I’ve learned a lot since we launched this agency 10 months ago. I’ve learned about risk, trust, storage sheds and broken casters. But those are stories for another day. Today I’m sharing with you what I’ve learned about the importance of communication.

Coincidentally, as Next was launching, so too was a monthly breakfast group my friend invited me to attend. The group is comprised of people he knows who have found themselves, for better or worse, in a leadership role in their career. We call ourselves The Breakfast Club. (And, while I see myself as the Judd Nelson of the group, I suspect they might view me as more of an Anthony Michael Hall, or possibly even an Ally Sheedy). Regardless, at our first meeting I was getting loads of advice from some very smart people. One piece that really stuck out to me was when a woman in a very senior HR position told me she requires her managers to have 1:1 meetings with each member of their team at least twice a month. With a to-do list as long as my arm, which included one item reading “don’t let business fail,” the thought of carving out time to meet with Aaron and Katy bi-weekly amongst everything we had going on seemed a little unnecessary, but I stuck to the plan.

And. It’s. Been. Awesome.

I can’t think of a better way to keep little things from becoming big things. When I pitched our 1:1s to them I did so under of the guise of “… and please keep in mind this isn’t a bi-weekly opportunity for you to spend a half an hour airing grievances over the coffee I just bought you. These conversations are a two-way street.” But Aaron and Katy are smart - so they already knew that. And while, yes, our coffees sometimes have a gripe or two going in either direction, all in all they are a positive experience I look forward to each week. I look forward to it because we’ve headed-off little issues that could have become major problems if we only checked in with each other quarterly, semi-annually, or (are you kidding me) at an annual review. Over our coffees we have shared thoughts on where we think this agency should go, what our hopes and dreams are for it, what we should be doing differently, what are we doing next weekend, and much, much more.

As partners, Rich and I do this too. But we do it every week. We take an hour. And sometimes it requires beer. We laugh about how little we talk anymore since we’re both so swamped. But communication is key. So we put it on the calendar and made a New Years’ resolution that if there’s a conflict, we’ll move it, but never cancel it.

As our team grows, so will my coffee calendar. And while I may have once looked at that with trepidation, I now get excited at just the prospect of it. We have incredibly smart people on our team. The more opportunities I take to listen to them - the better we’ll be.

Bender - out.

Tim Hackney