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Thread: Your Opinion on Meetings?

  1. #1
    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Your Opinion on Meetings?

    I'm planning on writing a short (hopefully) blog post on this topic and thought I'd get a discussion going here.

    What are your sentiments regarding meeting with:

    A - Prospective clients and,
    B - Current clients

    My personal opinion is that meetings are a waste of time 95% of the time, in my industry anyway.

    My reasons for this are many:

    1. An average meeting takes up to 2 hours of my time sitting in the meeting. It takes, on average, 1 hour in the car to get to the meeting place. So before you even realise it, that's 3 hours of my day gone. I bill out to clients at a minimum of R400, so that's potentially R1200 down the drain to meet with a person that may or may not become a client. Double if my partner attends the meeting too. (Assuming we're meeting a prospective client)

    2. Prospective clients are often just surveying the field and don't really know what they want. When meeting such a person, the odds of us converting him/her into a client are usually very low.

    3. I find that I am subjected to age bias if somebody meets me before we do the work. Sounds silly, but it happens a lot and it's very different to the reaction once you've done the work already and the client learns your age then.

    4. I'm going to ask the person to compile a written brief anyway. The entire team has input on any particular project and I like to clear different aspects with different people before I accept any projects. As developing a website is usually a lengthy sort of process, it's important that we have a written document as reference.

    5. I don't believe there's anything that can be said in a meeting that can't be said electronically. If I'm consulting on SEO etc then that's another story, but even then Skype is often just as appropriate.

    6. We are generally booked up 1-2 months in advance by clients who are well prepared and know what they want. People who love to hold copious meetings are more often than not not very organised or sure of what they want.
    While I understand it's necessary for meetings in many professions (electricians, aircon installers etc) I feel that if you're running an online business, your dealings should be primarily online.

    I've had a client ask me to drive to Umhlanga (40 mins drive) to ask me literally 2 questions that could have been asked via the telephone. Meeting lasted a grand total of 5 minutes. When I'm deciding whether to take on a project or not, that sort of thing tends to tip the scales in the direction of not.

    Interestingly enough, a long established and reasonably large name in the SA web design industry refuses meetings right from the outset and clearly states this on their website. Not only that, they don't provide a phone number and insist on email communication.

    While this is something I would personally LOVE to do, I'm not sure that I would, even if only in the interest of great customer service.

    Would really love to hear your thoughts on the matter. If you were me, would you stop having meetings? Would you stop taking phone calls? (Can also be a major disruption to your work flow)

    Are you somebody who prefers meetings? Why?
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    Moderator IanF's Avatar
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    Mark
    I would offer the "customer" a choice.
    Site meeting R1000 and say it is a 1 hour meeting plus travel time.
    Or a skype/telephone marketing meeting is free.
    Sometimes customers will then visit you and I wouldn't charge for that.
    Only stress when you can change the outcome!

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    Mark, I have a particular client who is big on meetings. I have made a habit of requesting an agenda ... some meetings quickly vanished.

    Most recently one of the directors' pa contacted me for a meeting; before the request could be fully developed I threw in "sure, they know where my office is and they are always, welcome, no appointment required". And that was that.

    I guess it largely depends on what type of business one is in.

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    Diamond Member Blurock's Avatar
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    I suppose it depends on the industry. In your case a client signs up for a deal, there is an SLA in place and the only time you require any communication is when things start going wrong.

    In the retail industry buyers are not loyal and may switch suppliers on a daily basis. In that case it is important to build long term relationships that can keep the opposition out. I have never been great on golf and sitting in a pub, but for some businesses that is what needs to be done.
    Excellence is not a skill; its an attitude...

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    I'm casting my mind back to the meeting I had with Mark prior to appointing him to do the design and core deployment of one of my company websites...

    1. I honestly think if I had to go to the trouble of speccing what I wanted done by email, I wouldn't have offered the job to a local developer - I would have put it up for bid on eLance. It probably wouldn't have been as slick as Mark's job (Red Giant definitely has some serious talent on board), but it would have been quite adequate to my needs. Ultimately it wasn't the styling skills that I called him in for anyway - it was actually speed. We weren't going to get this job done quick enough for my liking if I kept it in-house and the basic deployment part was holding up other, far more mission critical IT development. So I decided to outsource it. The fact that I was confident in you (1) and the talent in Red Giant (2) merely made me happy to pay the price (hard truth, it would have cost less than half that using eLance, albeit for something not as slick as conceded previously).

    2. Mark, your youthful looks are not a problem. Frankly in the IT game youth is no surprise at all. It may even be an asset.

    And then a second case, involving an organisation based in Pretoria I'm on the board of...

    We wanted something very specific available as an online service.
    A spec of what we wanted was drawn up.
    The CEO knew exactly what was wanted and was in charge of procuring proposals from web product developers such as yourself.
    The board was presented with three proposal bids.
    One bidder made a 10 minute presentation, took some questions and hung around another 15 minutes for tea and idle chit chat / informal answering of questions.
    The two other bidders didn't make the meeting.

    When the board meeting resumed, we chatted about the comparitive prices (the guys who turned up were the most expensive) and the importance of the project itself.
    And awarded the contract to the guys that turned up to pitch themselves.
    Ultimately we weren't judging on technical skill or plan, we were judging on our perception of how much we could rely on whomever we gave the contract.

    R25k initial development fee. R6k a month maintenance fee for 24 months (and it's not going anywhere else after that as long as they don't screw up - which so far they haven't).

    Is that worth risking 3 hours (max) for?

    If you want to keep meetings tight, start off by saying you have another meeting to get to shortly - it makes it easy to keep things on point, or make a polite exit if it comes to that.

    In terms of connecting (which is the real power of person to person meetings), the first 30 seconds really do count the most.

    And some persistence (but that's another story).

    You might have to pick which meetings you take one day, but if you're not at that point already, just take the bl**dy meeting.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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  7. #6
    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies guys.

    Ian, I think while we are so busy I may actually test that theory. One of the things I need to consider is that at the end of this year I'll effectively become a non-executive "manager" and won't play a role in the day to day activities of the business. I'll be replaced by a (client) account manager and one or two other people performing other roles, but I don't foresee us having the confidence to offer meetings right from the get-go. I feel like having an account manager communicate via email/online will allow a bit more freedom for error, for lack of a better term.

    Then again, you don't want an insistence on a paid callout hampering your chances of landing a great project. I am all for Skype meetings, but tend to think that the majority of SA business owners really aren't tech savvy enough to be comfortable with the notion of a Skype meeting.

    Clive, I quite like the idea of requesting an agenda. Come to think of it, I do request one every so often and can't think of an instance where the meeting has turned out badly. I would love to have the confidence to invite our clients to our offices, but we run a home office and I'm not entirely comfortable with it despite the fact that it is better than it was before. (Believe it or not, we ran the business quite successfully for a couple years from my bedroom )
    In all fairness, we do also stay quite a distance away from where the bulk of our clients are situated.
    Some interesting points though, thanks!

    Blurock, it was very simple in your case as it was a cut and dried project that was very easily handled by email. You also knew what you wanted, which was great. Unfortunately, there isn't always an SLA (only in terms of the 397 specials we offer and any maintenance/SEO contracts) and not all our clients are as certain about what they want as you were. We were fortunate enough that you're very adept at communication via the Internet. Unfortunately, there are many, many people who simply can't do it and will resort to the phone and meetings instead.

    Some really interesting opinions coming through here!
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  8. #7
    Gold Member Mark Atkinson's Avatar
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    Dave, I think your post requires it's own reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    I'm casting my mind back to the meeting I had with Mark prior to appointing him to do the design and core deployment of one of my company websites...

    1. I honestly think if I had to go to the trouble of speccing what I wanted done by email, I wouldn't have offered the job to a local developer - I would have put it up for bid on eLance. It probably wouldn't have been as slick as Mark's job (Red Giant definitely has some serious talent on board), but it would have been quite adequate to my needs. Ultimately it wasn't the styling skills that I called him in for anyway - it was actually speed. We weren't going to get this job done quick enough for my liking if I kept it in-house and the basic deployment part was holding up other, far more mission critical IT development. So I decided to outsource it. The fact that I was confident in you (1) and the talent in Red Giant (2) merely made me happy to pay the price (hard truth, it would have cost less than half that using eLance, albeit for something not as slick as conceded previously).
    I actually anticipated you bringing our meeting up in this thread. It is one of the instances in which a project has gone well for us as a result of having meetings.

    To be completely honest, while I'm glad you found our work to be of a decent quality, I'm pretty sure that if we had to do it again, we would do it somewhat differently. A lot has been learned since then - come to think of it, we (I) may have actually misinterpreted your initial requirements. If you ever do want a do-over, my offer to do it on the house still stands. We have a hard time accepting previous work of ours that we don't consider to be out of our top drawer and have already revisited old projects simply because of that fact. Guess it's more pride than anything.

    Regarding eLance, no argument there. We don't, and will never, try to compete on price with them. Customer service has always been the thing that we've tried to focus on first and foremost (hopefully successfully). I guess that almost answers my own questions/concerns regarding meetings.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    2. Mark, your youthful looks are not a problem. Frankly in the IT game youth is no surprise at all. It may even be an asset.
    In this instance I think subjectivity may have gotten the better of you. It definitely wasn't an issue with you and isn't with many of our other clients (because expertise should and often does trump age) but I have, on more than one occasion, received negative reactions centred around my age. Just recently we lost a potential project and I'm 99% sure it was because the client's initial impression when meeting me was "too young to be good at what he does." In all fairness I'm not at all upset that we lost that particular job.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    And then a second case, involving an organisation based in Pretoria I'm on the board of...

    We wanted something very specific available as an online service.
    A spec of what we wanted was drawn up.
    The CEO knew exactly what was wanted and was in charge of procuring proposals from web product developers such as yourself.
    The board was presented with three proposal bids.
    One bidder made a 10 minute presentation, took some questions and hung around another 15 minutes for tea and idle chit chat / informal answering of questions.
    The two other bidders didn't make the meeting.

    When the board meeting resumed, we chatted about the comparitive prices (the guys who turned up were the most expensive) and the importance of the project itself.
    And awarded the contract to the guys that turned up to pitch themselves.
    Ultimately we weren't judging on technical skill or plan, we were judging on our perception of how much we could rely on whomever we gave the contract.

    R25k initial development fee. R6k a month maintenance fee for 24 months (and it's not going anywhere else after that as long as they don't screw up - which so far they haven't).

    Is that worth risking 3 hours (max) for?
    You indirectly bring up a very valid point here. Now that I consider it, I don't think we would have won many of the larger projects we have now without having met with decision makers in the entity. One of our clients currently brings in almost R10k per month for us with no signs of slowing up and we wouldn't have landed that client had I not met him in the first place. (Funny story: That client actually bargained us down on his initial website + branding first up. He's now paid that fee many times over )


    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    If you want to keep meetings tight, start off by saying you have another meeting to get to shortly - it makes it easy to keep things on point, or make a polite exit if it comes to that.

    In terms of connecting (which is the real power of person to person meetings), the first 30 seconds really do count the most.

    And some persistence (but that's another story).

    You might have to pick which meetings you take one day, but if you're not at that point already, just take the bl**dy meeting.
    No arguments there. I think I agree with you mostly.

    I'm almost certain that the reason meetings go on so long is largely my own fault. I tend to be very comprehensive (verbose) when talking about my field(s) of "expertise." Call it passion, call it nervousness, call it trying to land a project - I'm not sure what the reason may be, exactly, but I do talk, a lot. And in case you haven't noticed by now, I type a lot too.
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    Diamond Member wynn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Atkinson View Post
    I would love to have the confidence to invite our clients to our offices, but we run a home office and I'm not entirely comfortable with it
    Check to see if there is one of those 'hire by the hour or day offices' complete with reception, boardroom, coffee and snacks close to your home, use it regularly for meetings, eventually if it turns out that you hire it on a casual basis enough times to warrant the hire of offices there or elsewhere permanently, that will give you a very professional appearance, workshop at home office and reception down the road.

    Then hire an older guy who is a little tech savvy on a casual case by case basis to be your front for ageism.
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Atkinson View Post
    In this instance I think subjectivity may have gotten the better of you.
    I didn't expect you to agree with me on this one. You wouldn't have raised it as a problem the way you did if you didn't believe it was real.

    At best all I can hope for is that you revisit this particular paradigm of yours and consider the possibility that I might be right.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Gold Member Chrisjan B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    I didn't expect you to agree with me on this one. You wouldn't have raised it as a problem the way you did if you didn't believe it was real.

    At best all I can hope for is that you revisit this particular paradigm of yours and consider the possibility that I might be right.
    Mark - don't be your own best enemy....

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