So you’ve brought on institutional capital for the first time, agreed to a board structure in the legal docs, and now you have directors that must be kept up to speed on your company (and who get to have a say in the way that you run things). So what’s next?
One of the typical first steps is implementing the dreaded board meeting. First off, take a deep breath and relax… Remember that your board of directors is on your side. Your investors want to see your company succeed as much as you do, and they can be a valuable resource to you. With that in mind, a board meeting should be treated as a regular check-in (but probably shouldn’t be your only contact) with people who want to help execute your vision. You should approach the meeting as an opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of a group of people that can be very helpful to you in working through big strategic issues.
The boardroom should be a place to celebrate your wins, but it should also be a place to work through your problems. Your investors have likely encountered many of the problems that you are facing, and you should use this time to be open and pick their brain about your most pressing issues.
While there is no “one size fits all” board meeting template, we’ve assembled some best practices for seed-stage companies that will serve as a great starting point. We hope you find this to be a helpful resource as you establish the best way of working with your board and extracting as much value out of the brilliant minds around you.
- Don’t be afraid to make your board members come to you. At Primary, we actually prefer onsite board meetings at the company. Here’s why:
- On-site meetings allow senior members of the team to drop in for specific sections and talk directly about their work and progress. This is a great opportunity for these team members to step back from their day-to-day role, be thoughtful about how to present their work, and feel like they are making valuable contributions to the company.
- On-site meetings allow board members to get to know the broader team at the company, recognize familiar faces, and generally increase their connection with the company.
- If you don’t have the space to hold a board meeting on site, ask your investors. Most VCs have conference room facilities available (which are generally conveniently located), and are happy to offer these up for your use.
- If you are not holding your board meeting on site, confirm in advance the equipment that will be available for use in your reserved space. This is particularly important if you plan to show a demo during the meeting, or if you have board members joining by phone or video conference.
- Don’t kill yourself to create a beautiful presentation. We know that you’re probably trying to manage a million things, and your time should definitely be spent on high-priority issues for the business, rather than refining your PowerPoint skills.
- That said, don’t skimp on the information you provide. For example, if you want to talk about your sales pipeline during the board meeting, make sure your current pipeline is in your deck, even if it’s just a Salesforce or Excel screenshot.
- Once you’ve pulled together your presentation, distribute the materials in advance of the meeting. If you give your board some time to review and prepare for the meeting, the meeting itself will be far more productive.
- At Primary, we like to see board decks at least one full day in advance of the meeting. To be clear, we mean one full calendar day (i.e., sending by Tuesday evening for a Thursday morning board meeting). This may not always be possible, but it should always be the goal, and your investors will appreciate the preparation time.
- Post-board meeting, it can also be helpful to send out a summary of the discussion and any important to-dos within a couple of days (see “Topic 7: Wrap-up” in the Suggested Agenda to follow).
- Schedule 2-3 hours for a typical board meeting. Note that more board members/observers typically lead to longer meetings.
- As a rule, we find that 2-hour meetings tend to feel rushed, and fail to allow sufficient time for the meaty, strategic discussions that should form the basis of your board meetings.
- In planning meetings, it’s better to schedule a longer meeting, and then manage the agenda aggressively so as not to use all of the allotted time.
- Set a regular cadence for board meetings and schedule them far in advance.
- For early-stage companies, a 6- to 8-week schedule seems to work best. Quarterly meetings for seed companies are way too infrequent, but can work if there are other sorts of interim structural checkpoints.
- One model we’ve found effective is a “formal” quarterly meeting followed by a mid-quarter, more casual meeting that can focus on a handful of hot-button, timely issues