Recently I wrote the first post in a series on board meetings, entitled, “Why You’re Not Getting the Most out of Your Board,” which focused on the need to prepare properly, set good objectives and discuss mostly strategic topics.
Even if you follow this game plan meticulously your board meeting can be taken off course by well-intentioned board members who lead you down a rat hole.
Here’s how it happens …
1. Topic Creep
You start out your board meeting and a well-meaning board member who read your deck noticed a detail she didn’t understand on page 18, “Bob, I noticed that your margins in Canada declined from 48% to 46% while your margin in Mexico is up by 4%. Can you please explain the discrepancy?”
I call this “topic creep” and it is killing your board meeting. It might be useful for Sally to know the answer to this but it isn’t the most valuable use of the time you spend together as a board.
Often this is the first thing that comes up at your board meeting because while you’re sitting around waiting for the meeting to begin some random questions are flying. The question is legitimate and might even be important but unless it’s on your core agenda and immediate focus for discussion it might become a big distraction.
In my experience 90% of CEOs would just answer this question on the spot. And what seems like a harmless question with a quick answer it leads into a 15-minute discussion.
It also sets the wrong tone for the meeting as you suddenly are starting on your back foot and trying to defend your performance in part of the business rather than leading the meeting. Plus, if you haven’t prepared to talk about Canada vs. Mexico you might come across as unprepared and the board will pick up on this.
Most board meetings are “update meetings” where management downloads its status to a group of investors. These outside board members spend most of the board meeting trying to reacquaint themselves with the company’s business and critical issues.
This is hardly ideal and some simple changes could help management avoid both issues. Put simply, the majority of board meetings becomes an exercise in management trying to reassure investors that “we’re doing a good job” and for investors to sounds smart so they can prove that “we’re adding value.”
Both of the functions are a waste of time. So most board meetings become bored meetings.
I’ve attended more than 150 board meetings in the last few years alone. Every time I think to write a post about this I figure the most recent board meeting I’ve attended will think it’s about them so I don’t bother. So I’m going to write a series of board meetings posts unrelated to anybody or maybe an amalgamation of them all. These posts are not about any individual company even though they’ve all heard me say these things often.
Without DogVacay my Thanksgiving would have been ruined. That’s a fact. And I’m not an investor. I just had to tell this story. It’s a great one about entrepreneurship, friendship and the collaborative economy that is helping families in need across the world.
Every year my family meets in San Diego for Thanksgiving. My 3 siblings & I make the trek to spend 4-5 days with the 9 grand children, my mom, my cousin and few other very close family members. It’s the one time per year that my entire family decompresses and spends high-quality time together under one roof. We rent a house through HomeAway and all stay under one big roof.
This year the night before the journey my brother got a call from the person who had committed to watch his dogs that she wasn’t able to watch them after all. Panic ensued as we couldn’t bring the dogs to San Diego and my brother’s three kids look forward to this great trip all year.
I’m super proud to announce that DataSift has just completed a $42 million financing round coming at the end of a year where its revenue grew several hundred percent year-over-year. Considering our revenue is SaaS revenue this achievement is even more remarkable.
The timing of the announcement of this investment couldn’t have been timed more perfectly if we tried. Yesterday it was announced that Apple had acquired one of our competitors, Topsy, for more than $200 million. As this astute journalist pointed out, DataSift “likely would have cost a lot more to acquire.”
What gives? Why all the fuss about the Twitter firehose?
I started announcing
2013 has proved to be a wild year. Companies being created has continued to go up dramatically making managing dealflow nearly impossible.
Thank you to Tasha for helping to keep me sane by managing the onslaught of meeting requests, board meetings and constant change. You’ve had a few difficult years outside of work – I feel confident 2014 is going to be a great one!
In the market we’ve seen the massive uptick of SaaS valuations in the public markets and commensurate attention on private market fundings and valuations.
Meanwhile while social networking was white hot 3 years ago it is now persona non grata unless your user numbers are insane.
eCommerce was battered this year.
Some Ad Tech has skyrockets some has suffered. Mixed bag.
2013 was the year of wearable devices and physical products.
I’m sure in 2-3 years all of these trends will be reversed.
So with the wild ride of 2013 I had thoughts about what made me thankful this year.
We’ve had some big breakouts, some unexpected slips and some continued struggles.