Anyone running a startup knows that you are on the clock. You’ve got as long as your money lasts you. The only way to add hours, innings, quarters, pick your metaphor, to that clock is by hitting your KPIs. Which is to say, as a startup CEO, I need to make every second of my team’s time count towards building the right product and then getting the word out to the right people.
Naturally, the distractions and time wasters my team faces are legion. Among these are meetings. Yes, I said it. x.ai schedules meetings for busy professionals, but meetings are double edged. They can be an efficient way to push a project forward. They can also be time sinkholes. Startups, as focused as we are on moving fast, often don’t focus on optimizing meetings, which means many are suboptimal—from the way they arrive on your calendar to what happens in the room. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
As a CEO running a 50+ person-strong company and a buyer of software solutions, I know firsthand why startup CEOs should optimize meeting scheduling. Here’s what I think needs fixing about meetings, and here’s how I solved each item on this list.
First, the challenges:
- No efficient process for setting up meetings. At a startup, no one has an assistant, so everyone schedules their own meetings. As a consequence, anyone who sets up a meeting wastes an unfair amount of hours in the simple mechanics of getting it on the calendar. We’ve analyzed how long this takes. No need to trust us, just look at the data and do the math for your own team. Facts are facts: your team is losing hours a week scheduling their own meetings.
- Incomplete meeting details add even more friction. As things arise, team members often hastily add meetings, and these too often lack proper attributes, such as mappable locations, conference rooms for customer visits, dial-in information etc. Ensuring that these details are correctly inserted means executing an accompanying set of mini-chores (e.g. creating Zoom links, booking a conference room) and then saving this additional data to the calendar. These secondary processes add minutes onto an already unwieldy task (see #1 above).
- No checks on the quality of scheduled meetings. And since we all schedule our own meetings, team members rampantly schedule meetings of poor quality, whether that means no clear agenda, too many attendees, or overlap with another meeting. Meanwhile, managers have a hard time understanding that there’s a problem, since there’s no mechanism for knowing when their direct reports are participating in unnecessary or badly run meetings, other than by asking them directly (which takes even more time).
- No control over resources spent on this task. For any reasonable organization, when an employee spends a few hundred dollars, they typically go through an approval processes of some sort. This is most certainly true when an employee spends thousands of dollars. That’s not true for meetings. Any employee can easily waste hundreds or even thousands of dollars of people’s time with zero oversight.
- Fragmented toolset to setup and manage meetings. Worst of all, there’s usually no single coherent solution to manage this particular activity across the organization. Instead, at most startups, people hack meeting scheduling using personal calendar links, email ping pong, casual slack requests, or just by stealing their colleagues’ precious time via shared calendars.
A scheduling solution that transcends context
This is, naturally, where x.ai comes in. Besides easing the mechanics of meeting scheduling, we empower startup CEOs and managers with organization-wide data. Indeed, we help executives bring data to a debate that used to be opinion-based.
Let’s take each point one by one, and here I’m speaking as an end user.
- Easing the scheduling task. Like any busy professional, as a startup CEO I use x.ai because it makes life easier. Having AI software set up my meetings saves those minutes I’d waste if I did it myself. It also increases the accuracy of my scheduling, since our software adjusts for items I might forget (such as a trip first week of December). And this convenience extends to meeting guests as well. They can easily schedule, reschedule and otherwise add information to a meeting 24/7, without me needing to look in my inbox. In this instance, I’m unavailable out of the office until Wednesday of next week.
- Automatically nailing down all meeting details. The above shows that our tech intuitively selects a mutually-agreeable time regardless of how much (or how little) input from the user. Equally important is the fact that our software also does the two or three other chores that come along with any meeting—booking a conference room, adding the Zoom link, and saving the meeting to my system-of-record through a Zapier link you can set up. All the user needs to do is tell Amy + Andrew what they want, and the info is automatically included in the invite. See?
For me and my colleagues, it’s a huge time-saver to avoid making our own dynamic video conferencing links (which typically yields yet another pre-meeting email). That we never have to hunt down available rooms at the last minute also offers relief beyond words.
- Insight into meeting practices. With x.ai, I can also understand how team members are conducting meetings. As the chart below suggests, I can easily see who’s scheduling meetings and what kind (internal vs. external). Through team admin tools, I can also check to see whether, for example, our engineers are setting aside enough continuous focus hours every week or if my sales team is taking internal meetings during prime selling hours.
- Control of team time. By handing over meeting scheduling to our AI software, I’ve immediately introduced efficiency and time savings across the organization, which means that I’m getting more productive hours every week from my team than most of my peers. And that’s true even for engineers who don’t tend to initiate a lot of meetings; with x.ai, they don’t need to worry that colleagues will interfere with their maker hours (when they are most productive)—our software makes that impossible.
- Single toolset. Finally, x.ai lets me use a single tool for meeting scheduling across the organization. That means more visibility for me into meeting habits (see above) no matter what role or subteam you are in. And it means that the team enjoys scheduling nirvana, which is when our software can instantly set up a meeting between teammates that’s optimized for all meeting participants.
Meetings can be one of the most powerful ways to get sh*t done. But you have to fine tune the process—from initial set up to follow ups. If not, as a startup CEO, you’ll rue every minute lost in your race against the clock.
If you look like me, and almost all of you do, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to spend some time on the phone going into detail with the above.