Board meetings are critical for your startup’s strategic planning.
Every boardroom has a cast of key players, and understanding their roles fosters effective communication, collaboration, and, ultimately, better decision-making. We’ll explore these roles and their responsibilities, how best to prepare for board meetings, and what you should include in your board deck.
A board meeting is a formal gathering of a company’s board of directors to discuss the organization’s performance, strategies, and key decisions. In addition, board meetings ensure the company meets its legal and financial obligations, help it set long-term goals, and allow participants to monitor executive performance.
The frequency of your meetings depends on your organization's size and specific needs. While urgent issues might call for special meetings, at a minimum, you should hold board meetings quarterly to keep directors in the loop, allowing them to help make strategic decisions.
The company’s directors will always attend the board meeting—and, depending on the topics on the docket, you might ask non-directors, such as executives or outside advisors, to join. Understanding these attendees’ roles leads to improved communication and cooperation.
The board’s Chairperson oversees the board of directors. They facilitate board meetings, ensure their effectiveness, and uphold corporate governance principles. In some cases, the Chairperson may be the CEO. But, it’s generally considered best practice to separate these roles to prevent a concentration of power and to maintain checks and balances within the organization's leadership.
Directors, whether inside, outside, independent, or shareholder representatives, are handpicked for their ability to make decisions and oversee organizational performance. They ensure the company's alignment with the best interests of its stakeholders. A diversity of directorial perspectives and expertise benefits a company’s decision-making.
Company Secretaries often ensure the company’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. They manage board meetings, maintain meticulous company records, and facilitate communication with shareholders. Although they usually don't have voting rights on board decisions—unless they are also a director—Company Secretaries provide invaluable advice on governance matters.
Non-directors are people such as Board Observers, Executives, Employees, and Advisors, who attend meetings to provide insights, present reports, or advise on specific topics. Board Observers, often granted rights as part of specific agreements, are typically required attendees; however, the CEO ultimately decides who attends.
A strong board deck starts with an organized agenda, which aids with preparation, facilitation, and prioritization, and provides a record of intended discussion points. When creating your agenda, include the time allotted for each item to hit every topic.
After reviewing the agenda, you’ll dive into the board deck.
Every deck looks different depending on the planned topics, but it’s important to create a professional, clear deck that will keep everyone’s attention.
Here are some examples of sections and topics within your board deck:
At a board meeting, the CEO serves as the bridge between the management team and the board of directors. They present an overview of the company’s performance, key accomplishments, challenges, and strategic outlook. A transparent and collaborative relationship between the CEO and the board fuels proactive communication and decision-making, so don’t shy away from sharing difficult news.
The most common slides you should include in your CEO Update are:
This section is an in-depth review of the previous quarter’s sales. During this part of board meetings, the focus is on forecasts and takeaways. After a less-than-ideal quarter, the narrative requires effective management rather than panic. It’s an opportunity to explain the challenges you faced and the lessons you learned.
The typical slides in the Sales & Marketing portion are:
This section provides insight into a company’s financial health and data on past performance and forecasts.
The slides you’ll often see within the Financial Report are:
While the CEO usually presents the previous three sections, a product update section is typically presented by the product or engineering lead. This topic offers insight into the progression and milestones of major initiatives.
The slides commonly used for a Product Update are:
Effective board meetings drive organizations toward successful, informed decisions. By fostering transparency, collaboration, and adherence to governance principles, organizations leverage the collective wisdom of their board to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.
If you would like to learn more about effective board decks or have questions about navigating board meetings as a startup, please reach out.