Running effective board meetings

Most times when taking on external capital - and especially institutional - this requires a professionalization of company structures and procedures. One of the most common changes is the setting up of (advisory) boards in order to ensure an efficient flow of information and decision making. But more importantly than this formal aspect is to have your core management team extended with additional eyes, brains and networks that help you scale your business.

1. The company structure

In general, I really recommend to always establish a structure that is already suited for the next stage of your company. So a pre-IPO company should have IPO ready reporting and decision structures in place and a Series A company should prepare itself for the requirements of (large) institutional investors that usually join in Series B and beyond.

2. Preparation

Having spend a lot of time in board meetings with dozens of companies, my experience shows that in the beginning it is often a quite strange and unfamiliar setting for founders. Often these meetings are either ad-hoc or take a lot of time, often not generating the value they should. It is crucial that all parties stay focused and are prepared, thus preparation, agenda and supporting material make a huge difference.

3. Keep it short

I am very much in favor of regular, but shorter (ideally 2, maximum 3 hours long) meetings, as they allow to bring everyone up to speed and have enough time to discuss one to two important decisions.

4. Mind the agenda

A lot has been written around the ideal agenda, and while this will differ a lot depending on the stage and business model of the company (e.g. moving focus from establishing sales to building the organization) there are some key elements every board meeting should address:

  • Executive Summary (business update, so everyone is on the same information level)
  • Reporting Update (so usually it is good to have these meetings just after the regular reporting cycle, so that these topics can be discussed)
  • Planning (Product, Team,… and discussing what resources are required)
  • 1-2 Focus Topics (e.g. strategic choices, funding rounds, M&A,…)
  • Formal Decisions (in case the board is also a decision taking one)

5. Conclusion

Of course every CEO has to find his own style with his board, but it may be a good idea to have a look at our board meeting template that compiles advice from our (former) portfolio companies as well as many other investors that have written about this topic. Finally in regard to any presentation part, I very much recommend following the Pyramid Principle (by Barbara Minto). Thus first thinking about the story and message and then structuring data and arguments in support. This allows everyone to follow your reasoning as well as enabling a meaningful strategic discussion based on data, facts and assumptions.

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