This week, we had an undergraduate student in the office for work experience. We receive so many applications that we have a designated system to deal with placements. It involves students having one-on-ones with several members of the team (including me), plus a project that they are required to work on during their down time, which they present to us on their last day.
I sat down with said student for her one-on-one, when she presented me with her opening question, “So, what do you do?”.
I was about to give her the usual spiel about being the voice of the customer and driving the future growth of the company, when it occurred to me that the answer she would recognise was the much more tangible – “I spend most of my days in meetings or answering emails”, which is the sad truth of life at the top.
As a business, we have tried to address the latter issue. Some of my team tried to implement ‘no email Tuesday’, but after a six-month trial they admitted defeat. The sheer volume of emails on Wednesdays had more than doubled and the incessant instant messages and phone calls proved much more disruptive than an email had ever been.
But now my business has also sought to inadvertently address the ‘meetings’ issue. As our company has expanded, office space is at a premium and the news this week is that we are knocking down half of the meeting rooms to make way for more desks. While on the face of it this may seem like a logical decision, I fear the consequences some months down the line when no one can get a meeting room.
I should say that our office is open plan; no one has a private office, not even the CEO. So I can imagine the hoo-ha when senior people need a room from which to do their annual appraisals, the HR team needs a private area for a difficult conversation with an employee or the sales director has to meet at a client’s office to finalise a deal because there is no room at his ‘own inn’.
However, my commercial acumen has enabled me to come up with a cunning plan: why don’t I pre-book the available meeting rooms for the next 12 months and set up a ‘secondary market’ for anyone who needs a room?
What’s a good, last-minute price for a meeting room? £50? Free coffee and cakes for a week? Suggestions on a postcard please.