Tom Lazay / February 14, 2024 / 4 MIN READ

Assembling Your Board and Preparing for Your First Meeting

Tom Lazay / / 4 MIN READ

Assembling Your Board and Preparing for Your First Meeting

The Insider’s Playbook for Expansion Stage Board Meeting Success (Part I): Assembling Your Board and Preparing for Your First Meeting

The journey of a startup founder is one filled with learning curves, and navigating the dynamics of a board meeting as your company matures is as important as your attention to product-market fit, hiring, and growth. As a former founder myself, I learned firsthand the challenges and pitfalls of ignoring the importance of board composition and management in the early days of my first startup. 

When you start a company, there’s often either no structured board or a small board consisting of the founders and one investor. After a company finds product-market fit and raises venture capital to fund rapid expansion, the composition and value of a startup board can and should evolve, and the way you run your board meetings needs to change substantially. 

If you just closed an expansion round, or if you’re in the process of doing so, I’d recommend reading “Startup Boards: A Field Guide to Building and Leading an Effective Board of Directors,” by Brad Feld and Matt Blumberg as a primer.

Assembling a Well-Balanced Board

A common board composition at the expansion stage is often comprised of five members, including two investor seats and two founder or common seats. 

The pivotal fifth seat is the independent member, who should bring an unbiased perspective to the board. This setup balances financial oversight, operational insights, and unbiased external perspectives.

The selection of an independent board member is a big decision that should align with your company’s current needs and future goals. Didi Dayton introduced me to the following framework for considering who should fill this role and what value they should provide. 

Take a comprehensive look at your current board, then decide which of the following to prioritize in a new member: 

  • Star Power: The credibility and ‘star power’ that a well-known industry figure brings
  • Industry/Operational Expertise: The specific industry or operational expertise needed to mentor executives
  • Network: The extensive network of a well-connected individual 

This independent member’s contribution can be instrumental in guiding future decisions and opening new avenues for the company’s growth—it’s crucial to think strategically when filling this seat. 

Key Takeaway: Be deliberate about what kind of value you expect from an independent board member, and don’t compromise for the sake of filling a seat.

Preparing for Your First Meeting

Stepping into this meeting with a new VC with big expectations can be daunting. This meeting sets the tone for this new phase of your business. 

To lay a solid foundation for this important meeting, focus on creating tools and processes to facilitate informed, efficient discussions. 

Arm Yourself with KPI Data

You’ve graduated from the early days of product-market fit where your meetings were likely focused on customer conversations, product features, and fundraising. 

With an expansion-stage investor now on your board, establishing a comprehensive KPI dashboard is a fundamental step in preparing for a board meeting. This objectively reflects your company’s health and progress in various critical areas, from marketing effectiveness to financial stability. 

A well-constructed dashboard serves as the foundation for meaningful discussions, allowing board members to assess performance against goals, identify areas needing attention, and make informed decisions. 

By grounding conversations in real data, you can ensure that the board’s focus remains aligned with the company’s business objectives and market realities. It also provides a consistent view of the business performance from meeting to meeting.

Key Takeaway: Knowing your numbers and presenting them consistently will gain you credibility with your board.

Check out Part Two of this three-part series—we explore some key points to keep in mind when running your first board meeting, plus actionable tips to make sure you’re set up for success.

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