Igniting Growth – Meat & Potatoes

by: Mike Pascoe

This is the next blog in my Igniting Growth Series where I capture and share some of the insights I’ve gained over my 30 years in CEO/President positions and pass on the knowledge gained from the CEOs I’ve worked with more recently in an advisory capacity. My goal is to provide simple, easy-to-implement insights/ideas to ignite success in your business. This post focuses on execution, in particular the role of Management meetings in this vital area.

One of my favourite movies was ‘What about Bob?’, a classic Bill Murray comedy where he tries to describe the approach his psychiatrist takes as meat and potatoes – meaning he gets to the basic issues, no fluff or wasted efforts. While the reality was anything but, the phrase “meat and potatoes” provides a good description of the efforts I am seeing in successful management meetings.

Meat and potatoes meetings start with an overall objective as part of the plan and could be as simple as growth at x% with net returns at y% or a much more complex strategy that perhaps shifts the company into new markets or products (or both –see my previous Blog – The Evolving Pivot).  Then what happens? While execution is the subject of many books, my perspective here is from the role the management meeting has in this.

Perhaps the best example I’ve experienced is with a local firm that meets religiously at the same time every week. I have been part of these meetings as a CEO advisor for the last two years and other then stat holidays I am not sure there has been one cancelled meeting. The team even meets without the CEO when necessary; albeit these meetings are at a reduced level of interaction as the CEO in this case is very hands-on and a key part of the reason the meetings are successful.

The agenda is simple – meat and potatoes – and is usually set for 2 ½ hours:

  • The Numbers (the meat): reviewing & discussions against a selected dashboard to cover all bases (Revenue, Orders, Cash, AR, AP and a few more)
  • Updates & Discussions (the potatoes): Sales, Marketing, R&D and Operations

More than half of the meeting time is spent around customers by using the pipeline to help frame the discussions. It’s important to note that this is not a one-way update, but an interactive, at times difficult, but almost always, effective exchange.  Ownership is rarely in doubt, however the ability to make decisions (authority levels) is not always there, which can undermine that ownership

By the end of the meeting, everyone is fully apprised of the current business performance, what key opportunities they have, and what issues may need attention.  They’ve all had an opportunity to provide their ideas/concerns/support. Actions are captured with ownership (no formal action log in this case) and discussed in the next meeting if appropriate.

The meeting is not done perfectly. There are no formal KPI’s, but the connection to the overall revenue and profit growth is obvious. Strategy is not part of the meetings and business development gets little attention as a result. Execution is the focus. As a result, there is a risk that they may be missing opportunities that could drive revenues even higher down the road. Strategy has recently been brought into a separate Sales and Marketing weekly meeting and the output from this is fed into the Executive Management Meeting. This should help fill the strategy void, but overall strategy still needs attention at the executive level.

Given their enviable high growth over several years and strong cash generation, it is hard to be critical of their meeting practices. There is something working very well here and I believe it starts with the CEO and his attention to detail and interactions in these weekly meetings. The CEO’s self-awareness that, despite their strong performance, they are almost certainly missing opportunities to “do better” is part of the dynamic at work.

The interesting thing is this simple meat and potatoes format scales. I spent 12 years in an executive role at Newbridge and the biweekly NOC (Newbridge Operating Committee) oversaw growth from 0 to well over $1B during that time. As the company became too large for one group to manage, each function developed its own biweekly cadence of management meetings, the outcomes which fed into the overall NOC. It worked and it was very meat and potatoes based, just at a much higher revenue number…

SO, what’s the takeaway?

A religiously regular, highly interactive, CEO led management meeting addressing the meat and potato issues should form the backbone of your execution plan. It must include a clear interaction from the customers via sales.

Oh, and if I may be a little self serving, bring in an objective outsider to help pushback against some of your thinking and provide suggestions based on their experiences.  This addition can add significantly to the views discussed and ideas put forward.

Up Next on Igniting Growth: Staging Your Company.

I’m genuinely interested in your questions and thoughts, so please feel free to comment or contact me, Mike Pascoe, with your insights: Mike.pascoe@stratfordmanagers.com.

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