The Puckett's Summit: Why Annual Company Meetings are Essential


 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?

Each November for the past four years, we have pulled all of our key leaders together to have what we have now affectionately call the “Puckett’s Summit”. The first meeting in 2010, there were only about 5 of us and we gathered in front of Mom and Dad’s fireplace in Leiper’s Fork. This year, we booked a conference room to hold all 50 of our restaurant managers, events team, marketing team, as well as valuable partners in our business. This annual company meeting has proven to be absolutely instrumental as we continue to grow, and it is one of the rare opportunities to get everyone in one place for a few hours.

As you are thinking about how to apply this to your business, a few questions may pop in your mind.

1) If you’re all there, who is running the business? We strategically plan this meeting on a Monday, which for us is typically the slowest day of the week. We make an effort to find a day that is enough in advance of the insanity that is The Holidays, but outside of one of our busiest months which is October. An annual meeting can be planned at any time of the year according to your industry’s ebbs and flows, but we really like to do it just before the year-end so that we can look at the past year and set goals for the next year. But still, who is there watching the business? Prior to the meeting, we train trusted employees that have displayed leadership and organizational skills and hopefully have interest in growing with the company. It’s a great opportunity for them to “try on” a position they may be interested in in the future. I will be honest that this has not always been possible across the board, in which case we rotate managers through parts of the day so that every person can be involved in at least a portion of the meeting.

2) What do you do all day? We meet from 8:00am until 5:00pm. Our format for the meeting has always been roughly the same: inspire & motivate, examine year-to-date numbers in comparison to last year’s goals, set goals for the next year, and day dream about what is next for the company. This year’s meeting was the most organized and seamless meeting we’ve had to date, and I’ve copied our agenda below:

8:00      Welcome & Coffee/Breakfast
8:15       Icebreaker — I love “Two Truths and a Lie
8:45      Review of Agenda and Introduce First Speaker
9:00      First Motivational/Educational Speaker
9:45      Break with Snacks
10:00    Brief In House Seminar: i.e. “Branding Beyond our Four Walls”
10:15     Second Motivational/Educational Speaker
11:00    In House Review (i.e. our PR team reviewed important publication hits, social media growth, etc)
11:15     In House Seminar (i.e. our CPA re-iterated the importance of organized paperwork, woo hoo!)
11:30    Lunch
12:30    In House Seminar (i.e. Marketing Director introduced a new tool for communications)
12:45     In House Committee Assignments
1:00      Committee Break Out Session
2:00      Break with Snacks
2:15      Reconvene into Location Teams for Year-To-Date Report and Goal Setting
3:30      Company Update and Dream Board
4:00      Vote on next trip incentive
4:30      Close

The day’s ultimate goal is to walk away with a clear, united frame of mind and achievable goals for each team. There are a few key elements that have been really effective for us.

Speakers: We have had a variety of speakers in the past varying from industry-specific sessions with a trusted vendor, to educational seminars like the one this year from Meredith Jones, to cross-industry motivational speakers like local sports anchor Rudy Kalis. It is always good to get some outside perspective since your team hears your voice every day.

In House Seminars: These serve as an opportunity to address more “house-keeping” type concerns in one sitting. Maybe it's an organizational issue that needs to be addressed, introducing a new technology or program, bringing in important partners like a PR associate or your accountant to meet everybody.

Committees: These were a new idea this year, and so far I’ve received great feedback about the opportunity to work on common issues with other team members across the company towards a common solution. Some of the Committees we assigned were Staff Training, Menu Development, Internal Systems and Organization, and Brand Merchandising. I look forward to reporting the progress of these committees.

Team Reports: This is the most important part of the day. Each team stands up and reports on their progress in relation to the goals they set for themselves last year. Then, they throw out suggested goals for next year — for us that means sales and growth goals, as well as cost control goals. The entire group analyzes these suggestions and may tell that particular location that they are aiming too high, or need to be more aggressive.

Incentives: Once those goals are set, they are the bar that we hold them accountable to year-round. The incentive for achieving those goals is a company trip for the management team. In the past we have been to Cabo San Lucas, on a cruise, and this year it is a ski trip to Breckenridge. On another day, I will tell you about how pivotal this incentive has been for us. An incentive can truly be anything though — a weekend getaway, a bowling party, a company picnic, or an outing to a local sports game.

Dream Board: No, not the cheesy dream boards that a teenage girl might do by cutting out magazine pictures and pasting them onto a poster board. We like to hear from our associates where they would like to see our company going, what gets them excited. This can mean a number of things — locations for an existing brand like Puckett’s, new restaurant concepts like what we will be doing at Homestead Manor in Thompson Station, TN, exploring relatively untapped avenues for our business like Merchandising. This can be a powerful tool to help Andy and I clarify what we need to focus on. In this next year, we will be seeing one of our Dream Board locations from that very first meeting in 2010 in front of the fireplace coming to fruition: Puckett’s Chattanooga. So it works!

I’d love to hear what you do at your company meetings. Do you set incentives or goals? Or are you looking to get something rolling and don’t know where to start? Let me know in the comments!

Cabo Pic

Cabo San Lucas, 2013