At the dinner forums of the Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley, we gather business owners and expert advisors who have many years of wisdom and experience. We hear great presentations, but a lot of the benefit is the “peer learning” that comes from sharing our perspectives. This happens serendipitously, when least expected; but also, through the occasional “prompted” or “curated” conversations, over dinner.
Not that tables of 8 interesting people don’t know what to talk about, when left to their own devices, but suggesting a way they may share some lessons and perspectives; and suggesting a format where a person is listened to a bit more “actively” has been very good.
I offer you some of the questions we’ve offered, or make up your own, to sit with your peers, employees, customers, etc. I’d be glad to talk with you more about guest facilitating a meeting for this type of discussion. Sometimes it helps to agree that the conversations can have “no deliverables” but also, you could conclude with “what might we do as a result of some of the ideas presented here?”
Aside from business, many families also don’t do this kind of thing much, and the conversations at dinner are random and unfocused (maybe with the rare exception of “what am I thankful for?, this being Thanksgiving” – and hopefully that’s not met with snarkiness). May I suggest that families try this kind of thing more regularly? Research shows that families that eat dinner together do better in many ways. Imagine if those occasions helped you get to understand and appreciate each other more and better!?
- What kind of customer we have a hard time winning, and what we might do about it.
- How we identify and treat our “high potential” employees.
- How can we give our company more of a “family” feeling?
- What problems of ours do we never get around to solving?
- If I needed to get out of my current line of business and do something else, I would…
- What I would never do just for the money (in my company).
- The big change I’d make, if the odds were great it would succeed.
- How I work around my biggest shortcoming.
- What special sauce helps us win customers and work, aside from price, quality, service.
- My most effective time of day, or work habit, or other method or style, and what I do to take advantage of it.
note: feel free to use this idea, and these questions as you please, but it wouldn’t hurt to note that I thought of them.