Friday, February 15, 2008

Can a Small-Business Take a Big Business Break?

This article was written by Tom Snell, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Many large corporations have a business practice called "off campus meetings". While this sounds rather fancy, it is no more then getting to people away from their regular workspace and putting middle and upper management level people in a different environment so they can think about something besides their everyday business tasks. The general motive for this is to prepare themselves for the future, rethink new strategies for current and future problems, realign everybody's behavior to current management thinking, bench mark what the competitors (both within their business field, and outside) have been doing, and generally renovate the morale and thinking of their team.

Sometimes these meetings are just across town, and other times, partially as a reward to their managers, it is in a conference center in a nice new city. Top management usually decides this. Often they bring in outside speakers ‘Often they have a theme, something like "managing for change". And sometimes they just want everyone to use the same buzzwords they do. Or follow some currently fashionable business thinking.

These meetings may run one or two days, and have people work in teams on a single subject, and then make presentations to the overall group, do team building exercises, or simply have classroom studies. Often they give up a half-day to rewarding their employees with some free time and activities, such as skeet shooting for the men, and massages for the women etc. Guess which part everyone looks forward to?

One of the unspoken advantages is that they get people talking to each other in person and making friendships, beyond that which people have with e-mail and phone calls. Thus people learn from each other

Now as a small-business person you may be thinking I have neither time nor money for this kind of thing. But that's where SCORE comes in.

Sometimes it seems that a lot of people think of SCORE as only someplace to use when starting up a new business, or someplace to run to when they are in real trouble. Between those two points, the running of the business on an ongoing basis lies many small businesses greatest opportunity. That is, maximizing the use of what they've got going, and avoiding pitfalls that may be awaiting them down the road. And you don't have to be in trouble before thinking about your business.

So, instead of an expensive meeting out of town, why not give us a call. We'll try to match you up with a counselor to talk about where you are today, and where you might be headed in the future. This probably won't take you more than half a morning. But it could easily refresh you in the same manner that “off campus meetings" those big businesses have. . Your counselor can be a sounding board, or possibly a mentor for future activities. By discussing things might find new and better ways of doing things. And you might red flag a problem that by taking action now you can avoid down the road. Sometimes you just need someone fresh to look at things, and give yourself a chance to rethink what you're doing. It won't hurt, and it's free.

Oh, about that part for the half day of employee’s reward. In case you don't have time for skeet shooting or a massage, your small-business substitute can be having a nice lunch at a good restaurant with your best friend, instead of another sandwich at your desk.