In countless boardrooms, it’s a scene that’s far too common. Every quarter, a hastily assembled set of constantly changing metrics are delivered in thick stacks while board members exchange occasionally confused looks and ask basic questions about data and operations. Mired in details, they never get to the real value – business strategy.
At many fast-running Series A and Series B companies, where staffing is lean, growth is the imperative, and agility is paramount, the quarterly board meeting can be a source of frustration for operating teams and investors alike. Too often, these meetings are characterized by a loosely organized data-dump, without the essential narrative and context. Without clear process ownership, accurate data, or consistently structured presentations, board members are unable to understand what’s going on at the company and unclear how they can contribute expertise and perspective to help the company grow.
So what makes for a great board meeting? It’s a question that three finance leaders tackled in a recent discussion.
Elements of a Successful Board Meeting
What are some steps that the finance team can take to ensure you have a board meeting that’s efficient and effective? In a recent webinar, our panel offered up the following suggestions:
- Remember Your Audience: It’s easy to overlook the reality that many board members are involved with a range of portfolio companies and their interactions with your business are less frequent. Offering the full context of a business issue is important for people who aren’t involved in your company on a daily basis.
- Be Consistent: At every board meeting, you want to examine the same metrics and visualizations so that you’re always comparing apples to apples. Frequent changes in metrics can make useful business analysis more difficult. Use templates and keep your presentations similar from meeting to meeting. Of course, consistency doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean rigidity. Be responsive when conditions fundamentally change.
- Use Standard Benchmarks: Choose the right metrics that properly characterize your business’ operations and that drive valuation. Board members like to see benchmarks, language, and definitions that they’ve previously worked with so that they can place your performance in a broader context. That means more time can be spent on strategy and insights.
- Tell the Story: The numbers are essential, of course, but they’re only one dimension of your business. Be prepared to tell the story behind the numbers and not merely report, but explain, what’s happening in your business and in your markets. Think in terms of a business case study, with a complete narrative.
- Avoid Information Overload: It can be tempting to tell the board everything you know and offer data on every possible contingency and situation. But our experts agree: less is more. Too many slides can lead you to lose sight of the key issues that require attention.
- Sidestep the Preparation Pitfalls: Make sure everyone on the finance team is in agreement as you begin your board prep. Create an outline of the meeting well in advance, use standard templates at every meeting, and stick to your timelines. We also recommend sending out the meeting materials a couple of days in advance, to give each of the board members time to review and digest information and arrive at the meeting with a heightened level of preparation.
If you’d like more ideas about how to optimize your board meetings, check out the entire webinar here.