Joining The Reinventing The Board Meeting Bandwagon

I hate board meetings. I probably have 100 per year which means I've gone to well over 1,500 of the past 15 years (I'm sure the number is much higher). The vast majority are excruciatingly inefficient — three to four hours that could be handled in 45 minutes. And even then, it's unclear that the information covered was particularly useful to the entrepreneurs and management, who are the ones the board meetings should be useful for in the first place. And they don't merely waste three hours — they burn a day in advance "getting ready" and who knows how much time after following up on random things generated by me and my fellow board members. Toss in travel (since we invest all over the country, I lose a lot of time to traveling) and it just sucks.

Recently, Steve Blank, one of the founders of the Lean Startup concept, wrote two provocative posts about board meetings. Both are really good — go read them — I'll wait:

Now, I'm lucky. I've been railing about board meetings for a while and a number of CEOs of the companies that I'm an investor in have dramatically upped their game around board meetings. I have a handful of single slide board meetings inspired by the early board meetings we had at Zynga. Almost all send out their materials in advance and spend no time in the actual meeting going through them and instead focus on the discussion. And others simply focus the meeting on a handful of specific questions.

Regardless, when I reflect on the amount of my time that I spend in board meetings that I think is generally worthless, I've decided I'm going to completely change how I approach this. The tempo is all wrong (I don't need monthly board meetings for anything as I spend much more real time interacting with the entrepreneurs I've invested in). The focus is all wrong (I can read the financials in a few minutes — I don't need to sit through an extended discussion of them). The discussion context is inefficient (I'm as much a problem as a victim here as I'm sure my other board members get tired of listening to me bloviate.)

It's time to reinvent the private company board meeting. I'm going to give it a shot.

Reprinted from Feld Thoughts

Brad Feld is a managing director at Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. He invests in software and Internet companies around the U.S., runs marathons, and reads a lot. Follow him at twitter.com/bfeld.

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1 Comments

  • Firas Raouf

    Totally agree that poorly setup and run board meetings are a pain in the behind. Add to that the horrendous state of US-based airline travel, and I can get lots more graphic on the state of the behind.  But I continue to be a huge proponent of setting up and managing a strong and effective board of directors. The quality of the meetings is merely the symptom of the quality of the board itself. Trying to cure the quality of the meeting is not going to solve your problem (it may solve your travel problem though). To solve the meeting problem, we have to start with building the right board structure, defining the right role for the board, and staffing it with the right directors who have the right set of skills. 

    I have written a bunch of blog posts on the topic over the last couple of years... You will find them here http://bitly.com/fDH03l

    Good luck cracking the code on this...

    Firas Raouf
    Partner
    OpenView Venture Partners