Best Practices for Startup Board Meetings

Bilal Zuberi
May 12, 2018 · 2 min read

1) I attended a whole bunch of Board meetings this week on both coasts. Sharing some quick observations on what I typically see work well at Board meetings.

2) Board meetings should be held at company offices IMO. Let Board members see, touch, feel, your products…let them mingle with some team members, help them understand company’s culture, and share in the excitement.

3) Share Board decks etc in advance, at least 3–4 days. Set expectations that people come prepared and having studied the materials. Board meeting is not a time for reporting on activity…but to discuss, ideate, debate, decide.

4) Keep a standard format for Board decks. Present in same format…train eyes to look for information, compare from past reports, and start connecting dots over an arc of time. Boards don’t just decide on tactical at-the-moment stuff, but also longer term strategic directions.

5) I find dashboards useful. Start deck with such a snapshot/dashboard. Sends a message on what you consider important in the business, metrics that truly matter, and what you want management and the Board to always know on the tip of their fingers.

6) There should be no one in your Board room whose opinion you and other Board members do not solicit, respect, or care for. That’s dead weight and find a way to, frankly, leave them out of Board meetings if you can.

7) Board meetings should not result in surprises. It is a bad time to ‘break news’, positive or negative. Best early stage CEOs typically spend 1-on-1 time with Board members before the meeting. Also allows people to walk in with ideas/resources to offer.

8) present challenges faced by business first, and then the successes. (a) allows for more time if needed to be available for discussing challenges, (b) shows CEO is always in mode of reducing risk for business, (c) let’s ppl walk away with positive news due to recency bias :)

9) Do any of the Board member look sleepy? Call on them like they do with students at business schools :) This is time you ‘paid’ for. Get them in the game and focused on your issues. They can think about their other portfolio companys’ challenges AFTER they leave your building.

10) Show how you followed up on take-aways and to-dos from previous Board meetings. Eg, did everyone, including Board members, do what they said they would do? To not miss intg ideas brought up, have someone take notes in the meeting who is NOT your lawyer.

11) Involve your top management team in the Board meeting. Helps them also develop Board experience + share their own successes/challenges. You would be surprised how presenting helps people grow!

12) Always leave some time for an executive session at the end. Not only for Board members (minus mgmt) to discuss what’s on their minds, but also for CEO to get feedback from Board.

13) I like company schwag :) What a great gift — better than fancy meals. IMO Board members should be just as excited to wear your company T-shirt as your new summer intern.

BZ Notes

I am an early stage VC, partner at Lux Capital.

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