Archive for April, 2010

Not All Meetings Are Toxic

Toxic Meetings

As some of you already know, I’ve launched a new business with some entrepreneurial friends called The Board. This is effectively a pseudo board of directors for your business made up of experienced business owners from non-competing, complimentary sectors. The Board meets every month to discuss current business issues, helping members make important decisions that can be implemented immediately to improve their business.

I passionately believe in the concept and have (hand on heart) benefited hugely from my own membership on The Board since it’s initial inception almost 18 months ago.

However, I am also a big follower of 37signals‘ business approach, who believe that meetings are toxic. If you haven’t heard of these guys before, take 5 minutes to read a few excerpts from their new book, called Rework, where they devote an entire chapter of the book to explain why meetings are toxic and should be avoided at all costs.

On a daily basis I rant and rave about 37signals’ approach to business, and on this point I agree with them that most meeting are toxic. However some meetings are necessary, even vital, to a businesses success.

So, I find myself in a position where the people that know me could potentially be confused by my apparent double stance on this issue. In this post, I want to address these two positions, and justify why I believe so passionately in both, despite the fact that they seem contradictory.

Toxic Meetings

Meetings become toxic when:

  • you don’t need to be there;
  • you have no power to make a decision at the meeting;
  • it’s outcome does not affect you;
  • your points of view are not considered;
  • there is no reason to hold the meeting in the first place;

If one or more of the above scenarios is true, then that meeting will be a waste of time for you and you should avoid it.

Productive Meetings

Meetings are awesome when:

  • you have a pressing issue that you need advice on;
  • you have the power to make a decision on the issue by yourself;
  • it’s outcome has the potential to have a massive impact on your personal and/or business life;
  • your own input into the meeting is valued and respected;
  • there is a strict agenda which steers the course of the meeting;

In these cases, meetings can be incredibly powerful. And if, when a meeting is called, all of these scenarios are true then it’s simply vital that you attend.

Another Reason Meetings Work

Most people live in their comfort zone. They go through their life keeping the status quo amongst their peers. Regardless of what social circle they’re in, most people will do whatever it takes, deliberately or not, to maintain that status quo.

Here’s an interesting fact:

If you take the salaries of all your friends, and then get the average, chances are, that’s what you earn.

That’s an amazingly powerful insight.

Most people are afraid of failure, but even more afraid of success. (more on this in another post soon) but suffice it to say that by becoming a success you are breaking the mould of your peers, and forcing change upon your own life, which can be very stressful and potentially lonely.

Most people can’t (or won’t) push themselves out of their comfort zone. A lot of people have blockages to their on success (myself included) and I see time and time again, cases where they sabotage their own potential because it means leaving their comfort zone. Again, I’ve done this to myself more times then I can remember. It’s something I’m working hard on improving.

Productive meetings work, because in them people are pushed outside of their comfort zone. They’re encouraged to make the right decision, not the easy decision. They’re given insights that they may have otherwise dismissed because of their own mental blocks or personal baggage.

After a really great meeting, people feel motivated, energised, determined and focused. And without the advice and encouragement from other participants of the meeting, I simply don’t think that’s possible.

Yes, some meetings are toxic. But we’re not all 37signals. Some of us need help getting past our issues (most of which I believe is a result of how we perceive the world, rather than how the world actually is – again, that’s for another post). For this we need the help of others who are willing to push us out of our comfort zones and onto the fast track (or the slow track, depending on what your goals are).

Yes, I’m a 37signals fanboi, but yes, I’m also a huge believer in productive meetings. The Board has helped me break through some very serious issues in the past. And I look forward having them help me make more decisions for years to come into the future.

Disclaimer: I am a co-founder and shareholder of The Board.

The Board – Launching in Ireland

The Board

Today we’re launching a totally new business concept called The Board. It’s aimed exclusively at business owners to help them grow their business, solve issues, and fulfil their potential as entrepreneurs.

We’ve been quietly trialling The Board for the past 18 months, tweaking it’s format, figuring out what works and getting feedback from a selection of trial members. Now though, we’re ready to launch it as a fully blown business and can start accepting applications for membership.

We have secured funds from a number of private investors and are excited to be hosting our first official board meeting tonight in Dublin.

What is The Board?

The Board is a support group for your business, provided in the form of structured monthly board meetings. Each meeting is chaired by a trained facilitator who’s role is to ensure that the agenda is adhered to and that everyone gets to an even share of the allocated time.

Board members are made up of other business owners in non-competing businesses, often in very complimentary sectors.

Throughout the trials, we’ve found that typical areas of discussion include:

  • improving cashflow;
  • growing sales;
  • seeking advice in gaining grant aid;
  • staff issues;
  • etc.

What Next?

I’ll write up a whole lot more about this over the coming weeks as further announcements happen, but for now, if this looks like something you’d be interested in then head over to and signup for an info pack.

Comments welcome.