Justin Yuen | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Justin Yuen

Background:  

Launched in 2004 and based in Portland, FMYI specializes in social collaboration software. Its name (pronounced "F-MY-I" ) stands for "For My Innovation." Clients such as Macy's and the Walt Disney Company use FMYI's software to track their ongoing processes through task checklists and visual dashboards for project and customer relationship management, while communicating updates and making plans on Grouptrail.

The Mistake:

I made the mistake, early on, of minimizing meetings too much.  In past jobs that I had before starting FMYI, I’d have days where I’d run from meeting to meeting, or I’d be traveling and be somewhere else, where I had back-to-back meetings. It was a never-ending cycle of being on a hamster wheel with no time to actually work.

When I started a company, I wanted to create a culture where there was enough time to think and be creative and get stuff done. So I didn’t have many regularly scheduled meetings. I avoided what I thought was the trap of the Monday morning staff meeting and scheduled only ad hoc one-on-ones or group meetings, and created an annual all-employee summit.

I had previously taken various personality tests, and one thing that stuck with me was how people should communicate with me. “Be bright. Be brief. And be gone.” We all complain about meetings, and talk about having fewer of them, right? I thought not scheduling meetings would work best for everyone.

But despite my best intentions, this policy proved to be problematic. With my role focused more on external activities, like business development with customers, attending conferences, representing the company in the community, etc., internal meetings just slipped through the cracks because they weren’t regularly scheduled.

I started to receive some feedback from the team. They wanted to interact. They wanted check-ins. They wanted meetings.

I started to receive some feedback from the team. They wanted meetings.​

The Lesson:  

There are ways where meetings can be useful and productive, particularly when you are dealing with a distributed workforce, like we are at FMYI. There are people in Portland, New Orleans, Austin, Orlando. Face-to-face meetings are preferred but not always possible, so we meet virtually.

First, we wanted to be mindful of work/life balance when setting meetings, giving people time to do work, investing time in communicating the vision, giving progress updates and providing opportunities to discuss new ideas and solutions. This past year, we were recognized by Family Forward Oregon and The Center for Parental Leave Leadership for our work/life balance efforts as part of the When Work Works award.

We reinstituted Monday morning meetings for the management team. We hold weekly departmental meetings and quarterly all-team meetings. We track progress toward company goals on our FMYI/CRM project management system, with weekly plans and daily updates posted on Grouptrail.

The impact has been very positive, and we seem to have hit the right mix of work and meetings. The team has shared that they feel they have greater clarity of our company direction, they’re better able to follow up about specific deliverables and they appreciate the reminder to work on continuous improvement, balancing meeting time with get-work-done time.

Follow Justin Yuen on Twitter at: @jyuen

Pictured: Justin Yuen. | Photo courtesy of Justin Yuen.

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