ifindkarma. elegance is refusal.

July 6, 2010

How to run effective startup Board meetings.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — ifindkarma @ 11:31 pm

These are my thoughts on running a Board meeting for an early-stage startup:

  1. No surprises! That means:
  2. Send out agenda and materials (days) in advance.*
  3. Talk with every Board member (days) before the Board meeting.
  4. Focus on the strategic, not tactical operations.
  5. Keep the Board meeting focused on the agenda you set.
  6. Focus on discussions, not monologues.
  7. Talk with every Board member (days) after the Board meeting.
I put an asterisk by point #2 because materials should be as simple as possible (but no simpler!). A one page dashboard, a handful of important metrics, and fewer slides / more discussion, make for much better Board meetings.
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For background reading, I recommend the following posts:

How you actually run the meeting depends on??what kind of founder you are??primarily:??a planner, a seller, or an executor. Play to your strengths.
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I repeat: Board meetings should focus on the strategic, not the tactical.
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The best structure for a Board meeting I’ve found comes from Bijan Sabet; by all means tweak this as appropriate for your business:
  1. Overview and metrics
  2. Product update and roadmap
  3. Staffing
  4. Objectives for the year and progress against those goals
  5. Challenges, problems, and issues
  6. Financial update (major points)
  7. Assignments and help*
  8. Feedback and open issues
I emphasize and put an asterisk by #7 because it’s very, very important to give your Board members assignments and hold them accountable.
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Never forget the strategic responsibilities of a venture-backed tech company’s board:

  1. To meet their fiduciary responsibility to protect and serve the interests of ALL the shareholders of the company.
  2. To guide the company to the fairest and most lucrative exit possible under the circumstances.
  3. To hire and fire the best CEO for the company.
  4. To recruit those board members who serve based on criteria other than stock ownership.
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Do NOT allow your board to get into everyday product or management issues. ??That is not their job as a board, and your meetings will be long and hellacious if you allow them to go down this rathole.
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What is the distinction? ??This is a proper statement for a Board member to make:
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“John, we feel that as a nontechnical CEO your job #1 should be looking for an experienced VP of eng. ??If you do not manage to close a great VP eng candidate within 6 months — or even fail to close one but learn why you failed –??we will be concerned.”
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By contrast, this is not a proper statement to make in a Board meeting:

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“John, your homepage looks crappy on my iPhone. Fix it by the next Board meeting.”
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That’s all I have to say on the subject. Please do ask questions if you have any.
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And by the way, no matter how fun it might sound, do NOT go around the table fishing for ideas. You’ll only get bad ideas.
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On a more serious note, it’s okay to call a break during the meeting if you need to breathe and clear your head. For such intermissions, I recommend Timbaland’s “Board Meeting“…
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Dancing is optional. But highly recommended.
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