Business in Cartoons

Location, Location, Location

meeting location

It’s the first rule of real estate: location, location, location. The most desirable properties, those that command the highest prices, are inevitably situated in the best locations. But does location play a role when it comes to your next meeting to craft a new strategy, or determine the performance measures you’ll use to gauge strategy execution? While there are undoubtedly people out there who think it matters very little whether you hold your meetings in your own conference rooms, the closest coffee shop, or the basement of a community center, we think it does impact both creativity and results.

Let’s start with a fairly mundane, but nonetheless important and practical, reason to consider going offsite for your next important meeting. As facilitators this is an area we’re very familiar with and we can both say unequivocally that probably the least favorite aspect of our job is chasing workshop participants down after breaks. We’ve logged the equivalent of marathons patrolling corridors and poking into offices urging reluctant attendees back to the meeting. It’s not necessarily the meeting itself that causes their tardiness, but the force field of their own offices and the thousand things screaming for attention within its four walls that prevent them from coming back on time. Holding meetings offsite solves this problem in an instant. OK, check. Now let’s get on to the much more captivating reason to escape your own building.

And that is creativity! For many people, corporate meeting rooms carry with them the stigma of long, dry, and useless information exchanges, and wastes of never-to-be-retrieved time. It’s difficult to be innovative and creative in a space you associate with such negative experiences. So, go offsite, but where? We know what you’re thinking — a hotel or resort. That should do the trick, right? Maybe, but we’ve got what we think is an even better idea. Pick a company in your area that you admire, or one you feel offers the possibility of lessons you can apply to your organization, and ask if you can use space at their facility. That’s exactly what John Sztykiel did when he was CEO of Spartan Motors, a specialty automotive company in Charlotte, Michigan.i Wanting to shake things up, he approached nearby manufacturer Peckham, Inc. about holding a meeting in their location. Peckham was known as an environmentally friendly, energy-efficient manufacturer, and Mr. Sztykiel felt there was much his team could learn from them. Thinking it may help their business as well, Peckham agreed.

Spartan held their strategy meeting at Peckham, and during a break, while touring the manufacturing facility Mr. Sztykiel noticed piles of fabric within walking distance of the forklift and the manufacturing area. The fabric got cut within twenty yards of the shelves where it is stored. That got him and his team to consider ways they could reduce distances at Spartan. They decided to move materials storage closer to their manufacturing facility, and began looking for closer suppliers to reduce delivery times, both actions resulting in significant savings. By the way, the total cost for the meeting was $87 (breakfast and lunch). Talk about return on investment!

So, before you have your assistant book a hotel for your next offsite, try this instead:

  1. Share the idea
    Outline the issues that arise when holding meetings at your location, and share the possibility of going offsite, but differently!
  2. Brainstorm a list of local businesses that are a good fit for you
    Those within easy driving distance that you can learn from and to which you could also potentially add value, or even partner with at some point in the future.
  3. Commit to learning!
    You’re asking a favor of another business for a reason — to spark creativity and generate results. Be sure to take time when at another location to tour the facility, ask questions, and then apply what you’ve learned to your own business.

Location isn’t something reserved for choosing your next house. Marshaling the creativity and enthusiasm of your team when tackling a challenging problem or exploring exciting opportunities can be impacted by the venue you select, so choose wisely.


iThis story is based on an article that originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on March 8, 2010.

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