7 Tips for Successful Board Meetings

boardroom table

Once you’ve raised funding, your board meetings will likely become a lot more serious. Prior to raising capital your board likely consists of the founders and that’s it. After funding, your investors will want a seat at the table (and maybe more.) Boards are often setup with 5 people (2 founders, 2 investors and an independent, or 2 founders, 1 investor and 2 independents.) It’s important when raising money early on that you retain control of the board. I’d argue that this is more important than valuation, even though most entrepreneurs focus on valuation above anything else. Board control is key. Without it, you can find yourself in a lot of difficult situations going forward.

Another quick note: You don’t have to pick the independents right away. It’s quite common to leave the open seats available for awhile. And like advisors, don’t focus on “celebrity board members”, look for people that can be strategically valuable to the company.

So here are 7 tips for successful board meetings:

  1. Board meetings are important. You shouldn’t take them lightly. Be prepared and well organized. A bad board meeting can be extremely painful, frustrating and a waste of time.
  2. Prepare a board package and send it a day before. This can be time consuming, but it’s an important way of being organized. Investors will appreciate the effort and thoughtfulness that goes into it. It also gives investors a chance to catch up on the entire business. Here are some of the things you can (should) include in the board meeting package, which also serves as the board meeting’s agenda:
    • define clear goals for the board meeting
    • review action items from previous board meeting
    • state of the company (financials, key metrics, etc.)
    • governance issues
    • staffing report
    • financial report / budget
    • key accomplishments
    • key challenges
    • sales funnel / user acquisition strategies
    • product roadmap
    • business development roadmap
    • milestones to accomplish by next meeting
    • final takeaways / actions
  3. You run the board meeting. This is very important. Make sure you’re in charge of the board meeting, keeping everyone focused where you want them focused. Losing control of a board meeting is surprisingly easy, and it’s hard to get back. It’s also going to be an indication to investors that you might be losing control over your startup too (whether that’s true or not.) You can’t ignore investor confidence as a key variable in having a good, productive relationship with investors.
  4. Get the governance stuff out of the way quickly. You don’t want the board meeting focused on administrative issues. You want it focused on strategy, business goals and key tasks that you want everyone working on.
  5. Have a clear agenda (using what I’ve written above as a framework), but don’t obsess over it. Let the meeting go where it goes, but keep a reign on it as well. You’re in charge, and you have to keep everyone focused on what’s important.
  6. Don’t think of a board meeting as a report. The point of a board meeting isn’t for you to report what’s going on with the business. Board members and investors should have access to and know what’s going on all the time. There’s an element of reporting of course (and a good board package will help with this), but the best board meeting is going to be a fairly open, strategic discussion on the business. It’s a focused point in time where you can ask for help, brainstorm creatively and get everyone aligned and excited.
  7. You need to give board members “homework.” I don’t mean this in a bad way, but this is your opportunity to really ask for help and get commitments from board members that they’ll do things you need them to do. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get investors and board members involved in-between board meetings too (they should be helping the whole time!) but the board meeting is a focal point for getting their help on key issues.

Board meetings are important. They’re key benchmarks for investors to assess you, and good points in time for you to re-focus investors and get their help. Board meetings can serve as forcing factors for having important strategic discussions, and making major decisions. If you look at them as something you’re forced to do by investors, and mostly about reporting to investors on the state of affairs, you’re missing the point. A good board (caveat: You need a good board for all of this to work!) will be much more than that.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

September 12, 2011 Posted in Startups by

  • http://twitter.com/legal_ayuda Abogados Miami.

    You’ve mentioned points are essential for every meeting point number two caught my attention is that in advance so that everything goes well and it accomplishes the goal ..

  • Tt

    yes

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  • Amrita Sinsg00

     If you’re the CEO, it is your responsibility to schedule the Board
    meeting. I recommend that you send out anything that you’re going to
    present in advance so that Board members can study it. You don’t want
    anyone to be surprised in a Board meeting, even by good news. You won’t
    get folks’ best thinking unless you give them some time to reflect.

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  • commercial cleaning in Glasgow

    Board meeting is usually the most mind cracking event in the office!! No matter to do with it, I still can’t stay in the room for 4 hours straight. Besides, almost all board meetings I attended is like a story telling sessions.

  • http://www.mobilecubix.com iPhone App Developers

     I attended is like a story telling sessions. No matter to do with it, I still can’t stay in the room for 4 hours straight. Besides, almost all board meetings

  • http://kellybrough.com Kelly Brough

    Ben, great post and solid advice – one to bookmark. One thing you don’t mention is the role of chairman. I don’t know what is typical in the states, but overseas the chairman and CEO are often different people. It is so critical not only to have a good relationship with the chairman, but also to have well briefed her beforehand and agreed where the discussion time needs to be spent. The value of a great chair moving the meeting along and providing focus cannot be underestimated.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, issue minutes of the meeting asap afterwards, certainly within a week and have action points which individuals need to complete.

    This is a great way of making sure that the meeting has a purpose and issues raised get actioned.

    Use these minutes to open the next meeting and make sure everyone has actioned their tasks.

    Pretty soon this will get competitive and anyone not getting their actions done before the next meeting will feel uncomfortable.

  • http://www.barrywheeler.ca Barry Wheeler

    There’s a great deal of things you can do such as issuing minutes shortly after the meeting, sticking to the agenda and respect other people when they have the floor.  Great tips you’ve shared.

  • http://www.register-web-domain.in Register a domain

    It is really nice to hear your discussion on specific topic here. I too agree with your points here. keep posting good blogs. Thanks.

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    Interesting post, espcially liked the part about retaining control of the board.  Thanks for posting

  • Guest

    Excellent post. Retaining board control can’t be over-stated. Yes, it’s worth trading something in valuation to hold control, if it comes to it. It takes time and experimentation to get the business model right, and that leads to time and uncertainty that is often outside the patience and risk tolerance of non-founders. If you don’t have control, you might find yourself dealing with decisions that are flat out incorrect, and driven by the wrong impulses.

  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Benjamin Yoskovitz

    Thanks Barry – appreciate the comment.

  • http://www.3220078.com Sephora

    very interesting, buy I hate the endless meetings of our company, it’s too dull.

  • http://gameangrybirds.com/ Rio

    thanks for share great post..i learn a lot.

  • http://www.leasephilly.com Jared Gruber

    Maybe board control, and valuation as equally important. It’s impossible to be successful without both.

  • http://www.careershapper.com Santosh

    thank you so much for sharing your views…

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  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Benjamin Yoskovitz

    Valuation is important – but if you have a spreadsheet model that shows you how valuation differences impact your personal ownership of your company going forward, chances are relatively small changes in valuation won’t have a real impact. Board control could mean all the difference in the world though.

  • Pingback: 5 Quick Tips for Controlling and Having More Successful Meetings

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  • Pingback: http://www.instigatorblog.com/controlling-meetings/2012/04/12/ « coufmetec

Ben Yoskovitz
I'm VP Product at Codified (makers of VarageSale).

I'm also a Founding Partner at Year One Labs, an early stage accelerator in Montreal. Previously I founded Standout Jobs (and sold it).

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