Optimizing the Board Meetings of a start-up

May 9th 2018

The Board of Directors of a company are responsible for steering a company in the right direction and providing strategic guidance to the promoters to manage the business better.

A board of an early stage startup is typically filled with founders, investors and advisors. Founders can create a lot of value for their business by organizing these meetings in a well-defined way. An ideal board meeting ought to be focussed, punctual and result-oriented. Your Board may have talented people from diverse background, but often the opportunity to derive significant value from them is lost because the meetings are not managed properly.

The format of the meeting should be standardized.

One week before the meeting, one should send out an email describing the company’s performance since the last meeting. Include the highlights and the lowlights; the challenges you managed to overcome; and where you are stuck and need help. One should also take the time and trouble to call up the board members, so their questions and concerns can be understood and addressed. Yes, this is time consuming, but this is well worth the effort ! If you appreciate the value they bring, they will take the time and trouble to go out of their way to assist you.

During the meeting, the first few minutes of the meeting should be spent reviewing the deck you have already shared. The rule is simple — No surprises, so they all know what to expect !

Then a time slot should be allotted for key members of the team to present the performance of their respective departments. This is a good step for you to give an opportunity to key team members to present their experiences. Not only does this help them to grow, it also allows the Board to see how you are mentoring your core team .

Finally, good amount of time should be spent on discussing the strategy of the business with the board. One can leverage the experience of the board to seek advice on the way forward. As founders are often stuck fighting the fires which crop up daily in a startup, board members should be able to provide the company a broader 30,000 feet perspective. Founders should be pro-active in seeking advice, and should know the strengths of each board member.

You should come prepared with the specific areas where you want help from each of the board member. Some of these include:

  • roduct Market fit
  • Team/Recruitment
  • Current challenges
  • Financial situation and proposed budget

It is important to allow all members a chance to speak up, and not let the most vocal ones hijack the decision. This can be quite intimidating, especially if all your board members are much older than you, so you can ask 1 or 2 of them for help in advance , and they can assist you in managing your Board. Make sure minutes are kept properly — all the key points should be documented , including areas where consensus was established , and the contentious points which were left open and need to be discussed in the upcoming meetings. These minutes should be circulated to all the members within 24 hours, so they can offer their perspective when the details are still fresh in their minds.

Please share your views on how board meetings can be optimized and what are some of the best practices.