Top Tips for Inspiring Meetings
The announcement of a company meeting usually generates about as much excitement in employees as an upcoming dentist appointment.
Asking a bunch of energetic stylists who spend the entire day on their feet to sit in a chair and listen to someone else speak for four hours can feel like a punishment rather than a privilege.
Large gatherings of employees can create another bad dynamic as well—they can turn into a venue to air grievances and quickly become a litany of complaints rather than a place to get inspired.
Scott Buchanan, owner of four Scott J salons in the Manhattan area, has 225 stylists and 8 to 10 managers. Over the years, he has learned a lot about what makes a company meeting motivational, inspirational and effective.
Here, he shares his top five tips for a productive meeting your stylists will look forward to.
How often do you hold a company meeting? How long should it be? What day of the week should it fall on? Buchanan says it depends on a number of factors, including the size and location of your company.
“We do a huge company meeting once a year with all the service providers, assistants and managers from all locations together,” he says.
But he also holds another meeting for just his service providers once a year and one for just his front desk staff. On top of that, each individual salon has their own private meetings with managers.
With a company the size of Buchanan’s, a meeting with more than 225 people is a major undertaking, so a big gathering once a year with additional smaller meetings makes more sense logistically and financially.
The season he chooses to hold his biggest meeting is also carefully picked. “I usually do the big meeting in the summer because it’s a slower time of year,” he says.
Stylists are not as busy and have more time to focus on getting inspired and motivated.
Buchanan doesn’t make them sit in a room for 10 hours on a Sunday listening to speakers, though. Rather than a full-day meeting, he keeps it to four hours on a Wednesday.
The timing of Buchanan’s meetings isn’t just to keep his staff’s attention—he has a more practical reason, too.
“We’re always closed on Wednesdays from 9am – 12pm for education, and I can’t afford to close my stores for an entire business day,” he says.
Buchanan’s meetings still end up denting his budget, though. “I always have to rent a hotel room—we don’t have the space to do them on-site. Sometimes I rent a large, theater-style place. Either way, it’s always a $3,000+ investment when you include room rental, food, beverages, etc.”
The logistics and expense of getting everyone together is part of the reason Buchanan keeps his all-company meetings to once a year and relies on his managers to do quarterly meetings. Despite the expense, these inspirational meetings are a top priority.
“Everyone needs to know the vision,” Buchanan says. “And to feel part of that vision, I want them to hear one solid message from me, rather than it be a game of telephone where the message gets diluted.”
“We always celebrate the company as a whole and discuss the status—where we’re growing, where I feel there may be a little bit of a crisis,” Buchanan says. “As my business partners, they need to be aware of the landscape without putting fear in them.”
He also uses the meetings as an opportunity to hear from his staff and measure their engagement.
“I can see what’s resonating or not resonating with them,” he says. “And it helps my managers to drive the mission deeper.”
Buchanan’s meetings always center around a similar message: the customer experience and the experience the stylists give each other.
“I try to empower them because they’re the ones on the ground creating the experience for the brand,” Buchanan says.
“It keeps me and my team refreshed, and it keeps the conversation about experience at the forefront. We can go into autopilot very easily, and talking about our customer service makes it stay fresher—it makes everyone more aware and empowered.”
When Buchanan conducts smaller meetings with just his service providers, he hones in on more specific ideas.
“At our most recent meeting with them, we were about to go into a price increase, so we really focused on how they are delivering the wow,” he says. “We talked about how we are elevating the experience, telling our story and monitoring it.”
Buchanan takes the same meeting and gives it a twist to make it more specific to his front desk staff when he meets with them.
And finally, his meetings are used to celebrate. Stylists who had the highest service dollars in each location, among other achievements, are acknowledged.
One thing Buchanan never does at his meetings is get up in front of his staff and wing it. He has an agenda he plans carefully for months in advance.
“I have a huge PowerPoint presentation I take about two months to prepare, and then spend three days before the meeting to finalize,” he says. “I also bring in other speakers—maybe an expert on social media or someone from Aveda.”
Buchanan also reads all the time and draws inspiration from books like Lessons from the Mouse by Dennis Snow.
“It’s all about the guest experience, based on Disney. I constantly refer back to it,” he says. “Another one I recently read was Intentional Living by John Maxwell.”
But Buchanan’s staff doesn’t just sit and listen to him and other speakers for hours. Scott J meetings include feedback.
“It’s not just me talking,” he says. “We make it interactive, with the whole team getting into role playing.”
Buchanan makes sure every meeting empowers his staff to be better and reach their full potential.
“We have to elevate ourselves every year,” he says. “We can’t get complacent with our staff or our guests, because our service is 80 percent experience and 20 percent technical.
“In these meetings, it’s my job to be inspirational, directional and visionary.”
Buchanan’s meetings weren’t always as purposeful and inspirational as they are now. Through trial and error, he learned how to avoid the pitfall of a “bitch session” and make the team gatherings a place of inspiration.
“I learned not to let any one person or topic highjack the meeting,” he says. “I’ll acknowledge if something is worth looking into and go back to it at another time, but it’s not going to be on the agenda,” he adds.
“People help support what they help to create, and they come to my meetings expecting motivation and inspiration—that’s the bigger picture.”
Buchanan advises staying true to yourself and not overthinking your message when addressing your staff.
“We all have a vision and place where we want to see our companies go,” he says. “Focus on that and have a real conversation with people—that’s a step in the right direction.”
He also stresses the importance of preparation. “Make sure you plan it—you can’t wing it,” he says. “I don’t just talk about whatever comes to my head—I have it all mapped out.”
And most importantly, he says you must learn how to conduct a meeting. “Aveda Business College has classes you can take,” he says. “And if you’re not the greatest personality in front of a group, invite other people to be there as well. I’ve done a lot of work on myself on how to give meetings and connect with a group.”