The Quick Startup Guide To Running Board Meetings

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Board meetings. They may not be your favorite thing to spend your time on, but they are important nevertheless. To outline your startup's roadmap & focus on its future needs, here's how to hold a proper Board Meeting:

No one likes unproductive meetings. And wasting meeting time at the Board level is even more detrimental to a startup since you need as much expertise handholding as possible. It is possible to employ legal counsel to prepare a Board meeting structure after investment rounds. However, the method suggested by Sequoia Capital especially for startups is an excellent foundation to get the most productivity out of Board meetings.

Board meetings usually are held quarterly or semi-annually for an average of three hours. Distribute prior meeting minutes and all necessary materials to all Board members at least two days in advance.

Highlights: 15 Minutes

In this segment, the CEO informs of any significant changes since the last meeting and steers the meeting in the direction that will remedy or improve upon these changes.

The Numbers: 60 Minutes

This segment covers the nitty-gritty bottom line. All performance metrics, such as financial variances, revenue forecasts, actual versus projected target market numbers etc. should be delineated and discussed in detail, with an action plan to improve the largest outliers. Note that the information presented to the Board should be a culmination of prior division meetings, especially conducted by the CFO, if applicable. The Board is not there to execute on the numbers but to give specific insight and guidance to senior management on metric improvement.

Organization Roadmap: 30 Minutes

This segment deals with the company structure, recent hiring or firing needs, product launches or pipelines, and present business development and go-to-market needs are discussed. The CEO and CMO are key in discussions in this segment. Numbers here are important to be discussed in a broader, more forward-thinking manner.

Brainstorming Session: 30 Minutes/Subject

This is a breakout session per challenge, utilizing the Board members most amenable to solving the particular issue. Sequoia Capital pens this session as a ‘deep dive’ into very specific challenges that can be handled by a specified committee within the Board. In a general Board meeting, it is best to corner no more than three topics, unless there is a crisis. If there is a crisis, conduct Board meetings once a month until the crisis is solved.

Closing: 15 Minutes

This segment is a recap from the CEO of the meeting, of specific actionable items with timelines to complete by senior management and Board committees, and of Minute taking. Usually, startups may have an external counsel attend Board meetings and act as corporate secretary if an in-house counsel is not in the budget. Seed stage startups can begin with an appointed founder as the secretary. It is also possible to voice and video record the meeting as appended Minute material, once there is unanimous agreement among Board members.

Board meetings are especially important to formulate and conduct, as founders truly benefit from the expertise, strategic benefits, and advice from individuals who are outside the day to day operations and challenges of running the startup. Founders should develop the meeting structure long before investment rounds, and separate their operations meetings from Board meetings, even if it’s only the founders ‘on board’ at that present time. Boards comprise both vested and independent directors, as well as selected senior management. It is important to have everyone express their opinions and advice for truly productive Board meetings!



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