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The Level 10 Meeting: How We Run our Company in 90 Minutes a Week

I admit it - I'm way more interested in building a great company than I should be.  I dig the concept of work/life balance, but I've always just loved working on something interesting/challenging, so I tend to do a lot of it.  But working a lot is no replacement for working smart - it's only when you do both that it's truly awesome, right?

Build a Better One! When Zac Smith, Aaron Welch and I agreed to start Packet over beers at Clinton Hall last Spring, the first thing we agreed upon was to "build a better hosting company."  It was a reaction to seeing many of the innovative infrastructure companies of the last 15 years being swallowed up by really large corporations, which often lacked that "2.0" feel, let alone the 3.0 one that is coming down the pike.   It was also a testament to our own personal desires to take what we had done right (and wrong) in our 15 years of entrepreneurship apart from each other, and bring the best ideas and learnings to this new venture.

Better How, Exactly? The next thing we agreed, was that doing that meant building a company that really operated at an outstanding level: innovative, passionate, and driven but also well-resourced, properly managed, and results-oriented.  We immediately turned to a friend and mentor of mine named Steve Smolinsky and scheduled the first session to implement a system he utilized called EOS (Entrepreneurial Operation System).    So far (we've done two sessions) it's been hard work, but a lot of fun and very productive.

Run Your Business by Getting Stuff Done Instead of diving into that can of worms, however, I'll cut straight to the secret sauce, which is the meeting pulse.  Here's what is shapes up to be: a weekly management meeting (every Monday at 3pm EST for 90 minutes) and a quarterly management meeting (every 90 days, from 9:30am until 4:30pm).

Yup, that's it!  As you can see, the weekly meeting is the bread and butter of the approach.  It's all about getting through the issues that come up, and making progress towards the goals we set for the company and each other.   The key things are pretty simple:

  1. Always hold the weekly meeting on the same day, at the same time.
  2. Always start on time.
  3. Always end on time.
  4. Always use the same agenda.

Following these rules has really allowed our management style to take root - we're a team that is all about getting stuff done and making progress towards some pretty ambitious goals.  The hardest part, but also the most impactful, is in following and really getting good at the weekly meeting agenda, which is consistent from week to week.

The crux centers around solving issues, but I would suggest the most surprising and powerful idea is that of rating your meetings.  Yup, we rate each weekly meeting and aim to improve to a 10 out of 10.  Try doing that at your next corporate meeting, and see what you get!  Better yet, try the whole agenda:

  • Segue (good news) – 5 Minutes
  • Reporting – 15 Minutes
    • Company Score Card
    • Status of Quarterly ROCKS
    • Customer and Employee Notes
  • To-Do List – 5 Minutes
  • Issues Solving – 60 Minutes
    • We spend the majority of our time solving Issues. We first pause and think about any issues to add to the list (stored in basecamp) and any leftover issues from last week, added from the ROCKS, etc. We then quickly decide on the three most important issues by picking 1, 2, and 3 (never start at the top and work your way down). Start with issue number one and IDS (Identify, Discuss, Solve) it.
    • The owner of the issue quickly identifies the issue (hitting the nerve/root or looking into the eyes of the person who created the issue or who is responsible for solving it). Once identified, everyone then discusses the issue, only once because discussing it more than once is politicking, and when everything is on the table, you then move to solve. You then capture the conclusion as an action item on the To-Do List with the owner’s initials and move onto issue number two. Work through the Issues List in this fashion until there are five minutes left in the meeting. In some meetings, we only solve one issue, in some meetings, we solve ten, but we handle them in order of priority.
  • Conclude – 5 Minutes
    • Decide if there are any cascading messages to share with anyone else in the organization based on what you discussed and solved in the meeting
    • Recap the to-do’s
    • Rate the meeting on a scale of 1-10
Photograph of two men having a conversion outside by a table of servers
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