What We’ve Learned From Investors About Running a Board Meeting
With Q3 coming to an end, it is easy to lose focus on your board and become tangled up closing deals, hitting numbers, and pushing product updates.
While you’re likely weeks away from your quarterly board meeting, it is never too early to have a game plan in place. Preparing for your board meeting now will take some stress off your shoulders as you make the final push to finish the quarter strong. If planned appropriately, board meetings can be a powerful resource for both you and your investors to discuss important topics and keep your business on track for a strong fourth quarter and beyond.
We’ve scoured our own notes, blog posts, and other resources to compile our favorite quotes, lessons, and tips for running a successful board meeting:
Preparing for the Board Meeting
You’ll find that almost every investor will point to preparation being the biggest factor in running a successful board meeting. Different investors will point to different materials, metrics, and discussion points to share in advance, but it ultimately boils down to sharing relevant data and information so your meeting can be a discussion as opposed to an “update session.”
“The board deck should be sent out three or four days in advance and it should include all the important financial and operational results for the Board to consume in advance of the meeting. It should also tee up the big discussion items so that the Board can start to think about them in advance of the meeting. The Board does not need to go through a line by line review of the financial and operational results in the meeting.” – Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
While sharing your board deck and financials in advance are important, make sure it is the correct and relevant information:
“It’s really annoying to receive a monthly update or attend a board meeting and realize that the set of information and/or data isn’t relevant, accurate and mastered. No discussions should start before the entrepreneurs fixes this. It is just fruitless otherwise.” – Jean de la Brochechard, Kima Ventures
Simply sending over your board packet will not be enough either. It is on you to follow-up with the board members and make sure they’ve reviewed the info and will be ready to discuss come your board meeting. Some investors suggest setting aside 1-on-1 meetings to get their advice on setting discussion points as well:
“Soliciting your board member’s input on your agenda is important. But it is also really helpful to have these “one on ones” in advance of the meeting so you can update each board member on the things that they are concerned about. The board members will arrive at the meeting more prepared, they will be more comfortable, and they will also be able to help more.” – Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
Running the Board Meeting
If you’ve properly prepared for your meeting, there should be minimal stress when it comes time to run it. It can be an incredibly valuable discussion for determining the next steps for your business and burying any issues that may be on your mind. There are endless “best practices” for running your meeting, but we have found the one below by Mark Suster to be one of the most practical:
“With the limited time you have together as a group, I’d want the following ratio of time spent
- Provide information / context (15%)
- Discuss, debate and potentially reach decisions on the most important topics (70%)
- Deal with company admin: 409a valuations, approve stock options, vote on key measures (15%)”
As a founder you’ll know the finer details of your business infinitely better than your board, so your best chances at getting the most from your board are leveraging their “helicopter view” and experience to help break down strategic decisions.
“A board is not a pitch session, you don’t have to brag or sell or whatever you think will make your presentation look great. It must be an honest and clear view of the past, present and targeted future. If things are ugly, show the blood, if things are running smoothly, address strategic matters. Do not make an appearance, do not run a show, be a CEO.” – Jean de la Brochechard, Kima Ventures
Your investors are already invested in your business and its success. Share what is not working well, why certain metrics might be lagging, and how they can help. Investors have likely seen other portfolio companies in the same position and can draw on personal experience to help you through “the struggle.” As John Vrionis of Unusual VC puts it;
“We are all in the boat together and the only way we can help is if we know what is working and what isn’t. Intellectual honesty and transparency about the facts of our reality greatly improve our chances of success.”
Following up and Gathering Feedback
Once your meeting is completed the work is not done. Chances are you won’t come to conclusions for all of your issues and its important to stay on top of the discussion and keep the board engaged. There are likely other portfolio companies fighting for your investors time to hash out plans and details from their meeting too. Stay in front of your board by sending a quick recap and personalized emails to any individuals that you need help from.
“People go to so many board meetings and are so busy these days that they seldom remember what was discussed / agreed. This is coupled with the fact that lawyers now routinely advise you not to put any of the substantive discussion points in the legal meeting minutes. So you should produce the set of notes that are unofficial but cover the real valuable stuff you talked about.” – Mark Suster, Upfront Ventures
Following up with a quick email and recap is a good place to start. As Zach Shulman of Cayuga Ventures puts it;
“The goal of the post-board meeting email is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is really helpful for the entire board team, including of course the CEO…The post-board meeting email should also appropriately address any issues surfaced in the final executive session as well. This is a way of reporting back to the CEO. Sometimes it is not appropriate to address all issues in this group email, particularly on points that are critical of the CEO and thus often handled one on one.”
Different VCs will likely give you different feedback when it comes to structuring and running your board meeting. At the end of the day, a successful board meeting comes down to being transparent and sharing the proper information in advance. To help take a load off your shoulders, check out our board meeting packet template to keep your board in the loop before your Q3 meeting.