Time to Update the Board Meeting?

Susan Hall
Slide Show

How to Conduct Better Meetings

Surveys have indicated that a typical meeting attendee views them as being 2.3 times as long as they should be. Since meetings are vital to a project's success, the secret lies in simply making them more efficient.

In an Xconomy post, author and serial entrepreneur Steve Blank writes that the traditional board meeting makes little sense for startups. He says it's time for an update:

Reinventing the board meeting may offer venture-backed startups a more efficient, productive way to direct and measure their search for a profitable business model.
Reinventing the board meeting may offer angel-funded startups-which because of geography or size of investment typically don't have formal boards or directors-to attract experienced advice and investment outside of technology clusters (i.e. Silicon Valley, New York).

What's wrong with board meetings?

  • The wrong metrics: Rather than Fortune 100 metrics such as income statements, cash flow, balance sheets, waterfall charts, he says the only relevant metrics during a company's first year are burn rate and cash balance.
  • The wrong discussions: He says it should be solely about the company's search for a business model.
  • Not real-time: In these days of the Internet, why meet face-to-face for updates only every four to six weeks?
  • Wastes founders' time: They're scurrying to "get ready for the board meeting."
  • The wrong structure: He says it's generally straight out of the early 1900s.

 

Instead he advocates keeping everyone informed through weekly blogs. This can save time for founders of angel-funded startups, who tend to keep investors updated by going to coffee with them individually.

 

Among the benefits he cites:

  • Asynchronous updates: Once an update is posted, people can chime in 24/7.
  • Coaching: There's no time lag for advice or course correction.
  • Geography: It reduces distance as a barrier to investment.


 

He promotes a scorecard, the business model canvas, as a way startups can track their progress. Through the weekly blog, the scorecard and online dialog with investors can bring the board meeting into this century, he says.

 

Blank, who teaches at Stanford and UC-Berkeley, also provides examples from the Stanford Lean LaunchPad class, an experiment in a new model of teaching startup entrepreneurship.



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