Episode 1 advice on board meetings

I’ve been on about 30 boards in my time. A good board can really drive a company to greatness, a bad board is a pain for all concerned. Here’s the advice we give our entrepreneurs about board meetings when we first invest…
board-table
Board meetings can be incredibly useful for you – if they have the right content and the right people in the board . We’ll discuss the structure & content of the board pack and of the meetings themselves at the first board meeting. First, I would strongly recommend that you read the following best in class posts about board meetings:
The best quick overview out there is from Sequoia’s Grove
Preparing a board deck
 
Then read the useful overview from Brad Feld. Unfortunately in our experience most boards are “reporting boards”, and our role as experienced investors is to help you get value from a “working board”:
Board meetings that are not bored
and his thoughts on the board pack:
Best approach to a board package
and this on what makes an awesome board member.
This is also very helpful:
Running more effective start up boards by Mark Suster
though I have not experienced the board dinners before or after (probably a US thing given plane travel), and I disagree with point 11 – we can discuss how & why.
And finally, this confirms things said elsewhere so an optional read:
Why you’re not getting the most out of your board
Plus this optional one is good about the interesting stuff up front (but we disagree with concept of Exec sessions):
How to run a productive board meeting
 
Once you have read that stuff, I would suggest that you structure the first meeting around sending out a board pack 2-3 working days before the board meeting containing an agenda, a CEO report, the current KPIs and management accounts. Paraphrasing the Sequoia Grove post the pack for your circumstances should be:

  1. CEO report (= big picture) – overview of highlights, challenges, company needs
  2. Metrics – all relevant KPIs including sales headlines, operational KPIs and then monthly management accounts comparing performance against plan
  3. Company building – sales pipeline, hiring plans, wip on any C level hires (or those you might want help from the board on), product road map, any other depts?
  4. Working sessions aka deep dives – different every time – the top 2 or 3 strategic issues which you want board input on. It’s these that really make a working board.
  5. Formal approvals + any other business

Our suggestions for the working sessions at the first meeting depend on the specific situation of your company, but examples are:

  • Pre-mortem – the idea here is to project 12-18 months ahead and imagine what could have caused the company to fail (getting to profitability or to next round of finance). Think through the top threats to proving the business model, what could have gone wrong, and therefore what we can do asap to mitigate/test for these issues
  • KPIs/OKRs – what are the measures we have of success of the business. Select a suitable set and measure trends each week and/or month.
  • Sales proposition and pricing – take one of the key revenue lines and focus in on the sales proposition. Given the types of organisations you are selling to, is it compelling emotionally and rationally? How does the ROI stack up for the typical client and does that resonate with the lead qualification process.

That’s enough for the first iteration. We usually have a call before the first meeting to flesh this out, or you should create your first board pack and we can see how it goes in the first meeting, and iterate afterwards.
 
PS bonus post : The secret to making board meetings suck less

Simon

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