My idea of hell is to be forced to spend eternity in a meeting. I’ll do anything to avoid meetings. In fact, I doubt there are too many of us who love meetings. A former client says I should have myself checked out for ADD/ADHD since my daughter struggles with the condition and people who have ADD/ADHD have particular problems sitting in meetings. However, I think the greatest issue for me and a lot of fellow entrepreneurs is that we are hard driving, impatient, autonomous people.
Entrepreneurs are courageous. They are calculated risk-takers with the potential to have their heads handed to them every day. To even attempt the audacious act of entrepreneurship presupposes a strong will, a healthy ego, and the instincts of a jungle carnivore. These characteristics are, perhaps, not the ideal for mediating useful meetings.
I was reminded of this when I attended a seminar hosted by Lewis Schiff on Open Book Management (OBM) last week at a gathering of the Inc. Small Business Council. OBM is a term invented by John Case In the early ’90s. But the concept’s chief evangelist is Jack Stack, who has written and spoken extensively on the concept. To oversimplify, OBM’s core assumption is that most firms perform best when it’s employees see themselves as partners rather than hired hands. All company financials are shared by employees. Employers are challenged to improve profitability, and all share in new company efficiency and prosperity. Ideally. The assumptions are not very different from Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), except there remains a single boss and owner.
I was fascinated by the concept of Open Book Management in theory since I have always tried to run my own outsourced executive sales firm, Corporate Rain International, collegiality–as a community of high-level peers. (I certainly try to never hire anyone who isn’t better than me.) That said, OMB is a bridge too far for me at present for several compelling reasons. But the one that strikes utter terror into my small businessman’s soul is the potentially endless meetings educating and sharing and discussing management decisions and finances. This potentiality alone is enough to send me fleeing the seductions of OMB.
As Eileen Shanahan acerbically states (as quoted by Harold Faber in The NY Times Magazine–3/17/68), “The length of a meeting rises with the square of the number of people present.” Or to quote that great business philosopher Mel Brooks. “It’s good to be King!“