Following are some board meeting rules that were recently presented to me and my fellow board members by a CEO at one of his first board meetings at a newly funded early stage company. I thought they were brilliant. Feel free to pass them out at your next board meeting.
Be supportive of the company: Tell us the things we do right and things we do wrong. We are figuring this out as we go. “No comment” is hard to interpret and our imaginations will run wild.
Be responsive to communications: Please ACK emails. If you can’t respond when you read, set expectations when you can. At least say “ack.” I’m generally on email all the time and it’s a real-time communications tool for me.
Be transparent: We have personal relationships around the table. Management should not use board members as “agents.” I don’t want any politics on the board – if I did I would still be going to board meetings from my last company.
Be specific and descriptive: I sit on a board also. I know the temptation to speak in strategic generalities. Please include concrete examples that smaller minds can digest. I give extra credit for using more words.
Look for opportunities: You generally cast a much larger net than we do.
Look for early revenue opportunities: Making money will never go out of style. Generally everything is easier with revenue.
Look for partnerships (Panda Mating): Early stage companies need help with partnerships largely because we don’t have any of particular value yet (like people, brand, data, and money.)
Look for dead-ends: No one wants to hit the wall at 120mph. You’re more experienced so you should see the wall coming before we do. Don’t grab the wheel – just tell us to look down the road.