Tips For Your Start-Up's First Board Meeting

My friend recently closed a financing and will have his first board meeting this afternoon.  His company has been around for a while and is doing quite well - but this is the first institutional money he's raised and the first time his company has had an "official" board.

Exchanging emails with him this morning made me think about Argyle's first board meeting in October, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts that entrepreneurs might consider going into their first board meeting with investors:

  • Don't be nervous.  I was pretty terrified going into our first board meeting - I had never been a CEO and I had no idea how boards work.  Turns out it was a piece of cake.  If you've raised money from great investors, they've likely done 100s of board meetings and will help shepherd you through the process until you figure it out - which generally takes a meeting or two.
  • Start by saying "thank you".  The board members just invested in your company and - in doing so - showed that they have a lot of confidence in your company and your ability as an entrepreneur. You likely just wrapped up a stressful ("adversarial" - at least legally speaking) negotiation to get the deal done, so it is great to start out on a really positive note!  
  • Prepare a very simple board deck, if you even prepare a deck at all.  Certainly talk about any pressing near-term issues, but otherwise make the meeting a meeting about future meetings.  Talk in broad strokes about how the board should function going forward and discuss the indicators you'll want to track as a company.
  • Give your board homework.  I asked for 5 sales lead email intros per board member in the first meeting.  Everyone loved it.  And everyone delivered.  We got a customer out of it and a few very valuable relationships.
  • Enjoy the honeymoon.  For a very early stage company, the first post-investment board meeting should be a high-five event - everyone is excited about the future...a future that you're going to create with your fresh slug of cash.  This is a very exciting time for your company!  But recognize that reality happens quickly and board meetings will quickly evolve into actual board meetings!

You might also want to read some other tips for start-up board meetings that I published a few weeks back.