Boards: 10 Tips for CEOs

I’ve certainly made more than my share of mistakes in running businesses and managing Boards of Directors.  Below is a collection of lessons learned that I thought I’d share.  Hope you find these helpful as you think about running your own business and managing the expectations of a Board.

NEVER have the board meeting “at” the board meeting.  ALWAYS call every director a few days before the meeting and run every important issue by them to get their input.

Update them promptly on company performance, especially the bad news, and let them “beat you up” privately. That way, the meeting can focus in a constructive fashion on problem-solving and building the Company for the future.

Maximum PowerPoint show is four slides from any presenter (preferably only 2 slides), especially yourself. This should be the limit of director interest in detail.

Provide complete access for the Board to everyone and everything in the Company. They will rarely use it, but it’s a great comfort to them to know you are not trying to hide anything.

Have your key team members do almost all the presentations. It gives them exposure and allows you to make sage comments along with the rest of the board. A perfect board meeting is when 10% of the talking is done by the CEO, 60% by the team, and 30% by the directors.

Carefully consider every director’s input and take good notes at the meeting. These people have lots of experience and many great contacts. But always remember you make the final decisions (and if you don’t, the Board will start to look for someone who will).

Give the Directors projects in their areas of expertise. It’s free consulting and they usually do a good job.

Get in front of the board on tough decisions like top management changes, including changes to your own role. If it’s going to happen, make it your idea.

For VC directors, try to picture how they are describing your Company to their partners, and what questions their partners are asking. Your job is to make each director a hero to their partners (or corporate boss).

Remember it’s Company first, team second, you last. You win when everybody wins, not when just you win.