Pass The Pretzels

Meetings not as productive as they should be? Make a party of them.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the October 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In most business operations, you have two basic personality types: the creative folks, who often work in sales and marketing or product development, and the business people, whose jobs are to manage the company's money and other resources. Reaching a point where the two can meet and learn to function together can be a challenge.

Daniel Katsin hit on a solution to this problem when he began conducting creative meetings. Katsin, 46, is president of Katsin/Loeb Advertising in San Francisco, where monthly staff meetings might easily be confused with parties.

At the meetings, his 35 employees are required to bring in a recent piece of advertising they either liked or disliked, and critique it in front of their colleagues. A lively, informal atmosphere is enhanced by serving refreshments that might range from beer and margaritas to mixed cocktails, and from popcorn and chips to gourmet hors d'oeuvres. "Variety and surprise are a key part of it," Katsin says. The agency funds the meeting, but the responsibility for choosing a theme and menu and running the meeting rotates among the staff members.

"Bringing this disparate group of people together this way creates an environment where we can practice our craft, play with ideas, keep up with what's going on in the industry, and decompress all at the same time," says Katsin.

The meetings typically start at about 4 or 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday or Friday, when, says Katsin, the week's burnout factor is usually pretty high and a diversion is welcome. And while a party atmosphere prevails, staffers understand that what they're doing is an important part of business, and that they are expected to behave responsibly.

Katsin believes this approach can be easily adopted in just about any industry as a way to encourage camaraderie and help everyone to stay up to date with competitive information.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

Check Your Fax

It may be costing you more than it should.

You own a fax machine and probably thought carefully about how much you spent when you bought it, but do you ever think about how much each transmission costs?

The price tag on the machine itself is only about 14 percent of what you'll spend to operate it, says Deborah Sauer, vice president of marketing with Pitney Bowes Office Systems in Trumbull, Connecticut. Here's how to keep other costs down:

  • Understand your fax traffic. How heavy is your volume? Is it incoming or outgoing? Local or long distance?
  • Consider your modem speed. The faster the modem, the faster the transmissions, meaning lower telephone costs.
  • Look at your printing system.Tony Rogerson, facsimile sales manager with Les Olson Co., a Salt Lake City office equipment dealer, says laser printing has the lowest per-copy cost, ink jet is next, and thermal transfer (film) is the most expensive.
  • Consider designating a key operator. Labor is the biggest fax operating cost you pay, says Sauer. It doesn't make sense for senior managers to be spending their time hovering over the fax machine. Assign the task of sending outgoing faxes and distributing incoming ones to a single person.
  • Demand training--and train your employees. The company that sold you the machine should provide training on all its time- and money-saving features. You, in turn, should remind employees to use those features. Get a free poster with efficiency tips from Pitney Bowes by faxing your company name and address to (800) 446-0760.

Contact Sources

Katsin/Loeb Advertising,,

Les Olson Co., (800) 365-8804,

Pitney Bowes Office Systems,

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