Presented by Klipfolio.
You want each meeting with your board to build the confidence the board and CEO needs to grow the business. In my experience, a free-form discussion hurts more than it helps.
I meet with our board of directors at the end of each quarter, and strive to make each meeting as productive as possible. Remember: Your VCs and board are an extension of your team. Check out point 5 in this post that shares the 6 things startups need to know about venture capitalists.
Here’s what I’ve learned: a killer board package is the difference between a smooth board meeting and a disorganized, even chaotic meeting. If you provide advance insight and follow an organized process, board meetings flow smoothly. And that’s what we all want — because a reassured and informed board will keep your company on a high growth trajectory.
Ready for more productive board meetings? Read on for the 5 rules I follow for creating a killer board package
1. Customize around the specifics of your company
As I discovered when scrambling before my first board meeting, there’s a lot of material out there on board packages. Much of it is helpful, but some of it is for public boards or multi-billion-dollar companies.
For Klipfolio, I needed to create a package that would suit a quickly growing company with annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million.
How does this look for us?
I focus on SaaS metrics that speak to the challenges and opportunities of a fast-growing business. Velocity metrics like Net MRR Growth and CAC-LTV; customer retention metrics like Churn and Customer Retention; and, product metrics like new features and support tickets.
2. Do advance prep to maximize meeting value
When it comes to board meeting, no one likes surprises. I send the package out a week before the meeting to give members a chance to digest and absorb the content.
Then I call each of them to discuss. If there’s a concern, I want to know about it beforehand so I can go to the meeting prepared. For example, if trial sign ups are down this quarter, I want to be able to give them the data behind that metric. Perhaps we improved overall quality of leads and improved our conversion rates; or, there may be an issue with our acquisition process that needs to be addressed head on.
3. Include these 9 sections
Here’s what’s in Klipfolio’s board package:
1. The agenda. Nothing fancy — just a well-planned outline.
2. The performance narrative. This includes an executive summary (written and signed by me) and departmental summaries that explain what’s happened during the last quarter. More on this below…
3. The minutes from the previous board meeting, signed by the secretary.
4. Visuals. As experts in business dashboards we’d be pretty remiss if we left out visualizations. I prefer to use a waterfall chart of our performance metrics that provides rolling budget estimates and actual figures per quarter. We include this as the first page of the “Financials” section because it gives an easy-to-read overview of how we’re tracking.
An example of a waterfall chart. Check out this article to learn more.
5. Financial statements. We include the quarter being discussed, comparative statements for the previous quarter, and a statement comparing the quarter to the budget.
6. The cap table. This table shows who owns shares in the company as well as any changes in ownership.
7. The statutory declaration. Signed by me, this document declares that all items for which the directors can be personally liable are current and being managed properly.
8. The list of any employee option grants that need to be approved or that fell back into the pool.
9. The extras, as needed, such as reports from committees.
…About that performance narrative (#2 above)
Financials aside, this is the most important item on this list. It’s our story of how we’re doing.
Each department puts together a one-page summary of their activity over the last quarter, including department-specific performance metrics. The summary answers three questions: What happened? What’s next? What are the challenges?
Having each department prepare the summary encourages them to own their story. I use these to prepare a high-level run-down for the company.
The result is a picture that is more complete than any financial statement can give you.
4. Craft a clear plan and deck to focus the meeting
As chair, I set out a five-point agenda:
1. Approvals. The board and observers deal quickly with administrative governance issues.
2. Presentation. The executive team joins us and I present a report on the company and our performance: highlights and challenges; key performance indicators; the status of board-level action items; financial performance and guidance; and our hiring plan and current organizational chart.
3. Discussion. The nature of our business means we need a clear understanding of the competitive landscape, so we start there. We then deep-dive on a specific topic like our product strategy or go-to-market initiatives. This valuable sounding board often leads to important insights.
4. Action items. We update our rolling list of action items.
5. Debrief. I leave and the other board members meet in-camera to discuss what they’ve heard and my performance, then we debrief.
When the meeting is over, I sync up with my management team. This pattern of preparation, focus, and feedback lets our decision-makers continually touch in with our performance, our goals — and each other. It also helps to reassure the board that we’re focused and functional.
5. Share your board report with your employees
I always make a point to share the board package ahead of time so everyone can get on the same page. I also share the board package with our employees to get them on same page, and give a transparent view into your company’s successes, challenges, and upcoming opportunities.
Allan Willie is a co-founder of Klipfolio, and its president and CEO. He’s also a designer, a cyclist, a father, and a resolute optimist.