How to Properly Prepare for a Board Meeting
Running a board meeting can be an intimidating duty as a first time founder. It is easy to look at a board meeting as an examination of your company’s performance and plans (it certainly sounds intimidating when looking at a board meeting through that lens). However, a board meeting can be much more than an overview of your recent metrics and performance. If prepared for properly, your board can be a resource to help you work through the toughest decisions you will face as a founder.
Chances are you will be facing tough decisions each and every quarter. By involving your board with tough decisions they’ll be more inclined to help with the process. As Mark Suster, Partner at Upfront Ventures puts it, “When people are problem solving WITH you they are more bought in because they’re part of the solution.” With that being said, hosting an engaging board meeting starts with preparation.
Have your metrics ready
Metrics, data, and past performance are an integral part of a board meeting. Managing, tracking, and distributing your KPIs should all be done in advance of the meeting. To start, you’ll need a strong set of KPIs in place for you company (check out more on deciding KPIs to track here). Once you have determined a set of KPIs you are comfortable tracking and sharing with your board, share them with a trusted member of the board. Have them comb over the metrics to make sure everything makes sense, drives action, or if there is anything missing.
Most board members suggest sending your KPIs and key financials in advance (more on this later) of your meeting. If you’re properly tracking your KPIs getting these together should be a breeze for a board meeting.
What decisions are you facing?
Arguably the most important aspect of a board meeting is the chance to talk through and tackle the difficult decisions your business is facing. Sit down with your managers and company leaders well in advance of your board meeting and determine the biggest issues your teams are facing. Mark Suster offers a quick test to determine if/what you should be sharing:
A. I need to disclose this item to the board so that they aren’t later surprised by it. It can be good news or it can be bad news — but it CAN’T be a surprise
B. This is an issue that is bubbling up and I’d like to get my boards input to make sure I’m thinking about it correctly.
C. This is something that requires board approval. An obvious example is an annual budget and this usually is a large part of at least one of your annual board meetings. It can also be executive compensation, a big deviation from budget, raising debt, a RIF (reduction in force), etc.
Boil these down to what you find most vital to your company’s success and start putting together a short talk track for your meeting. Once you’ve determined exactly what to share you can start putting together board deck slides for your meeting.
Share in Advance
Having the content of your meeting prepared before the meeting is only half the battle. If you’re not arming your board members with information in advance of the meeting the meeting likely won’t be beneficial. In advance of the meeting most investors suggest sharing your pertinent financial documents, your board deck (or a shorter/revised version to help prime the meeting), and any KPIs. By sending the information in advance (48 hours+), your board will be able to review the documents, compare to previous periods, and have questions/solutions/ideas ready to go for the meeting. This will help avoid turning your meeting into an analysis of your KPIs and financials.
To take things to another lever, get on the phone in advance of your meeting. Schedule a short call with your individual members to help shape the agenda. Find out what they’re excited about, unsure about, any questions, etc. Not only will this help you shape the agenda and narrative of the meeting, it will also give you a chance to put out fires in advance of the meeting.
Running a successful board meeting is no small task. Being well prepared will help relieve the stress and increase your odds of your meeting going off without a hitch. If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to sign up for our webinar to learn how to run a board meeting on demand.