Bored at Board Meetings? Change Something Now!

Very much looking forward to a board meeting, where I'm chairman, this morning at 10:00.  As is normal in most companies, positive advances in 2022, a couple of speedbumps and a positive outlook for 2023.  Most importantly, we have a management team and directors all solidly focused on both growth strategies and tactics for the year ahead.  This morning, management will take us through the operating details of their 2023 business plan following the preliminary plan that they presented for board guidance on December 20th.  

I've had the exciting experience of being on 22 boards over my career, some public, most private ranging in size from no revenue startups to $1B in annual revenue. 9 where I've been the CEO or co-founder while in most of the others, my role has either as an investor or representing an investor group.  Today, I am on only three boards, looking to add one more, and I always find it fascinating and challenging work.  Along the way, I've learned numbers of what I regard as critical requirements of any good management team that works with a board of qualified expert advisors as their directors.  I've also had the experience of learning most of these three critical bullets below through trial and error, so hopefully you do not have to go through the same embarrassment and delays that I had to during my earlier years as a manager and board member.

1. A board meeting is not a staff meeting! 

Taught to me by my PE investors in my first job as CEO at the end of my first board meeting.  No one had told me this, and I just thought that this is what one does.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  Sure, advisors and directors want to understand the performance of the business, ask questions, provide advice and recommend adjustments, but the real impact to one's business of having regular meetings with outside experts is to think with you and your managers as to growth opportunities for the future success of the business.

BTW, "regular" board meetings should be four a year, plus one day long strategy session in September or October talking through both strategic and tactical opportunities for the year ahead.

2. I can read faster than you can speak!  

In fact, all of us can-on average-read 6X the time that someone presenting can speak, so please, please do not read the slide package that was sent out before the meeting.  Highlight? Sure!  Emphasis for active engagement?  Absolutely!  But deadly boring from droning on and sucking the air out of the room because there is no time for engagement, never!  In fact, if this is occurring, it's the job of the chair or any of the directors to have that side discussion with the CEO immediately.

Subset to this is that all board materials in the directors' hands two full workdays ahead of the meeting with strong encouragement from the CEO to connect with questions before the meeting.

3.  Actively Engage everyone! 

Board members and advisors are involved with the company for a couple of reasons and most importantly, like the CEO and many of the senior management, they have skin in the game in terms of equity.  In the very good boards, they also enjoy the active engagement of one another and participating in the solutions for growth.  One public board I sit on has extraordinary directors, who actively engage, think through, disagree and debate opportunities such that I know personally, I will come into that board meeting feeling one way and leave it in full agreement that that the board working as a team had developed a much better strategy or tactic than what I had thought about.  It's also not coincidental in that our success as a company is partially the result of a very diverse board in gender, backgrounds and experience.  

Bonus Idea 

With Covid restrictions on the wane, always attempt to have a dinner meeting the night before the board meeting.  This is a meeting of the directors and senior management to have a comfortable dinner together in a closed area at a local restaurant.  It is not a meeting for presentations.  Having said that since everyone has fully reviewed the board package already for the meeting the next day, it is a time for comfortable discussions on the overarching items in both good times and bad.   It's an opportunity to "break the ice", share general ideas, and note that "we'll get into the details tomorrow" providing the comfortable opportunity to dig in deep the next day.  A couple of glasses of wine usually help here also

So that's it!  Just a few of my 20 Rules of Perfect Board Meetings.   For additional expertise, ask around for the best advisors-people like Larry Stybel, and Phil Holberton, for example, or just connect with me at any time.  What you absolutely do not want to do is to try to do this by yourself if you are new to the business of working with outside directors.    


Planning 2023-1One of the tasks I completed during the holiday break was to update a new edition of our Writing the Winning Business Plan for 2023. 

You can click above for a free copy, and, of course, connect with me at any time for questions, comments or just catching up.




Jack and Tufts Entrepreneurship Center -2Connect with me at any time for some quick ideas and feedback. 

There's never a cost for a call or two, plus I love listening and talking about Sales & Marketing.   

Enjoy the weekend!  I drove to VT late last night through tough weather, (5" inches and snowing this morning, so I could be in a comfortable location for the Zoom board meeting, and, of course, be on the hill snowboarding tomorrow.  
Derby Entrepreneurship Center@Tufts.





Tags: Derby Entrepreneurship Center@Tufts, 2023 Business Planning, 2023 Sales Planning, 2023 Marketing Plans