A Guide & Template for a Great Board Meeting
March 4, 2023
Board meetings are actually not complicated nor particularly stressful - if you, as a leader, view them as you should. Your board, especially in your early days, tends to be friendly and, if you work with involved seed firms like Bonfire, will not be surprised at any 'news" they hear at a board meeting. They are there to listen to your analysis of what's gone well / what's not and review with you the likely set of a few actions/changes for the next 90 days.
Board meetings are for you and your leaders to do quarterly reflections on past performance and to drive alignment around the key focus areas and priorities for the next quarter. They are not performance theater in which you just try to get through the meeting with your board members with no hiccups or tough questions.
At Bonfire, as we lead most of our seed deals, we generally ask to sit on the board so we can work with our founders to build their "quarterly muscle" and get a ton out of the entire board meeting exercise. As a best practice, I recommend to CEOs that the board meeting presentation is really the culmination of a cadence you should already be doing internally with our leadership team or, in the case when you don't have many leaders, with yourself:). The process as I see it:
- Weekly: Staff meeting with your leadership team checking in on performance vs. key metrics and priorities
- Monthly: Half-day deep dive with your leadership team reviewing quarter-to-date performance and any adjustments required
- Quarterly: Full-day offsite with your leadership team where they present past quarter performance and upcoming quarter goals and priorities
- Quarterly: Board meeting where you essentially grab the slides/materials from the outcome of your offsite appropriately
- Quarterly: All Hands Meetings where you review the past quarter/preview next quarter and celebrate individual employee & team accomplishments
I have provided here a basic template* for you to use for your board meetings. Please remember to make a copy of it for your own use and not enter it directly into the template. As you can see, the template is not super complicated to understand/use if you as an organization have agreed on top-level priorities and team-level priorities and follow a basic approach - Remind us what you told us you would do, Tell us how you did and why, and Tell us what you plan to do. The flow/format is the following:
- CEO - review at a high-level performance versus their priorities
- Functions- reviews at high-level performance versus their priorities + previews approach for next quarter
- Financials- review some detailed finance items that are good to have, but most ignore in the early days
- Team - quickly review the size/makeup of the team, planned hiring, and any challenges
- Administrative - minutes, options, approvals, etc.
- Optional - if you have time, feel free to brainstorm any key decisions you are wrestling through. But not too many - pick one topic is best.
You should find this approach to the board meeting fruitful, especially if you put into practice the management/ communication cadence recommended above. I also strongly recommend you 1) send the board meeting deck out in advance of the meeting by a few days and 2) send a short performance update email at the end of the quarter and before the board meeting - especially if you have some bad news - i.e., do not surprise your board members at the board meeting. Extra credit to the founders who send monthly performance dates after the end of each month!
* thanks to the team at Craft Ventures, Mosaic, and others from whom I borrowed liberally for this template.