- How to implement a communication cadence strategy
- How to determine if you’re having too many or not enough meetings
- The common communication pitfalls experienced by small businesses
- How to strike a balance between the number of meetings
Establishing an effective communication cadence for small business is no easy task – balancing the frequency and timing of meetings to maximize efficiency without bogging down employees can be challenging.
However, it is a key plank in any successful small business.
This includes large team meetings, small groups of a leadership team, or even one-on-one sit-downs with employees.
It's a balancing act. Having no meetings won't work. But neither will be having too many.
Here's a look at how to get communication cadence right as a small business owner.
What Is Communication Cadence?
Communication cadence refers to an organization's frequency, timing, and communication channels. It establishes a rhythm and structure for information flows between team members, departments, and stakeholders.
Effective communication cadence ensures that everyone is well-informed, aligned, and engaged, leading to improved collaboration, productivity, and overall business performance.
Communication cadence encompasses various elements, including team meetings, email updates, project status reports, one-on-one discussions, and company-wide announcements.
It determines how often these interactions occur, whether daily, weekly, monthly, or as-needed. Communication timing is crucial to ensure timely decision-making, address issues promptly, and maintain a responsive and agile business environment.
Choosing the appropriate communication channels is also vital in small businesses. It can include face-to-face meetings, video conferences, phone calls, emails, instant messaging platforms, or project management tools.
The right mix of channels should be selected based on the nature of the message, the urgency of communication, and the preferences and needs of the team members involved.
Communication Is Triage
Communication cadence is often overlooked in many small businesses, says Brian Stroh, director of integration at Acquira. It is reactive, not proactive.
“Communication ends up kind of being a triage,” he says. “You need to talk to the owner or the manager because something's going wrong, or there's a concern with something – but there's typically not any scheduled, standing meeting.”
It is hard to set goals and measure whether they are being met.
Brian says that one of the first steps to implementing an effective communication cadence is getting into everyone's mind that there will be regular meetings with specific topics.
“It's the expectation of having something that all parties are privy to an understanding of what's going to be discussed and what to do to come prepared and what they're going to be able to get out of it,” he says.
Knowing what will be discussed is crucial for establishing an effective communication cadence. No one likes walking into a meeting and getting blindsided by an aspect they weren't prepared to discuss.
There can often be some resistance to regular meetings because they are new and may feel too corporate compared to the relatively informal way the business operates.
Starting small and tracking one main metric over several months can determine if the strategy is effective.
It's Not Keeping a Thumb On Employees
Effective meetings are a two-way communication between managers and employees about productivity issues – it's not about simply oversight or having more control.
“I think you have to set the expectation that this is bilateral. This is something where you're communicating in both directions,” says Brian.
You shouldn't think of it as keeping a thumb on an employee because it's also their meeting.
If something has come up or there is a problem, the employee can explain what's happening.
“Their response might be, ‘We've got a vendor who's not performing,' or ‘The process sucks,' or, ‘There's some other kink in the chain here that needs to be worked out.' And it's the opportunity to have that communication promptly.
Another key plank in an effective communication cadence is having a structure for the meeting.
If it's a weekly meeting, it takes place at 10 am on Friday. If it's a monthly meeting, it takes place on the first Monday of the month.
Try to keep them regular. Things will certainly come up, but try to stick to the schedule as much as possible.
The meetings should also have a similar structure, at least at first.
Perhaps they open with some pleasantries, talking about family life or interests. It doesn't have to be business right off the top.
“And then we're going to talk about your single metric and whether you are above or below it. What are your thoughts about it?” says Brian.
Next up could be open time for the employee to voice any concerns. Then open time for the manager.
“What you don't want to do is get in there, and you sit down, and you both just kind of stumble around because there's no real structure to the half an hour,” says Brian.
That's a good starting point for a meeting because very few people can freelance something like that.
“So if you give that structure, it at least gets people used to what it is,” says Brian. If you deviate from that, modify going forward, or eliminate it because you've turned into something where you have a very easy, free-flowing, freelance-type of meeting, that's fine, as long as you're accomplishing what you set out to do.”
How To Get the Frequency Right
There are no hard and fast rules for how many meetings are required. It depends on the type of business, how many employees there are, whether any large projects are underway, etc.
The higher your org chart, the more likely you will have more frequent meetings, for example.
“For a cadence of a recurring meeting, I think your field techs and whatnot are probably more of a monthly,” says Brian. Your internal team will probably lend itself more towards weekly or bi-weekly.”
Performance reviews for all employees generally work quarterly.
One indication that meetings are too frequent is that there simply isn't much to discuss.
If employees feel overwhelmed by meetings and start to impact the amount of work they are getting done, that is also a bad sign.
“They start to feel overwhelmed because they run into that typical, ‘I'm in more meetings than I am getting work done now,'” says Brian. And it sucks.”
On the other hand, a sign that there aren't enough meetings is if obvious things are slipping through the cracks. Missing key targets for four weeks and not realizing it until a month later.
How Acquira Handles Communication Cadence
Acquira is uniquely qualified to provide insight into communication cadence, particularly in a world moving towards more remote work. The company is wholly remote, so it is adept at conducting meetings this way.
Without our organization, there is a weekly team meeting with everyone with a set subject matter, including:
- What was worked on last week
- What will be worked on this week
- What topics should be discussed
- Personal wins
- What has been learned
“It's just a touch for everybody,” says Brian. There's camaraderie building, there's everybody getting kind of gets an idea what's going on. e don't get into a lot of in-depth discussions.”
If an issue needs more attention, those most affected by it agree to discuss it later in a smaller group.
There is also a weekly meeting of the leadership team to go over larger strategic objectives.
Common Pitfalls of Communication Cadence
While communication cadence is essential for small businesses, there are certain pitfalls that they can fall into. Here are some common mistakes that small businesses can make with communication cadence:
- Lack of consistency: Inconsistent communication can lead to confusion and misalignment within the organization. Employees may not clearly understand expectations, updates, or important information if communication is sporadic or irregular. Consistency in communication helps establish a reliable flow of information and maintains engagement.
- Overcommunication or information overload: While regular communication is important, excessive communication can be overwhelming and counterproductive.
- Neglecting two-way communication: Effective communication is a two-way process that involves both sharing information and actively listening to employees' feedback, concerns, and ideas. Small businesses may make the mistake of focusing only on disseminating information without creating open dialogue and collaboration opportunities.
- Using the wrong communication channels: Small businesses may struggle with using the most appropriate communication channels for different messages or target audiences. Relying solely on email or outdated communication methods may not be effective in certain situations.
- Lack of clarity and context: Effective communication requires clear and concise messaging. Small businesses may encounter challenges if messages are vague, ambiguous, or lacking the necessary context. This can lead to misunderstandings and errors in execution. By being aware of these potential pitfalls, small businesses can proactively address them and establish a communication cadence that promotes clarity, engagement, and productivity within the organization.
Establishing a clear communication cadence helps foster transparency, collaboration, and a sense of shared purpose within the small business.
It ensures everyone can access relevant information, reduces miscommunication and misunderstandings, and enables efficient coordination and decision-making.
A well-defined communication cadence ultimately contributes to a positive work culture and supports achieving business objectives.
There can often be pushback to implementing a communication cadence in a small business.
Try to ease into it and not immediately impose a bunch of meetings on everyone. That will likely engender pushback from employees.
Implementing slowly and checking in on the process frequently is wise.
“You're just going to have to learn the tap dance a little about what it is,” says Brian.
If you're a small business owner looking to grow your business and implement an effective communication cadence, consider Acquira's ACE Framework. Our experienced business integrators can help you move your business from owner-operated to management-run and step away from the company's daily operations to do more of what you love.
- Most small businesses are reactive, not proactive, regarding meetings.
- Meetings should have a regular frequency and established subject matter
- There is often pushback when trying to implement a communication cadence
- Having nothing to talk about in a meeting means they're too frequent
- Meetings should be a two-way communication between employees and managers
Acquira is a business acquisition in a box service. We help entrepreneurs buy businesses and we invest in them and their chosen businesses. We are here to help ensure that each business we work with is posed to make the biggest positive impact possible for its owners, employees, and community.