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Startup Boards: How To Run a Board Meeting



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as a CEO managing your board and

managing the board meeting tempo is one

of your responsibilities we want your

board members to come to the board

meetings prepared to have an expectation

that's set by you about what you want

from them in the board meeting and to

have some consistency from board meeting

to more meeting

for many entrepreneurs it's very

effective to have frequent board

meetings maybe once a month every six

weeks sometimes as frequently as daily

most board meetings tend to be somewhere

between two and four hours long

especially for early-stage companies as

the companies get bigger the frequency

of the board meetings may decrease so if

you're a company that's on the way to

going public let's say you know or a

couple hundred people you might find

that you're having board meetings on a

quarterly basis instead of every six

weeks or every every other month the

time of those board meetings as you have

them less frequently can also start to

expand so you might find that previously

three hours was enough for a board

meeting but now you need five or six

hours for a board meeting allowing that

to evolve over time is important but

every year setting that expectation as

the CEO for what the board meeting tempo

the following year is going to look like

is key now it's important to recognize

that you don't have to only have board

meetings when scheduled lots of things

come up in the course of a business that

require board interaction on an ad-hoc

basis whether it's a telephone call or

video conference or even an in-person

meeting and a really good board is very

flexible and able to be responsive to

the CEO when something's needed whether

it's a decision or an update or a legal

issue or something that's going on

transactionally

the best board meetings are ones where

all the board members come to the

meeting well prepared with all of the

material about how the company's been

doing and that material could include

financial information but it can also

include product information sales

information strategic information things

that you want the board members to pre

read in advance of the board meeting the

worst board meetings are the ones where

for two or three hours the CEO and the

leadership team gets up and reports out

to the board what's been happening most

board members can read rather than

showing up at the board meeting and

presenting them with that material give

them a couple of days to absorb that in

advance so when they show up at the

board meeting you can actually engage in

a real conversation

I think there's a couple of different

kinds of

rotations you can set with your board

one is your expectation around

attendance and engagement do you expect

the board members to be in person or do

you expect them to at least be on a

videoconference well if it's at least on

a videoconference you need to make sure

that you've got the infrastructure to

have a high quality videoconference

that's low friction for them to set up

what you really want is you want the

board members to be in the moment and be

fully engaged with you and your team

during the course of the board meeting

but unless you explicitly state that

what you should expect is that you'll

have plenty of board members with their

iPhones out periodically check in their

email and seeing what's what's going on

in the world defining in advance what

those expectations are is important but

then the flipside of that is making sure

that you hold yourself to a high

standard in terms of communication if

you say you're going to send out the

board package 72 hours in advance do

that if you expect that everybody is

going to be fully engaged for a

three-hour board meeting make sure that

every hour you have a 5 minute break

manage the time of the board meeting so

the board meetings don't end up being 87

minutes about one topic and then three

minutes about the four topics three of

which we're way more important than the

one topic that you spend eighty seven

minutes on

so expectation setting goes both

directions but it also has to be managed

and the person that typically managed

that in most companies is a CEO

I think it's really powerful for CEOs to

close the loop after the board meeting

I think the CEOs who do send out a note

to the entire board playing back the key

things that they heard so that the board

as a whole is on the same page in terms

of the context of what was talked about

and comes out of the board meeting ends

up setting a tone that's very

constructive for the continued

interaction around those issues it also

gives you a really good way from board

meeting to board meeting to reflect back

on what was being discussed at the

previous board meeting and what kind of

actions were taken from that between the

previous board meeting and today

plan the board meeting calendar well in

advance so schedule out the entire next

year's board meetings probably sometime

in the fall of the previous year

your board members calendars are chaotic

they change constantly make sure that

you've got the time already allocated

for your board meeting so everybody has

an expectation a thing is make sure that

you actually have a comfortable meeting

if you have a meeting that happens from

10:00 to 2:00 serve lunch do a little

work and know that one of your board

members is a vegetarian and another

board member keeps kosher like

accommodate them be respectful of

whatever they like or don't like make

sure that you've got you know simple

things like coffee and juice and some

sodas and just three or four hours

sitting in a stale room with nothing

going on isn't a particularly

comfortable tone so put a little bit of

energy into making sure that it's

comfortable in the same way you would

with an important customer an important

partner anybody that you would want to

have this comfortable relationship with

you again it doesn't have to be

expensive it doesn't have to be fancy it

doesn't have to be formal but just be

thoughtful