Why informal meetings work best for startups

Startups, today, are going beyond boardrooms and encouraging informality to break the monotony to make their meetings more productive.

By Sandeep Aggarwal

A lot can happen over a cup of coffee, especially for startups and entrepreneurs. Be it a client meeting, a hiring interview or a strategic business discussion with partners, comfortable lounge chairs and cups of cappuccinos have largely replaced boardrooms and formal suits for the country’s budding entrepreneurial community. But as a growing number of ventures opt for informal settings such as coffee shops for their professional meetings, one cannot help but wonder about the reasons behind this shift.

The prime reason behind the increasing popularity of an informal backdrop as a business setting for entrepreneurs is the emergence of the vibrant and energised startup culture. Startups differentiate themselves from larger organisations on the basis of their unconventional approach which revolves around innovation, flexibility and open-ended communication channels. This fosters creativity and fuels hyper growth for startups through greater involvement and better strategy development.

Some people think such informality is detrimental to business. On the contrary, startup people thrive on the randomness, achieving the impossible on a regular basis, even in a high-pressure situation where everything is up in the air. This is why most startups have informal discussions as a major part of their in-house strategy in order to address employee grievances and deliver feedback. Having an informal setup also opens up new feedback channels and leads to better communication between the employer and the employee.

People involved with startups, be it the CEO or an intern, are often too intensively involved with the company, working for long hours and weekend shifts with little leisure time. Going into a formal meeting surrounded by PowerPoint presentations and sombre faces wearing suits after this is nobody’s idea of fun. Informal meetings allow startup professionals to let off steam without affecting the objective of the discussion by integrating fun and business.

Even hiring, for startups, is not conducted within the confines of air-conditioned meeting rooms. It is extremely likely that the interview is conducted over a cup of coffee or brunch which is paid for by the interviewer. This allows candidates to be more relaxed and even instils a sense of belonging and loyalty in the very first meeting. Given how topsy-turvy a startup journey can often get, having people on board who are willing to stick through the thick and the thin becomes very critical, which is why informal meetings are finding such acceptance within the entrepreneurial community.

There is also an element of autonomy and sense of ownership with the people involved with startups. Such self-reliance helps different startup functions to operate efficiently as independent units as well as an integrated, concentrated effort aimed at strengthening the venture. However, this also means that startup professionals do not fit in well within a more formal setting. There have been examples of startup professionals switching jobs when they find their current jobs too rigid, inflexible and reluctant to innovate.

Startups, today, are going beyond boardrooms and encouraging informality to break the monotony to make their meetings more productive. The reason is simple, they believe in open door and transparency. Young entrepreneurs are finding such informal meetings valuable as they are able to gain multiple insights and points-of-view, allowing them to make the best decisions for their businesses and co-workers.

The author is founder of Droom and Shopclues.

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