Best Practices Running Start-Up Board Meeting

Every start-up has to learn to run formal board meeting after a certain stage. As handling regular communications with investors is a crucial task for a start-up founder, board meetings provide a reliable and consistent opportunity for the same. Do not treat them like a routine update session as the same shall add significant value to the company. While reporting on past is vital, meetings should be forward focused on what you should do.

Based on our experiences and multiple articles by experts, here are some best practices we suggest that entrepreneurs can adopt to run effective board meetings.

Before The Meeting

Schedule the meeting well in advance. Ensure everyone is agreement on the frequency of meetings – monthly or quarterly. Prepare an annual schedule at the beginning of each financial year indicating the months and ensure it is in every member’s calendar. Finalize the exact dates at least a week before and send a formal notice with a detailed agenda. This gives everyone come prepared.

Assemble a well-structured agenda. It’s ideal to always use a consistent structure for each meeting so the participants know what is coming. Avoid surprise announcements at board meetings as the board members need ample time to decide. In general, you should have an ongoing dialog with your board members outside the board meetings, particularly, lead investors.

Prepare a good board deck. Content should be simple and avoid jargons. Use bullet points. Targets and deliverables need to be specific and someone has to be accountable for the same. Treat board-meeting preparations an opportunity to pull yourself out of the day-to-day routine and take a look at your company. However, don’t spend too much time in making everything look perfect.

Who’s joining and what are focus topics? It’s better to not bring in the entire top management team as the same will divert meaningful discussions. Instead, pick one or two focussed topics which requires immediate attention and invite the concerned executive. This will ensure there is enough time for a meaningful discussion. It is both better use of management’s time and also ensures your team gets exposure to the board.

During The Board Meeting

Keep it concise. Better to have a board meeting for two or two and a half hours. But with ample time to provide updates and to deliberate the same. Having a short meeting also ensures everyone stays concentrated and that the questions and discussions are relevant and efficient. Long board meetings lead people to disengage and discussions start to drift.

Be in control. Keep in mind you are in charge of managing the meeting. Tell the board what the main thing you want out of the meeting and ask specifically & directly for Board’s help, wherever, required. You can decide what you want to discuss. If you feel the discussion is drifting too much or is irrelevant it’s ok to take control and out rightly cut off the topic or discussions. The board meeting should end when it is to end and not extend beyond the schedule.

Invite debate & discussion. The best board meetings are not a one-way communication but rather a meaningful discussion. The topics should not only include updates from the management team but also strategic questions you want to discuss with the board. Every board has its own dynamics, but make sure all the people are encouraged to express their opinions.

Immediately appoint a person to takes notes. Ideally you should have a template to fill out to make things easier. The notes/minutes should be circulated among investors and they should be approved at the next meeting. Save all the notes and board deck – you will need to provide them to investors during due diligence at the next round of fundraise.

After The Board Meeting

Follow up. During the meeting, you can assign tasks for board members (introductions you need, help with recruiting, market studies, etc.) After the meeting you should follow up with the concerned board members who were assigned during the meeting.

Keep everyone in the loop. Make sure you send the minutes of the meeting to all investors. You should also send updates / MIS reports to the board members and all investors.

The above processes may be totally onerous but at least you know what needs to get done. Discuss with your lead investors and get their input in ensuring everything is done right.

We at LexHive ensure that Board Meetings are not a pain that an entrepreneur has to endure but a big value-add process to his / her start-up.

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