Recently, a reader wrote me that she was frustrated with the amount of time her company spent in meetings. What can be done to make them productive?

For many companies, thousands of dollars of unproductive time are wasted each year. Nevertheless, meetings are necessary. Here’s how to assign a cost to your meetings. Let’s address the time issue first.

Assume:

• Your meeting is a productive 30 minutes long.

• Your technicians spend another 30 minutes talking, gathering parts and wasting time before they get on the road to their first call.

• You have four technicians whose average wage is $20 per hour. Benefits add another 30 percent or $6 for a total of $26 each.

The total expense that you cannot bill is $26 times four technicians or $104 per meeting.

You lost the ability to charge a customer for this time, too. Your average billing rate is $150 per hour not including parts. You’ve lost the ability to bill $600 for each meeting.

The total lost per meeting is $704. However, half the meeting time is productive so you are only losing $352 per meeting. If you have a meeting once per week for 50 weeks, this cost is $17,600 for the year.

Your actual cost might be higher or lower depending on your company’s activities.

I’ve witnessed situations where it took almost an hour to get all of the technicians out of the office. There is always an excuse to chat, find a part or waste time. I’ve witnessed situations where the technicians leave immediately and drive to the local coffee shop or doughnut joint to eat breakfast and talk rather than drive to their first call.

No waste

To make this wasted time as low cost as possible:

• The dispatcher should give technicians their calls before the meeting starts.

• Everyone should be in their trucks and on the road within 10 minutes after the meeting concludes.

• End the meeting on a positive note to make sure everyone leaves feeling good in order to keep this feeling when greeting their first customers of the day.

• Consider installing global positioning systems in the trucks. Vehicle tracking devices eliminate the coffee shop breaks because the systems let you know where everyone is at all times.

Remember that you hold meetings to communicate something of importance to your employees and managers. Here are some rules you should follow:

• Have the meeting in a quiet place. It should not be in the middle of a warehouse or in a place where a lot of people walk by. A conference room, an office or somewhere quiet is necessary. Attendees need to pay attention to what is being said - not what is around them.

• There should not be any interruptions during the meeting. This means radios and mobile telephones are turned off. No calls should be taken. Everyone needs to concentrate on what is being said without being distracted by outside influences. Obviously, if there is an emergency then an interruption is acceptable.

•            Have an agenda. Everyone should know what the meeting is about. You can put the agenda on a board rather than distributing a piece of paper with the agenda on it.

• Someone should be responsible for taking notes during the meeting. After the meeting the notes should be distributed. If someone misses the meeting, he or she will know the important points that were covered.

For those attending the meetings, the notes serve as a reminder. For those who missed the meeting, the notes serve as the information they need to comply with new procedures.

• Put the notes in a notebook. If all of the notes are in a notebook, then you can refer back to them when questions arise.

• The meetings should be fun. I don’t necessarily mean a party atmosphere. However, the attendees should look forward to the meetings. They should be informative as well as enjoyable.

What if you are dealing with negative issues?  Then deal with them and end the meeting on a positive note. Everyone should leave the meeting feeling something positive.

Never single out a person in a meeting for a criticism. For example, if you are discussing call-backs, describe the situation rather than the technician who had the issue. He or she - and probably everyone else - knows whose issue it is. However, you don’t have to make technicians feel bad in front of their peers.

Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093. Call (800) 511-6844; e-mail ruthking@hvacchannel.tv.