In Boardroom Theater is a Reality – Part 1, I discussed what to keep in mind when forming your board. The key questions were:
- Who do you want on your board?
- What is the actual role of an early stage board?
- How valuable can the board be on critical operational challenges?
In Part 2, I’ll cover:
- What do the best board meetings have in common?
- How do you manage various egos on a board?
- How do you manage different board member’s personal goals or needs for their own funds which can be in conflict with your goals or other board member’s goals?
- When is the right time to fill your board with an Independent?
What do the best board meetings have in common?
Board meetings go smoothest when they start way before they meet and end with how the next one will start.
Before: Give the board homework in advance and let them read the “update.”
During: From my experience, the best board meetings are when you walk in with the top 2-3 topics you absolutely need to discuss that are mission critical for the company. Don’t be afraid to discuss the hard stuff.
After: Walk out with concrete decisions and next steps on the key issues that you need to solve.
Repeat: Add progress made on those key issues to the next update.
How do you manage various egos on a board?
It’s inevitable at some point you are going to have a bunch of egos in the room which is why you as the founder need to set the tone with the board from the beginning.
You want to pull a board member aside if things start to become unproductive. Gently, politely and firmly remind them that you agreed to their board seat because they are there to serve the best interest of shareholders and the company. Get them to agree then hug it out. Or shake hands. Or better yet, in these times, take a firm head nod from one screen to another as agreement and move on.
Whether it’s choosing a board,
managing a board
or navigating a board,
we’re on board.
How do you manage different board member’s personal goals or needs for their own funds which can be in conflict with your goals or other board member’s goals?
There is a good chance that you are going to be part of funds of all sizes, stages, and outcomes. From my experience, the biggest check size or largest fund has the loudest voice in the room. As a founder, you have to provide clarity around what you are trying to achieve for the company and get the board to rally around that.
When is the right time to fill your board with an Independent?
Early on. Some companies wait way too long and it’s a critical mistake.
The role of the Independent is to have somebody you can truly trust, who can bring strategic value early and often, and is not afraid to give the CEO critical feedback. The right Independent will balance the egos and the individual fund goals to ensure alignment with the founder.
Get one now.
You promised us theater. So, when does this all become theater?
To be clear, this should not be a show.
You have spent countless, difficult years laying the foundation for a company that can be self-sustaining and get to scale. Make sure you have the right board for it, not just the first one you find. For example, I have also seen very junior (and inexperienced) board members who may have recently joined a known fund try to insert themselves just to grab a hint of spotlight upon your stage. It’s ok for them to sit back and learn especially if they led your investment, but when they start providing unproductive feedback, it’s time give them the hook (see question #re: managing various egos).
The right board meeting is not theater and is neither a drama or a comedy. It’s a slightly boring but award-winning documentary on efficiency and progress.
The reality is that after those 3 or so hours you spend in the boardroom, you have to go back and build a world class company. The right board might not just help you get there, they may be the reason you get there.