Plan ahead and keep it short: 4 startup founders on running better board meetings - Technical.ly Philly

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Plan ahead and keep it short: 4 startup founders on running better board meetings

"Anything longer than three hours and your audience is cooked."

At the board meeting, v profesh.

(Photo by RODNAE Productions via Pexels)

You board is an invaluable tool in keeping your fledgling startup moving in the right direction. In return, you owe them the greatest bang for their temporal buck by running an efficient, effective board meeting.

A solid board meeting can do wonders should address immediate needs while allowing board members to brainstorm ideas for a company’s future. Inspired by Baltimore-based VC Margaret Roth Falzon’s essay on running better board meetings, Technical.ly asked founders for tactical tips based on how they run their own meetings via our public Slack. Here’s what they said:

1. Plan ahead.

Danny Nathan, the founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Apollo 21, said planning ahead for board meetings is one way founders can maximize their time with colleagues who have no shortage in things to do.

“Plan ahead,” he said. “Send out board meeting materials [about] one week in advance so everyone has time to review. Include a schedule and a clear list of issues you want to cover. Board members are valuable, but busy. Do the work ahead of time to make the meetings run smoothly and give them advanced access so they can be prepared to discuss the issues at the time of the meeting.”

2. Be concise.

AJ Bruno, the founder and CEO behind Philly co-headquartered QuotaPath, has found using short blocks of time is the best way to prep for and run board meetings.

“Send board deck and materials a week ahead of time, ” he said. “Schedule a 15-minute [one-on-one] with each director ahead of time.” After that, keep meetings to three hours or less, with half of that time used for operations and half for strategy. Finally, celebrate wins — “what did the board do for you that quarter.”

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3. Keep it fun and actionable.

Peter Yeargin, the founder and CEO of Wynnewood’s Sage, agreed with Bruno’s approach and added that it’s important to allow board members to build fun, organic connections with each other.

“Anything longer than three hours and your audience is cooked,” he said. “Break it up with a fun exercise at the 1.5-hour mark to get to know more about each other. Your board is a much greater resource if they all like each other and work together for the common good. Shared experiences and personal stories really help that.”

Beyond that, he said, “focus on the metrics that move the needle if you need to show data [and] have an ask for each board member so they come away with a tangible way to help your company.”

4. Prioritize long-term strategy.

As the founder and CEO of AWeber (formerly based in Chalfont), Tom Kulzer said creating space for long-term planning is valuable to board members engaging in non-frequent meetings.

“It’s important to make sure they aren’t just ‘status update’ meetings and have time and a bit of an agenda to lead bigger thinking, long range strategic discussions,” he said. Then, to keep track of it all, “have a shared doc for taking notes. This works well for in-person meetings but also remote ones. We use Confluence and Google Docs extensively for this.

And to make sure things keep moving: “At the end of the meeting, make sure deliverables are clearly assigned to someone responsible for them and that those assignments are written down,” he said. “Everyone gets real foggy on who was supposed to do what two days later.”


Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: QuotaPath, AWeber
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