SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions

Join Bobby on The Hard Shoulder every Tuesday, with thanks to Energia

Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

This week, Bobby is singing the praises of a new book that promises to put an end to that most frustrating of workplace time-wasters - the pointless meeting.

In their new book, ‘Kill Bad Meetings,’ father and son duo Kevan and Alan Hall warn that, on average, workers lose one day every week attending “irrelevant, time consuming and badly run meetings.”

The book has some fascinating findings - including the claim that half of all meetings are irrelevant to participants, with up to 40% of meeting time spent sharing information that could have been delivered earlier.  

“I am a great believer in short meetings,” says Bobby. “Meetings starting on time and ending on time and also having a very specific agenda.”

The book is all about cutting out the time wasting and radically improving the meetings that remain - leaving you the time you need to get things done.

Our first question this week comes from a listener with his own important meeting on the horizon.

My father wants me to take over our 120 acre dairy farm. I have another brother who is going to do the leaving cert this year and wants to do nothing else only farm. My father has told him that he is leaving the farm to me and so my brother plans to study hotel management.

The problem is I have decided I don’t want to be a farmer and would much prefer go into business. My father is very strict and inflexible and won’t take it well. How can I tell him that I am walking away from a great gift?

Bobby’s advice here is to tackle this head on - but if that doesn’t work, just make sure you have the mammy in your corner.

“He is going to have to have this conversation,” Says Bobby.

“The worst thing you could do is do something you don’t want to do.

"He knows he doesn’t want to be a farmer and in my view, the worst thing you could do is be a reluctant farmer.”

It is always handy to have allies in a family dispute and asking the mother to break the ice might help smooth the situation.

“I would also make sure that you are offering the father a solution,” says Bobby.

“The solution is that your other son - that you love equally as much as me - is interested. So rather than it being a problem, you are presenting a solution.”

Would Bobby or Ivan advise going to New Zealand to learn best practice in intensive farming for a couple of years before going home to help out the auld fella?

There’s no dispute here, with Bobby and Ivan both urging this listener to get up and go for it.

“Going away for a couple of years - whatever you do - broadens the mind, broadens the experience and I would say absolutely go and learn,” says Bobby.

“Learn from other people who do things differently and you will come back enriched both culturally and, I think, in terms of knowledge of the job.”

Ivan is equally in favour of the idea, adding that New Zealand is the best place in the world to learn about dairy farming; especially as it enjoys - or perhaps endures - a similar climate to our own.

I had to inform an employee recently to smarten up their dress code in the office. It has led to a bit of a freeze in atmosphere on the office floor. Any advice?

The most important thing here is to let the atmosphere thaw a bit before coming in to try and make any amends.

“I don’t mind someone dressing down,” says Bobby. “You dress appropriate to the occasion."

"But if you see somebody who doesn't have any personal standard around their care, or if they are dirty or that, it really gives off a bad company impression.”

Bobby’s advice is to lead by example and set the standard in the way you dress yourself.

Once the point has been made, it is time to sit back and let it sink in before making any attempt to lighten the mood.

“If there has been a little bit of tension or a little bit of friction, the worst thing you can do is start coming in and offering things like beer and pizza on the company and stuff,” he says.

“I am all for standards but I just think you need to be careful about how you communicate them - and pizza and beer on a Saturday is not always a good idea. 

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to agonyuncle@newstalk.com