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5 Tips for Conducting Successful Board Meetings

I’m heading up to Vancouver tomorrow for the inaugural board meeting of a startup I recently invested in. It will be the entrepreneur’s first ever board meeting.   It made me think about what I’ve learned about conducting good board meetings.

Donuts by VeganWarrior (Flickr)

1) Bring an informed point of view

Startups can be thought of as a never -ending set of decisions and risks.  It’s a big part of the CEO’s job to anticipate the most important ones, think through a set of options and (importantly) prepare a point of view on the matter.  When faced with a dilemma, don’t just say to the board, “okay, we have this issue and need to make a choice.  What should we do?”

Instead, come prepared with what you think are the possible alternatives and your recommended choice — with supporting data to back it up.   Leverage your board and your advisors to come up with the alternates in the days before the meeting, and of course be open to further investigation or even changing course based on the discussion.

2) Be upfront, open and honest

This may be your first startup, but it won’t be your last.   Listen when your stomach starts telling you something is not going well in the business, or there’s something you need help on.  Be up front about it.  There’s no point to hiding anything or glossing over negatives.

Lay everything out and rally people to help solve.  Taking a “we’re on the same team” type approach goes a long way towards building rapport and support.  It’s helpful to have the people who hold the purse strings on your side, especially when the shit hits the fan.

3) Establish a template and stick to it

Much of the structure (product metrics, finances, hiring updates and so forth) doesn’t change – only the contents do.  The same metrics you use to manage the business should be the same metrics you’ll use for the board presentation.  If you’re spending lots of time just pulling the basic board deck data points and formatting things, it’s a sign that your metrics aren’t automated enough or you’re not looking at the right metrics day to day.

4)  Send the materials out in advance

When your board members have a couple of days in advance to review the basics, then you’ll have more time to spend on the most value-added discussion during the meeting.  If you find yourself awake at 2am the night before the board meeting, try blocking some time out well in advance of the next board meeting to finish your prep early.

5)  Serve food to lift spirits

Studies show that eating certain foods can improve one’s mood.  Enough said.

I probably should have posted this all a few days ago.  I’m really craving donuts right now!


2 Comments on "5 Tips for Conducting Successful Board Meetings"

  • Joe I really enjoyed the board meetings you ran at Snapvine and definitely saw you practice what you preach above. Your level of transparency created a good team spirit. When things were not working, you always had a recommendation to address the situation. I also think you chose the right board, and having most of them and your VC's in Palo Alto really helped out.

  • Joe — how many days in advance do you recommend? We strive for '2', but I'm not sure that gives the board enough time.

    Also, how to increase the chance that all board members have reviewed the documents before the board meeting? Any tactics that have worked for you?