There are two distinct emotions associated with board meetings- it’s either excitement or dread. As an entrepreneur, your board of directors should be your biggest asset, and preparing for a board meeting should be an exciting time for your business. Using sound corporate governance practices can create value in your relationship with directors. Here are a few tips to manage this important relationship.
1. Meet with your board regularly Your corporate governance playbook (or guidelines) should dictate the number of board meetings you have per year. I recommend quarterly meetings as a minimum, but it is common to meet up to six times a year for startups. Scheduled far in advance, this ensures that you assess performance regularly, and that your directors commit their time to supporting the business.
2. Meet with directors separately If you have structured your board with value in mind, then you should have access to a diversified group of experts to call on. Each director should be appointed on the value that they bring to the business. CEOs should make a habit of reaching out to them separately when their expertise is required. Do not hesitate to have meetings with directors individually leading up to board meetings to get guidance and feedback. Some entrepreneurs have to manage the “eager director” that wants to meet more regularly (such as weekly calls, monthly catch-ups). While this can be challenging to manage, your corporate governance playbook should highlight the role, authority and timing of key decisions in the business. A well laid out playbook can help you respond to an eager director by saying, “Let’s save our discussions for the board meeting.”
3. Board meetings should be quick I cannot reiterate enough how important it is to keep board meetings short. By sharing the information and presentations in advance, directors can review and their feedback can be incorporated before you meet with the entire board. Your board meetings should focus on approvals and critical discussions. It is common to meet with directors individually before board meetings to run them through the key points. A well-structured agenda, briefing directors and focusing on the key issues will keep directors engaged. Another important aspect to incorporate into your corporate governance playbook is committees. If certain subjects are recurring themes in your board meetings [remuneration or audit for example], it may be useful to establish a committee that meets more often and reports to the board. This structure can help manage conflicts of interest [a managing director and remuneration for example], as well as give you the ability to bring in external support with specific committee requirements.
Corporate governance and board meetings should not be a chore, nor a box ticking exercise. If you have selected your directors with value in mind, then your role should focus on making the most of the time you spend with them. When time is an increasingly expensive commodity, you want to welcome time with your board with excitement, not dread.