Help your board work for you. Keep them in the loop.
This blog post is part of a series on Board Best Practices.
As we discussed in Intro to Boards, early stage boards should support you, not just “govern”. With the right people and good practices, your board can add immense value to your business. To have a board that works for you, you need to establish good communication with them about what’s going on in the business.
Hold monthly calls in addition to quarterly meetings
Board meetings should be reserved for strategic conversations and deep-dives into important areas of the business. If board members aren’t kept in the loop on a regular basis, board meetings become 3-hour financials updates. This is a waste of valuable time! Ideally, you’ve created a board of people who bring valuable experience and insights to the table. When you finally get them together, you should take the opportunity to put their heads together around an important issue, not spend the meeting walking through KPIs.
The monthly call gives you a chance to update your board on key numbers and happenings each month so that they’re always up-to-date on what’s going on. It keeps their fingers on the pulse of your business and allows for a much more substantive discussion when the board meeting comes around.
What should you discuss in the monthly call?
- KPIs – Walking through KPIs should be the focus of your call. You should have a report of metrics that you check and update regularly. Because you’re updating it on a regular basis, it shouldn’t take much extra work to prepare a report for the monthly call. It would be worthwhile to spend time with one or two board members to flush out your KPIs and hone in on the most important metrics. I like to say that if you had to run the business from a desert island, these are the numbers you would absolutely need. It’s the minimum level of reporting you’d want to understand what is working and where there are problems. It’s not every single metric, that’s overkill for this kind of update. You only need those granular details when you want to get in the weeds on an issue. See our post on establishing accountability for more about creating a KPI report.
- Important updates – You should also take the time to give important updates during the monthly call. Did you land a huge client? Hire a new team member? This is the time to fill in your board.
- Bad news fast – At any phase of your business, there’s likely something that’s not working well. Sharing bad news with your board allows them to help diagnose and fix it quickly. Plus, keeping them in the loop means there will be no ugly surprises when the board meeting comes around. Bad news is okay; bad surprises are not.
- Hiring a VP of Sales – On a recent call, a portfolio company told us they wanted to hire a VP of sales. we have a lot of experience in this area and offered to walk them through interviewing and hiring a VP of sales. Using our advice, they were able to find a great VP of Sales to join their team. Our cadence of communication created space for this kind of update and allowed us to help along the way (see my post on Hiring a Kickass VP of Sales).
- Ramping up marketing spend – One of our portfolio companies began experiencing decreased efficiency as they ramped up their marketing spend. They brought this up on our monthly call, and several experienced board members offered suggestions for who to talk to, what to think about, and what to do next. Bringing it to the board’s attention in the monthly call rather than waiting for the board meeting allowed them to get help fast, act quickly, and resolve the issue efficiently.
What should you save for the quarterly meeting?
The quarterly meeting is an opportunity to go deep on a specific area of the business and receive constructive input from your board. Keeping up with KPI reporting on the monthly calls gives you the luxury of diving into an area that needs consideration rather than spending your time catching up on the basics.
Final thoughts: encourage transparency
The monthly call is a great opportunity to create a culture of transparency between you and your board. Don’t wait until the quarterly meeting to tell your board the big news; use the monthly call to strengthen your partnership.