I enter the lobby full of excitement. It’s my first meeting with the people who have just invested in our business. I got on really well with them throughout the capital raising process and I’m sure they can really help us with our plans to scale the firm.

Coming out of the lift I’m greeted by Michael’s executive assistant Claire who shows me to the meeting room. To my surprise we walk past the main board room, four walls I’ve got to know very well over the past few months, and we continue down the hall to a small office in the corner.

After a few minutes, and bang on time, Michael walks in and takes his seat. The agenda for the meeting is on the table in front of each of us, along with a copy of the board pack, which was emailed out to all attendees a week ago. I kick off the customary chit chat, exciting new opportunities, great to have Michael and the team behind us etc… he smiles and picks up the board pack.

  • Him – “No questions about the board pack?”
  • Me – “I only scanned it last week. We’re going to go through it now, right?”
  • Him “No, we don’t hold meetings to read documents. We read documents in advance, table questions and meet to confirm a shared understanding and to make decisions”.
  • Me – “Oh right. Well, shall we just go through it now then?”
  • Him “No. I’ve already read it. I can’t sit and wait for you to read it. You’re not prepared. Meeting over”.

And with that, he got to his feet and left. I was stunned, totally stunned and wondered if it was a joke. Claire then came in and told me to leave. I asked her what just happened, to which she replied “You just met Michael the custodian, when he wanted to invest in your business, he was Michael the salesman and now that he’s invested, he’s responsible for that investment. He’s not an Angel, he’s a Fund Manager and I suggest you get ready next time.”

Initially I thought that was overly harsh, and I did lose sleep over it. A few weeks later I got an email with the board pack for next month’s meeting. I read every page, asked clarifying questions and got answers. This to and fro went on for about a week and by the time I was back in that little meeting room with Michael, I understood the lesson he was teaching me. That meeting was constructive. The majority of our interactions throughout their investment were constructive and we got right to the point. We made decisions and we moved forward.

“You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on the question.”

— Bill Gates

Now, you could be forgiven for observing that this little story (true by the way) applies to management meetings with private equity investors, but not to small firms where everyone knows each other….and you’d be wrong. I’ve spent a considerable portion of my life in management meetings and the majority are just talking shops. Peter Drucker once said, “meetings are a symptom of bad organisation.”

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly challenged clients to reduce the average monthly meeting time from 4 to 5 hours down to 45 minutes. There are lots of ways to do this and many of them have nothing directly to do with the meeting itself. Greater clarity around the purpose of the firm, the ideal client, the proposition, the team that deliver it, how they are organised, process, workflow, technology, the list goes on and on, but it’s all just harmonisation.

As for the meetings themselves, I built some kit to help get the average meeting time down and to keep it down. You can find it using the buttons below. Download it, distribute it, read it and then have a meeting to decide which aspects you should adopt, when and how……. see what I did there 😉


A Guide to Effective Management Meetings Meeting Notes Template


Your people are the most important asset you possess. They are also the asset that requires the greatest care and attention. Defining what people should do, how they should work with each other, measuring performance and helping them to grow; it can all be challenging. Our organisational resources will help you tackle some of the trickiest conversations, improve performance and align your team to your business plan.

Annual Performance Plan

The APP is a planning tool to help individuals and their managers plan personal performance and increase the probability of achieving the desired results.

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Daily Time Journal

Use this template to plan out your daily activities by time slots. Then record what actually happened and review the differences between planning and reality.

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Decision Log Template

Discussing the same ‘pet’ subjects at every management meeting can be frustrating. Use this template to record key decisions and refer back to it when the inevitable happens.

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Daily Task Journal

Use this template to plan out your daily activities by task. Then record what actually happened and review the differences between planning and reality.

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Meeting Notes Template

There’s only one thing worse than sitting through a pointless meeting, and that’s reading a comprehensive summary of it. Use this template to focus on key decisions and action items.

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Weekly Activity Planner

Review your performance from the previous week and get focussed on your activities for the week ahead. Use this template or copy the format into your journal or notebook.

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Yearly Activity Planner

Use this template to map out your plan for the year. If you’ve completed the Personal Vision Sketchbook, then just extract the detail from there.

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A Guide to Effective Management Meetings

The majority of business meetings are a waste of time. Use this guide to set some rules, plan your approach and turn your meetings into shorter, more productive sessions.

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