Ever since you made it Transition to venture capital, I learned first hand that a critical part of investor participation and due diligence involves working on boards of directors.
I quickly realized that the composition of the board, as well as what was required of its members, was significantly different in the start-up phase from what I had experienced when reporting to a public company board.
My formative experience with board meetings was like a CIO when I presented information and strategy for my part of the business. I started participating in meetings when I was not actively involved, curious to see how they were held. I eventually joined the board of a small startup before landing at Ridge Ventures. As a VC, I served on six boards and spoke to hundreds of founders.
When properly conducted, board meetings provide tremendous value to founders. But they can be tedious tasks that members fear, or disorganized clutter during which nothing meaningful is achieved. They may work too long, lack the right content, require too much follow-up, or fail to take enough action.
Remember that board members have a fiduciary duty and will not always agree with you on how best to move forward.
Frustration builds up when people can’t talk and are heard regularly. Having a clear process that allows focused, valuable work to be done effectively is crucial to making the most of on-board meetings.
Here are ten quick tips to make sure your board meetings run smoothly.
Planning and consistency are crucial
Establish a regular rhythm for building the test on board and distribute it to members a few days in advance. In the early stages, this process can be a one-man show run entirely by the founder. As one company grows, key updates will have to come from other leaders.
Get started early, have a template and structure, and allow your key stakeholders to add content at regular intervals. Clearly define the topics and objectives on your agenda and distribute it to the board members before the meeting. Follow immediately and include a summary of actions to make sure everyone understands what is expected of them. Have a clear set of actions and conclusions. Keep track of what people have done and hold them accountable.
Keep the meeting in the right direction
If a conversation lasts too long, move it to a parking lot (a place for discussions or questions that can be addressed later) for an offline discussion. Don’t turn your board meeting into a decision meeting – it’s time to report, talk about where you need help and plan. Healthy debate is good, but you don’t want a whiteboard session.
Let the employees introduce themselves
Get a key engineer to come in to give an update on the product, or get the sales leader responsible for big customer profits to come and talk about what went well.
Many employees who do not have regular opportunities to interact with the board consider it a huge boost in their careers to receive direct credit face to face as an important achievement. Include the person who is best prepared to speak through the success story, and leave room for him or her on the agenda.