• Dylan Etkin

Three meetings your remote startup must have (and one to avoid)!

As a small startup, and a fully remote one to boot (thanks COVID), having only the “right” amount of meetings is crucial. Over-index on meetings and your team will get nothing done. Go too far the other way and your team won’t understand the vision, why you are doing what you are doing, and won’t be able to form the personal bonds that are required for a small team to succeed.

Meeting must-have #1: Open Mic

We set aside 45 minutes every morning to discuss pretty much anything and everything. Our team spans many timezones, including folks on the US west coast and central Europe, so time together is a must. Conversation topics often range from statistical analysis algorithms to motorcycles to socialism versus capitalism.

Goal: Forming a culture is one of the most important things you can do in a small startup. Culture is defined in the early days and determines how you grow and how effectively you work together. Setting aside the time to really know each other gives you the tools to overcome the hard obstacles you will face.

Implementation suggestions: Attendance is optional but encouraged. Schedule it close to standup so you don’t interrupt the flow. Don’t be afraid to not talk about work at all.

Meeting must-have #2: Monthly town-hall

We hold a 60-minute town hall once a month where we share everything that’s going on with the company (open by default is one of our values). This is an opportunity to poke our heads up, reinforce our vision, share wins, and ask/discuss hard questions. We share customer wins, revenue, costs, hiring plans, product direction, and more. This is our chance to get us all pulling in the same direction.

Goal: It’s critical that your small team understands the vision and the why of what you are building. At a small size, you are a collection of speedboats. The only way you’re going to get where you are going is if you are all pulling in the same direction.

Implementation suggestions: Share everything until you reach a point where it’s no longer appropriate. Share the vision, celebrate the wins, and don’t shy away from the hard truths.

Meeting must-have #3: Weekly planning

We hold a 60-minute planning meeting once a week. With our team being so small, a maximum of five people are writing code in a given week, so we keep these very loose. This is the opposite of the town hall. We want everyone to know what’s the most important goal for the week. We trust every one's ability to divide up tasks and plan their own work. We do demos, hold retros (every three to four weeks), and align on goals for the week.

Goal: Make sure everyone knows what the most important thing is for this week and what their part is. Share our progress and make sure we are always learning and improving how we work.

Implementation suggestions: Come prepared! If you need some pre-planning, do it beforehand. Don’t know how much more time you need on a task? Figure it out before. This meeting is about the participants, not the manager.

The Meeting you MUST AVOID: Weekly status updates from each department

Everyone is busy in a startup and often doing very different things day-to-day from one another. Instinct can lead you to believe that a weekly meeting where everyone talks about what they’ve done, what they will do, and what they are blocked on can be helpful. In practice, these start great but quickly devolve into most folks being zoned out and one person talking a lot.

Goal: Avoid status for status' sake. Use more effective means to drive shared understanding. Save yourself from meeting overload.

Implementation suggestions: Distribute information that needs to be widely shared via internal blogs; conduct 1-on-1s between team members; hold daily stand-ups that don’t last more than 10 minutes.

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