After closing your seed round, you’re likely going to be faced with a new challenge: board meetings. It’s easy to think of board meetings as a judging panel for your quarterly performance, but this mindset only leads to worry for founders. Here’s a better way to handle your first board meeting:
The Board Works for You
- Ensure each board member leaves the meeting with a task list. Outside of the important help they can provide, this helps focus board member attention on what they can do to help, versus what you might be doing wrong. For example, 3 VP of Engineering candidates or 2 enterprise sales leads before the next meeting.
- Note that most founders still have voting control of the board at the seed stage, so you should listen to your board members’ opinion but you control the strategy. For example, a 3 person board with 2 seats for the common stock, would leave the founders in control (excluding additional terms — make sure you have a good lawyer!).
- Even if the board can fire you, you’re in charge until they take that ultimate step. If you’re focusing on growth, this should be the last thing on your mind.
Ask Key Questions
- Begin the meeting with the most important questions for which you need board feedback. If you put these questions later, the meeting could get off track and you might not get time to ask the questions at all. For example: Should we build an Android app? Should we hire 3 more sales development reps? Should we spend time on partnership with Google?
- Lead the board to your conclusion. Asking open ended questions generally does not lead to productive discussions but instead wasted time. Focus on the problem, your proposed solution along with specific questions, and confirm if the board agrees. If the board seems indifferent, be clear that you are moving forward with the plan by a particular date.
- When proposing plans, you should expect probing questions from board members and, as such, it’s best to have supporting evidence for your decision available for the discussion.
- Send the deck out to the board a week before the meeting. In the email, ask them if they have any concerns and offer times to discuss their issues before the board meeting. This helps avoid unpleasant surprises from board member opinions in the actual meeting.
- After the meeting, send out a brief survey to the board requesting feedback on what you might improve. Their feedback should help you be more efficient in the next meeting and most will appreciate the request.
- Preparation can prevent most of the problems you might encounter with your board and I would recommend further reading from other resources, such as: Sequoia’s Board Deck recommendations, Y-Combinator’s approach to Board Management, First Round’s “Secrets”, and Brad Feld & Mahendra Ramsinghani’s Startup Boards book.
Board meetings create understandable anxiety for founders. Remember you’re in charge — focus on the key questions for your company right now and be prepared to back up your plans with evidence; it will help your first board meeting run smoothly.