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Unconventional Tips For Better Board Meetings

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Michael Brown

March 07, 2018
Board meeting

Everyone has been there before. Your SaaS company has grown so much that board meetings have become bored meetings. They are now seven hours long with multiple investor classes and a lot of people with unique voices in the room. The deck is one hundred pages long. Stoppage time per slide is enormous. You as a founder are struggling as your Board of Directors asks every meeting to change up your slides. Looking for better board meetings and a more productive experience? Here are some unconventional tips for better board meetings from the Bowery Capital perspective.

1. Flip The Style Of The Meeting On It’s Head. Most people tend to think about Board of Directors meetings as about 75% founders presenting slides and 25% people asking questions and thinking through strategic components of the business. They key to better board meetings is flipping this. Some of the best meetings we have ever seen require the founder to not present anything. Send your deck at least 72 hours in advance and then don’t run through any of the slides you send out. Force your Board of Directors to read through the document in advance and make you and your team available for the first 30 to 60 minutes of the meeting to answer any questions about the deck. Don’t come back to it after that time slot unless you really need to. Hat tip to the Funding Circle team who did this from very early on and where we learned it.

2. Spend A Majority Of Your Pre-Meeting Time On Strategic Sessions. Focusing on the strategic questions you want to get answered is a high leverage use of your Board of Directors time. They are all likely experienced and can provide valuable advice and thinking. However, doing a lot of work and putting in the time in advance to get your board up to speed is not often something that is done well. Many founders just throw up a slide and ask the group to discuss a topic. This is not really a way to better board meetings. Founders should build in some homework time in advance of the meeting so your Board of Directors can come prepared to answer and provide thoughtful advice on these strategic things. Give them a call and make sure they do the homework. Ask them to focus on specifics within the strategic discussion that you know they are well versed in.

3. Give These Strategic Sessions To Your Direct Reports. As a CEO you should be empowering your team to do great work. An easy weapon that a founder has in the arsenal is air time with the Board to solve two generalizations. First, does the board know I am recruiting the best people? Second, am I working to empower my direct reports to do great work? Allowing your direct reports to cover strategic sessions in Board meetings solves both of these elements. Empowering these team members to present in Board of Directors meetings on non-obvious stuff (i.e. the numbers) can really make a huge difference and lead to better board meetings.

4. Develop A Scoring System & Focus On Getting Good At Estimation. Probably one of the only slides that matters in any Board of Directors meetings is the classic metrics slide that lays out things like revenue, customers, recurring revenue data, costs, and other matters. At Bowery Capital, we force most of our founders (obviously depends on company stage) to score themselves on these numbers in a simple way. If a founder, based on the actuals, is within a 10% range of the estimate that they set they get a score of 0 for that board meeting. If they are 10% above the estimate they score a +1. If they are 10% below the estimate they score a -1. Each board meeting you revisit the score and keep a running tally. The point of the exercise is not to nail the numbers precisely, it is to avoid the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when talking to your Board Of Directors. No matter the unit of measure, you want to be between -2 and +2 in our view.

While these are unconventional tips for better board meetings we do think that they are important to building success as a founder.

If you liked “Unconventional Tips For Better Board Meetings” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog.