Get a Better ROT (Return-On-Time)

There is a direct correlation between solid meetings and ROT.

Written for MILK and originally published in the Nov. 2023 quarterly issue.

The meeting room was quiet as the owners and the next generation entered. The meeting was supposed to start about fifteen minutes ago, but folks were slow coming in. No one was entirely comfortable. Everyone was thinking about something else outside, but one of the owners had called a meeting, so they all came. It was unclear what the meeting was about, but each person had an idea in their mind what it SHOULD be about. The last meeting was about two months ago, and only a couple of people could vaguely remember what was discussed, but no one could remember what was decided with specificity.

This scenario plays out in family businesses every day. Entrepreneurs working in the business don’t have time to waste, let alone in an endless meeting. It’s sometimes hard to see the ROI of meeting with people you see and work beside daily.


Why we don’t like meetings
  1. We discuss things that aren’t truly important.
  2. People forget what was agreed on at the last meeting, so we rehash the same things more than once.
  3. We talked at the last meeting, but no decision was made. So we talk about the same topic again, until at some future meeting we don’t bring up that topic again. Ever.
  4. We never have enough time, and the meetings go on for hours.
  5. We discuss the easy stuff because the hard topics are hard. So we put them off.

In over 13 years of working on both sides of the US/Canadian border, with large and small operations, family farms, and corporate businesses, what owners and managers talk about has a profound impact on their business. There is a direct correlation between solid meetings and ROI. Great family farms that have great meetings also have less conflict.


Navy Seals has a saying, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”   How can we use this in agriculture? Slow down and have a great meeting, and you’ll move even faster, with fewer problems in the daily operations. It is that simple. But the practice of great meetings takes some work to get right.


What does a great meeting look like?

Some of the farms I’ve observed follow this meeting cadence, regardless of their farm size or time of the year.

  1. Same Day, Same Time, and Same Faces: They are at the same time and on the same day of the week, every week. They start precisely on time and end on time. This means there is little wasted time scheduling or waiting for people to show up. The meetings last no more than one hour and, during busy times, less. The important thing is that they happen. The same people attend each meeting, and unless someone is traveling, they are held face-to-face. Face to face keeps the connections and helps speed the meeting along instead of relying on spotty voice or video feeds.
  2. Agenda: There is a standard agenda with estimated start and stop times for each agenda item. This prevents the discussion from wandering off-topic and keeps everyone focused. Everyone is encouraged to put items on the agenda so one person doesn’t dominate the meeting. It has a mix of current information that needs to be shared and long-term important decisions brought to the table.
  3. Organizer: A person is designated as the organizer who opens the meeting, ensures that everyone participates and that the meeting closes on time. They also take notes and keep them in a location (digital is preferred) so everyone can access them later.
  4. Accountability and Delegation: Why is accountability and delegation part of running a great meeting? People who have been given decision-making authority AND have clarity on what they are accountable for will make decisions. They will make most decisions on their own outside of the meeting. Thus, only big decision-making and problem-solving will happen at the meeting, and the ROT will go up.

Great meetings take a while to perfect, and perfection doesn’t happen overnight. There will be fits and starts as you tweak the process to find something that works for your operation. But you’ll know you have arrived when the harvest is in full swing, and no one bats an eye at having short weekly meetings because everyone is getting a high ROT.

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