Today, we begin our two-day annual planning/budgeting and sales meetings. We’ve held these meetings every year since the middle of an existential business crisis in 2005/6. The goals: Set out the next year’s direction, establish budget parameters and goals, and reconnect key staff and contractors, who work remotely and rarely see each other in person.
How effective/valuable are these meetings? I cannot give a simple answer, especially in the light of the many missed and unfulfilled projections and anticipated goals over the past decade. On the other hand, we have been able to remain in business through sometimes daunting challenges largely because of the decisions made at the meetings — and sometimes seemingly minor ideas revitalized or initiated at these events have provided truly incredible long-term advantages.
(As an example, a summer student/intern at one of our earliest meetings asked if we were maintaining the printed Directory of Construction Products and Services in our Canadian publications. We realized we hadn’t been updating and invoicing for these listings — and generated an immediate $20,000 in cash revenue — with continuing annual residual income.)
In the early years, we conducted the meetings with the help of a paid consultant/facilitator — with fees ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, plus other costs. More recently, we’ve reduced these costs. Last year, as an austerity measure, we conducted the meetings by teleconference, reducing the operating costs to the modest conference line service fees (plus our time, of course). This year, I decided we should revert to the in-person model. We use a conference room in a local hotel where we have an advertising trade-out (so no hotel and limited catering costs). I flew in one of our out-of-town employees on points, and purchased the cheapest economy ticket for the second, and we scheduled the meeting hours to reduce inconvenience/hardship for employees and contractors with personal and family responsibilities.
I can’t say how the meetings will resolve this year. I believe they have significant merit, especially if you are struggling with your marketing and business development systems.
A planning meeting process enables you to set a budget, assign responsibilities, determine guidelines for the next year — and if you allow everyone to contribute to the process, rather than imposing the rules from the top down, you’ll encourage creativity and (significantly) compliance and acceptance of the decisions.
You’ll also achieve discipline: That is, you’ll know your spending parameters and hopefully will allow marketing programs enough time to produce worthy results. (This process can be accelerated somewhat with effective testing and performance metrics, but we need to realize that the architectural, engineering and construction sales cycle is long, often with many stages and decision-makers, so it is harder to attribute direct results to specific marketing initiatives. But you are better off setting up measurement systems than not.)
Do you have an annual meeting/planning process? I welcome your input and suggestions. You can comment here or email email@example.com.