In response to a previous article, most people (who commented) like the $20 fine idea for coming late, but wondered what we do at Ronin8 to avoid dreary meetings that go on for an eternity. I am sure everyone who has sat through a dull, unfocused meeting with people who like the sound of their own voice, can appreciate a remedy to this common problem.
Let me share a story from a recent business trip to the Middle East.
The outside temperature was hovering around 45 degrees Celsius. The air conditioning in the car we were in was battling at full thrust and the traffic jam along Sheik Zayed Road (the main thoroughfare in Dubai) was not helping. When we finally arrived at the Fairmont Hotel, I was grateful that we had decided to leave a generous buffer between meetings.
The individual we were meeting (a self-made, deci-billionaire we will call Mr. M) was waiting for us in his private suite, along with his accompanying confidant (we will call him Mr. B). After the expected formalities, I began…
“I want to be respectful of everyone’s time. How much time are we agreeing to allocate for this meeting, and what are the three, most important items we need to cover to move this relationship forward today?”
In my head, I was recalling the rule of three I had been taught by one of my mentors: Peter, always limit the agenda to 3 items. Three is the magic number. Not two, and not four. Three. This is because people tend to remember three. Any more means you need a subsequent meeting.
“We have as much time as needed,” replied Mr. M courteously.
It was then that Mr. B took over. “We received your Ronin8 investors deck and were interested enough to have done some due diligence in advance. We have a lot of questions, but I think we can summarize the top three things we would like to understand today. Firstly, we would like to understand your global rollout plan. Secondly, we would like to know who is on your leadership team and lastly, we want to understand the financial requirements over the next three years and how you see us participating?”
I have long since accepted that I cannot change other people’s behaviour and possessing a tendency to disorganization (described by my late mother as a pathological drive to entropy), I really appreciated Mr. B’s preparation.
From experience, I knew the perfect amount of time for a productive meeting would be 20 minutes (there’s a reason why most TED talks are 18 minutes in duration).
Before I began answering Mr. B’s questions, I reflected briefly on the meeting we had just come from. First thing in the morning we had travelled out to Abu Dhabi to meet with a finance group. They obviously receive dozens of expressions of interest and had done very little preparation before meeting with us. It took the better part of 15 minutes simply to narrow down the top three things they wanted to accomplish as each person at the table wanted to ask about their specific point of interest. Once we had passed that point and had reached agreement on the most important three, the twenty minute rule kicked in and we were done in 35 minutes.
I then addressed the three items that Mr. B had posed as best I could, drawing on the expertise of our CFO who was accompanying me for the trip. After filling in any remaining points that arose from my explanations, it was time to move to the meeting resolution. Similar to playing a musical phrase on the piano, the most important parts of the melodies are the setup and the resolution at the end.
“So, Mr. B, we have covered the three issues you identified at important; the global rollout, leadership team and the future financing requirements. On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel about moving forward with this project?”
We received a solid 8 out of 10 and an agreement to meet again the following month. As we entered the elevator (very happy with the result I might add) I realized that the formula we follow at Ronin8 for all our meetings had once again saved all of us from endless hours of wasted time.
I want to be respectful of everyone’s time. How much time are we agreeing to allocate for this meeting and what are the three most important things we need to cover to move this relationship/project/investment forward today?
Peter J Holgate
Activator, Zero-to-One Entrepreneur, Circular Economy Evangelist,
Founder + CEO of Ronin8