, it’s no wonder the top innovative tech companies are refusing to meet sitting down. A recent study also found “that when people stand during meetings they appeared more excited by their work, acted less territorial about their ideas, and interacted better as a team”. Plus, standing also reportedly cuts meeting times by 25%. Facebook’s engineering manager (Mark Tonkelowitz) reportedly holds 15-minute stand-up meetings at 12pm daily – no chairs and an impending lunchtime keep updates short and sweet. For one-on-one meetings, Nilofer Merchant asked TED audiences to consider the benefits of a walking meeting. Let’s start thinking on our feet!

7. Microsoft – Share air time

Meetings are not a lecture – input is usually required from all attendees (particularly if you’ve adhered to #1 and got the guest list right!). The best innovators know how to keep meetings on track and ensure that each person is afforded air time. A team at Microsoft uses “Ralph” – the rubber chicken – to toss around the group to the speaker of the moment. It sounds a bit like an ice-breaker at summer camp, but it can help keep the balance of speaking/listening in meetings.

8. Facebook – Have an agenda

This is really a big one and arguably pretty obvious. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, insists an agenda is crucial for meetings and always has a spiral notebook with her to ensure that each item is ticked off. Ideally, the agenda should be circulated in advance and have some flexibility – it doesn’t need to be a detailed list but should reflect the purpose and objectives of the meeting. This leads to my next point…

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9. American Express – Know your purpose

All meetings should have a clearly defined purpose or problem to solve. Christopher Frank, the VP for American Express, says you should be able to articulate that purpose or problem in 5 words or less. He told Forbes, this gives “a good idea of the information you need, the people you should talk to and will ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.” It’s not always easy! As Dr Seuss says, sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

10. Upfront Ventures – Leave the laptops

Mark Suster – a successful entrepreneur, angel investor and venture capitalist – says laptops have no place in meeting rooms. Everyone should be fully engaged and attentive in a productive meeting and laptops rarely facilitate this. What about note taking? Well, research shows that conceptual recall is much better after taking handwritten notes than on a laptop anyway. If it’s going to be a long meeting (but see #2 above), schedule a 15 minute email break.

11. Barack Obama – Switch off

A recent study found that 79% of people aged between 18 – 44 have their smartphones on them 22 hours per day. Although this mobile technology has many advantages, it’s mostly an unnecessary distraction in meetings, so keep it a phone-free space! Very few things are that urgent or important. Even Barack Obama gets it – apparently the bi-monthly cabinet meetings at the White House are a cell phone free affair! There is a basket on entry for all attendees to deposit their phones. If it’s good enough for the President of the USA…

12. Apple – Have a DRI

It’s no surprise that Apple is on this list twice. Apparently, the key to achieving meeting action items at Apple is appointing a “Directly Responsible Individual”. This creates a culture of accountability, which keeps things moving forward and ensures meetings are always productive. Steve Jobs encouraged (read: insisted) on senior staff taking full ownership and responsibility of issues and action items. There’s nothing like the shame of public accountability to motivate staff to follow through.

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13. Amazon – Get rid of PowerPoint

We all love a good pie chart or line graph, but CEO and founder of Amazon (Jeff Bezos) has banned PowerPoint in his meetings. Nobody enjoys death by a thousand slides. Jeff argues that PowerPoint is easy for presenters but difficult for the audience. Unless you are a PowerPoint pro, stick to bullet points.

14. Yahoo – Use data

The CEO of the $35 billion internet portal is (unsurprisingly) a firm believer in the power of facts and figures in meetings. She considers data to be an equalizer. It also prevents the meeting from succumbing to office politics and opinion-induced debates. Don’t interpret “data” too conservatively though – a balance of qualitative and quantitative information is usually the most well-received.

15. Nike – Doodle away

A 2009 study at the University of Plymouth found that doodlers can retain 29% more information than non-doodlers in meetings and lectures. It’s no surprise then that Nike CEO, Mark Parker, is often found with a moleskine notebook and pen in hand during meetings – he says it helps the brainstorming process. The $15.9 billion empire was probably built on a foundation of designs sketched in meetings on a Tuesday afternoon.

Now you’ve got all the tools to create motivating and productive meetings in your workplace. You’ll be having 15 minute standing team updates in the park, throwing around a tennis ball, in no time. Still, remember – no meeting is better than a bad meeting.

Featured photo credit: Hybrid Tech Car via hybridtechcar.com

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Last Updated on September 29, 2020

How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

Unsurprisingly enough, all businesses are online today. Considering the advances in the smartphone industry as well as the increasingly accessible internet facility, it was only a matter of time before businesses took advantage of the online environment.

This increasing popularity makes for a promising future for a lot of young entrepreneurs. And knowing how to start an online business will open up a world of possibilities for you that was not possible 10 years ago.

So, keeping the potential for exponential growth in mind, let’s dive into the article below, and explore the steps of starting an online business that will bring you success.

1. Becoming the Master of ‘ONE’ Trade

Most successful online businesses are the master of one trade. And that’s why beginning with a niche is always a good idea.

A niche market is a focused segment within a larger market. Imagine a men’s shoes market and then, imagine handcrafted brown Italian leather shoes for men. While the previous one is a bigger market, the latter one is simply a more focused segment within that market.

Knowing the niche helps a lot to start an online business and if you are feeling a bit lost, here are some self-queries that will act as a perfect guide:

What Speaks to Your Heart?

This first way of discovering the niche is perfect for those who want to do what they love. Working in a market that you love will ensure that constant excitement and drive to do better, eventually leading to ultimate prosperity.

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Decisions Based on Knowledge

The second way is perfect for those who have a lot of untapped knowledge about a specific industry. Utilizing the insights on a specific industry is a great way to find a niche. This way, you’ll already know all the ins and outs of the industry and can easily get ahead of all the competitors.

Undiscovered Potential

Lastly, conducting research into various industries and finding an untapped segment is another amazing way of finding the right niche. This practice will require you to come up with a new and unique solution for uncatered audiences.

2. When Is Your Idea Valid?

All the great ideas for starting an online business needs to be valid. And once you have found the niche, this validation process is what comes next.

Proving the soundness of the idea is not at all hard. A detailed industry examination is all you need initially to understand the value of the concept and recalibrate it to turn into a great online business.

Market research is a systematic unraveling of the target market. This research will include all the information on the product/service you are about to sell, the target audience, and how the competitors are operating in this crowded market.

This in-depth research will give you the initial idea of how the products can make an impact in the outside world. And once the small online business ideas are validated, it will be time to move on and craft a plan and start working on establishing the business.

3. Crafting the Map to Success

Having a proper plan for an online business is like having a map when you travel to an unknown city. This is a document that includes all the factual information on the business and crucial business data.

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To help you out, here’s a list of all the information online business plans must include:

  • An idea of objective – The best online business plans always have a clear outline of the business goals and intentions. Having this clear outline will increase the efficiency of business functions later on. The target demographic, business model—all kinds of information needs to be a part of this document.
  • Taking stock of available resources – A startup needs to utilize all the resources it has, and that’s why the plan needs to have an in-depth outline of the financial resources in use as well as the employees and their expertise. With a better idea of all the resources in hand, starting an online business will be an easier process.

4. The Virtual Storefront: A Process of Development

The steps of how to start an online business are incomplete without the website creation process. With the right website approach, you can easily succeed in increasing business revenue.

What does that perfect business website look like? Let’s follow these steps to create an effective business website.

Choose Your Approach

There are numerous ways of making a website and for a positive outcome, you need to choose the perfect approach. Depending on the business model, initial finances, and end goals, there are two kinds of approaches for the online storefront:

  • Third-party approach – Third-party platforms will connect you with the customers out there. For small online business ideas, Creating an account or site with these platforms will be beneficial because these platforms come with a large array of services as well as a big enough existing consumer base ready to utilize.
  • Creating a new website –  A business-specific website will help you eliminate the third party go-between and connect directly with the buyers. With this approach, you get more control over the business and how it is presented to the consumers out there and the revenue you make. Any of the above-mentioned approaches can be beneficial for easy online business startups. However, to achieve some specific business goals, having a customized website will be more beneficial for you.

Design Can Bring You Maximum Success!

For those who have decided to create their own site, the design is of paramount importance. With a great design, you will be able to engage and interact with the visitors better and encourage them to make a purchase.

The design, however, is not just a matter of aesthetics. A website’s design encompasses all aspects of it, from the visual effects to the content that’s used on the site.

To create a truly amazing design that reflects new online business concepts here are a few matters to consider:

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  • Keep it responsive – Many markets are simply skipping over the desktop phase and launching the business for mobile users around the world.[1] Considering this popularity of the mobile internet market, the business website has to be responsive. This approach will help you to reach a bigger audience and conduct business on a larger scale.
  • Users want a fast experience – Using high-quality images on the site does improve the visuals, but make sure all those images are compressed. Having a faster website will enhance the user experience on the site. Besides compressing all the media content on the site, you can also utilize an asynchronous loading technique that loads all the contents simultaneously, reducing friction. With a faster site, it will become easier to implement the online business startup ideas into reality.
  • Define the brand – The design stage determines a lot of things for the business website and one of those things is the business image. To make an impact on the world with the business, you have to create a perfect image and for that, a brand guide is necessary. The brand guide is a document that includes all the information and guidelines on various visual elements on the site that makes up the business personality. Based on the kind of image you want to create, all the elements will be outlined in this documentation.

Where the Website Becomes Reality

Since we know how website design helps to launch a successful online business, it is time to move onto development. Online business development is where the idea becomes a reality. And to make this reality perfect, you need to make sure that the development and deployment process goes well.

A high performing site always includes all the right features that enhance the user experience as well as helps you to convert more traffic. And for the best results, ensure the use of only the latest tech stack during development.

Here are some development issues you have to pay attention to while building the business website:

  • The right partner makes all the difference – For small startups who are wondering how to start an online business, finding the right development partner is going to make all the difference. However, before making a decision, there are a few things you should contemplate. The team that you are about to hire should have experience in catering to your industry, as well as an extensive portfolio and good reviews. Additionally, it will be perfect if the agency or freelancer also provides a 360-degree service, from development to maintenance.
  • How to assure the quality of the site? – Testing the site is an integral part of the answer to the question of “how to start an online business?”. An experienced partner will be able to help you the most with this. From security testing to split testing, this stage in development will help in understanding how well the site functions and what needs to change. And once the changes are made and the test results come clean, it will be time to launch the website.

5. Some Tricks to Increase Online Sales

Selling online is not easy, but not hard either. In a physical store, you can use campaigns, go door to door with pamphlets, and such. However, successful online businesses have their own style of campaigns that helps them to sell more without any problems.

So, what are these tricks?

Utilize the Magic of SEO

With an increase in quality traffic, the sales ratio will go up too. And to drive quality traffic on the website, you need to utilize the SEO tricks, and probably hire an SEO expert.

When starting an online business site, ensure all the content on the site is optimized to rank for the right queries by target consumers. With a higher rank on the SERP, the traffic will increase on the site.

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With the increase in quality traffic, it will become easier for you to convert visitors. The visitor data will help you to adjust the site performance. In brief, utilizing SEO will open the doors to a lot of possibilities for your small online business ideas.[2]

Entice With Free Value

Consumers today have lots of options to choose from. And keeping all that in mind, it will be wise to create a business plan for an online startup that provides free value to the users before asking them to buy something.

Consumers want to buy from someone who knows what they are doing, especially in the case of a curated service or goods provider. And that’s why to turn the profitable online business ideas even more effective, you need to start offering free value on the site, with free products and content.

Having a blog is also another way of displaying your expertise. With specialized content on the industry, you can easily grab the attention of the audience. And once assured of your knowledge on the matter, consumers will feel a lot safer about making a purchase.

A Killer Customer Service Is Everything

Your small online business idea needs a better service option. Using AI-based interactive features to implement better support for the global consumer base will prove to be extremely beneficial. With a 24/7 automated support channel, customers will be satisfied with your business and come back more often.

It’s an Easy Process: All You Have to Do Is to Start

And there it is, the simple five-step process of starting an online business that is bound to succeed. If you look closely, you’ll notice that there are not a lot of differences between creating a physical business and an online one. The main differences are only in the consumer and competitive landscape.

While a physical store faces and caters to local competitors and consumers, the online business has to deal with the same on a global basis. So, focusing well on the global market landscape while crafting the plan will help you succeed.

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Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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