4 Stages of Organizational Growth (Thanks to Zingtrain!)

Thanks to everyone who attended tonight’s Dreambank event in downtown Madison, WI.

The wonderful people at Zingtrain have created a great document breaking down the different stages of organizational growth and the skills needed at each stage.  The content of the document is attributed to the work of MIT professor Edgar Schein who was an expert in the field of organizational development.

Zingtrain 4 Stages of Growth

Also check out http://zingtrain.com

And for more info on Edgar Schein go here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Schein

How to run staff meetings that get kick ass results

The disinterest was making me anxious.

Bodies were slouched in chairs.  Eyes were staring at the floor.  A few people were even looking at their phones.

The manager running the staff meeting droned on about doing a better job of cleaning.  At some point he reminded everyone to use the correct bags for recycling.

One person in the room nodded.

I felt less embarrassed.

But not for long.   Another manager took over and began to dispassionately lecture the staff about food quality.

No one said a word in response.  Blank stares became….blanker.

Everyone wanted to leave including me.

This was.

The worst.

Staff Meeting.


If your staff meetings are like this one, don’t despair.

Here are four steps to start running better staff meeting today.


1. Less is more

A staff meeting with 20 agenda points is not very effective.  Why? Because no one is going to remember everything covered much less take action.

Instead of discussing 20 items, cover 3-4.

As soon as I started doing this in my own staff meetings, they improved.  A lot.

Talking about fewer things will help you focus on what’s really important.  It also increases the odds everyone will remember what you said.

What about the other 15 items on your list you want to discuss?  Review them with staff on shift.   Yes, its more work, but its also much more likely to stick.

If I tell a room of twenty people to do a better job of cleaning the utility sink, one or two may actually do it.

If I spend 2-3 minutes telling each person the same message in a one on one setting, more people will clean the sink.


2. Meet then follow up

The follow up to the meeting is as important as the meeting itself.

The more important the issue, the more important the follow up.

Many years ago I remember struggling to implement procedures to make our store safer.  I presented my plan at two separate staff meetings.   Each presentation was long and detailed.

No one took action.

I presented my plan once more, but this time I kept it short and sweet.

The next day I went over the plan with the people on shift and made sure they carried it out.

I did the same the following day.  And then the day after that one.

After a few weeks of daily follow up the procedures became habit.

I know.  Following up with people isn’t a genius concept.

But I can’t tell you how many time I’ve seen young managers who don’t do this and then wonder why staff isn’t responding.

Its not hard.  Its just work.


3. Engage your audience constantly.

In a group meeting with 20  people its easy to “hide” and space out.

If you’re leading the meeting you have to do more than run through your agenda.

You need to make sure people are paying attention.

This means looking at your audience and bringing back anyone who is straying off

There are several ways to do this.

My favorite is to stop whatever it is I’m presenting and call out the offender.

“Jack, you’re staring into space.  You with me?”

Doing this is uncomfortable but it immediately gets the person’s attention.  It also gets the attention of everyone else in the room.  No one likes getting called out in front of their co-workers.  Geez!

Another option is to pepper my presentation with questions and pick on the people who aren’t paying attention.   This is what you junior high school teacher did.  It works.

“Jack, the toilets have been really dirty lately.   How do you think we should tackle this problem?”

Lastly, I like to throw in an occasional well timed expletive to get people’s attention.  Of course, if your modus operandi is to swear like a sailor this strategy won’t work.  But if you’re a classy person an unexpected f-bomb is a subtle and effective attention getter.


4. Energy and Humor

Audiences like a presenter who is funny and has a lot of energy.

If this is not you, no worries.  Reach out to someone on staff who is both of those things and ask them to help you lead meetings.

What’s the worst that can happen? Your meetings become more fun?  You’re staff is more engaged because one of their co-workers is leading the meeting?

“But I’m the manager.  I’m supposed to run staff meetings!”

No, you’re supposed to make sure people get shit done.  If enlisting a charismatic person to run meetings helps you get better results, you’ve done your job.   Period.




Every once in awhile some of our managers have an existential crisis around meetings.

“Are we meeting too much?”

“Our meetings are running too long/short, I think we have a problem!”

After many years of being a meeting junkie and then a meeting avoider, I’ve come to the following conclusion:

Frequency and length are the wrong metrics for assessing success.

Today, I’m just concerned with action and engagement.

A successful staff meeting is characterized by robust conversation and positive energy.   And what happens afterwards.

If the meeting doesn’t result in action of some sort what’s the point of meeting?

Because I’m focused on action and engagement, meeting length isn’t really important.

If there is a lot of participation a good meeting can last a long time.

But If I’m doing all of the talking then the meeting will be short.  Maybe just 15-20 minutes.

Does this mean this is a bad meeting? Not at all.   Sometimes there just isn’t much to say so instead of wasting time with nonsense, better to call it and focus on following up the next day.

Action and engagement.

Action and engagement.

Make this your North Star and better meetings should follow.

Good luck!





























The one thing business owners can do to change their lives forever.

I’ve had a charmed entrepreneurial experience.  I don’t drive a Tesla or live in a waterfront mansion.  But big picture, I’m pretty damn lucky.

Still, there are a few things I wish I had done sooner.

Learning how to buy real estate is at the top of the list.

If you own a business, listen up.  Buying real estate for your business can be one of the best moves you can make.

The benefits are too good to ignore.

Most people can understand the long term benefit of owning commercial real estate.

Few people understand what’s possible in the short term.

In fact, the strategy I’m about to share with you is so powerful, I share it with anyone who owns a business.   Its especially good if you are starting a business or expanding an existing one.

It’s a simple 2 step strategy.

Here it is.

STEP 1: Purchase real estate

STEP 2: Take money out of your real estate to finance your business start-up

If you do this well it can cost you less cash than “just renting.”

Yes, you read that correctly.

Two years ago a friend of mine saved himself $240,000 doing this.

If you’re thinking, “Why doesn’t everyone do this?”  The simple answer is, most people don’t know how and don’t want to invest the time to learn.

Until 5 years ago that was me.

Not only was I lazy, but I justified my ignorance by telling myself that buying real estate was only for people with a lot of money.

Not true.

Leveraging real estate to finance your business is more commonplace that you think.  No “insider” loan programs or secret handshakes are necessary to pull this off.   Yes, there are some do’s and don’ts but nothing you can’t learn.  Once you know how it works you will kick yourself for not learning this sooner.

Ready to go down the rabbit hole?  Check back in a few weeks for more details.

Not convinced?   I’ll have something for you too.

Lastly, If you’re a business owner who owns commercial real estate, tell me about your experience.  What’s worked and what hasn’t? Are you glad you purchased the real estate?

To unlock your business’ potential, answer this one question

We Americans are obsessed with growth. If you find yourself constantly thinking about growing your business don’t worry.  It’s not your fault.  It’s an epidemic.

Before I continue, let me be clear.  This post is not a rant against business growth.

Growing a business can be fun and exciting.  I’ve been growing my restaurant business for 10+ years and I like it.

But this wasn’t always the case. For many years, I felt like I had to grow.

  • You’ve got a golden ticket!
  • Don’t you want to be rich?
  • Bro, this is America.  Of course you have to grow.

I spent all of my time strategizing growth but hardly any time questioning it.  This went on until one day I realized I was miserable.

I was miserable because I completely forgot that growing a business is a choice.  I  thought growth was something ambitious people automatically do.  Like walking.  Or breathing.   So, I became a slave to chasing growth and growing for growth’s sake.  At first, this was ok (Hey, making money is nice) but pretty quickly it wasn’t working for me.  Why? Because growing a business is hard.  And when things are hard and there isn’t a good answer for why you’re doing what you’re doing, life sucks even more.

Today I’m no longer miserable.  I’m still focused on growing my business but it doesn’t consume me.

A deceptively simple exercise has made all the difference.  I call it “Ruthlessly Asking Why?”

Here’s how it works.

Before I take on a new business project, I take a step back and spend the necessary time (sometimes a few hours or sometimes a few days) asking myself a bunch of tough questions.   For this exercise to work the questions have to be hard.  And your answers have to be brutally honest.  This way you don’t risk buying into your own crap.

This is the “Ruthless” part of the exercise.

Questions include:

  • Why will customers want to support this business?
  • Why will anyone want to work in this business?
  • Will I have to disrupt my quality of life to pursue this project and if so why is it worth it?

I’ll also ask some “what” and “how” questions too (i.e., What is my downside? How will this business be different from competitors), but ultimately all of the questions have to funnel to the big Kahuna question:

Why should I do this?

My goal is to have enough compelling answers to form a good story.  Not some bullshit story, but one that I can believe in.  And that other people can believe in too.  If you want to grow your business you will need help.  A good story that gets people engaged and on your team makes the journey a little easier and a lot more rewarding.

If I go through this exercise and come out the other end with a genuine, “yes, let’s do this!” then game on!  If not, it’s a sign I should take a pass.

So if you’re contemplating growing your business or starting a new one my advice is simple.  Get good at asking “why?” and then come up with a good story.   Do this and you’ll be off to a better start than you know.