Thursday, October 12, 2006

The First Board Meeting

Our First Board of Directors Meeting is tomorrow.

It's been an interesting experience. The board is made up of 3 of our investors (Brad Feld, Niel Robertson and Jerry Colonna) along with Marsha Davis, our CFO and myself.

Brad and Jerry have been on the boards of, I would guess, hundreds of companies. They've been to thousands of these. Niel's started several companies and been to more than his fair share himself.

Me? My first. At least as a CEO.

Yes, I've been one of the guys who presents to the board before (usually some staid group of industry luminaries at a Fortune 50 company). I always knew they were just tolerating me though. They generally weren't really sure what I was talking about (the curse of being the guy in a big company who's presenting the 'vision' and future directions). You'd think they'd find that interesting... oddly, these companies tend to shy away from things that change their businesses. Even really good companies. Like Mike "the Diesel" Spindler, then CEO of Apple, saying to me in a side conversation in the early 90's 'ya, vell...dis Internet ting.. I don't know.."

This is different. These are guys I really like and respect. People that have built or been instrumental in creating very real and successful entities from nothing. Folks I've spent some time with. Guys I'm getting to know. And damned smart.

The process of getting this first meeting together has been interesting, thought provoking, fun and slightly uncomfortable. Most of all, it's been very useful.

The majority of it's been done via email and a get together or two. Niel, Jerry and Brad gave us some area's they wanted to get familiar with, including our latest P&L's, current revenue, our 12 mo. proforma, information on our revenue models, metrics we should be tracking, strategies for dealing with user generated content, product roadmaps and thoughts on cash/funding now and out in the future.

We send them some info, they asked questions, then some more questions. We'd followup with more info. A few more questions and it's the day before the meeting! Just like that. This happened over a two week period. No way would we have been able to go over this much info and have the give and take, ability to answer with reasonably complete answers and the depth in a single board meeting. What do we get from this? A board that's reasonably up to speed on a new business in a new market with a new technology, right out of the gate.

Brad and I got together to talk about it over some great Sushi (if you ever go to Sushi with Brad, let him order, you'll be more than happy with his choices). Jerry, Brad and Niel, based on our information, how we answered, and with what information, quickly zero'd in on the areas they thought we could use the most help and direction. And they nailed it. Brad shared that with me and now I'm going in knowing what the issues are and what we need to work on.

So, the meeting tomorrow will focus primarily on those areas. I doubt we'll spent much time reviewing numbers (we've already done that), and some of the ways our business works (like dealing with content issues ) and other data/reporting oriented tasks. Mostly Covered.

What do we get by being so interactive with the board before hand?

We'll get a full on blast of about 50 years of world class strategic and tactical expertise directly focused on our business. This from guys who've seen just about all of it (from the heights of the boom to the crash and moribund years following it), and still love doing what they do.

We don't get a meeting where half or 3/4th of the available time is spent going over the numbers and what are really 'reporting' type topics. Special thanks, again, to Andy Sack of Judys Book who talks about how to avoid things like through the painful experience of doing it first. I read, and I learned. Check out his blog for alot of other great insights as well.

Of course, we haven't had the meeting yet, could implode, but I doubt it. Everyone involved is all about making it successful and, after all the prep and interaction, I'm looking forward to it.


Anonymous said...

Oh goodness. My first meeting's in a few weeks, with our investors. I'd already planned to do some of this, but planning to do it and actually making it an active task are different.

Thanks for the kick in the butt, this is now on my active list of things to start conversations with our investors about.

Anonymous said...

Scott- good luck on your board meeting. I am sure you will do fine! I like the new stuff.

Anonymous said...

Coming from someone who hopes to one day be in this position this was a great insight into the process. I have read much of what happens on the other side (the VC's) before a board meeting but rarely do I hear from the companies themselves. Most likely because they are too afraid of having their investors read about their thoughts beforehand. Or they do not have the meeting planned out as well as you did. I would love to hear the followup afterwards. Thanks! ~Eric

Tom Higley said...

It always amazes me how much the character of the board meeting is a function of the experiences and personalities of the people in the room, including (and perhaps, particularly) the CEO. Change one person, and the whole tone of the meetings can change significantly.

When I approach these things, I think about what I can learn from the board, what the board should learn/know about the company, and the things that have to be accomplished in the meeting - i.e., things we actually have to do or decide. It sounds like you do much the same thing and distribute information well in advance of the meeting. (Something that I awlays find to be good practice.)

It seems to me that the CEO is always in an interesting position in the board meeeting, in part because he or she both manages the board and is governed/managed by the board. I'll be interested in your experiences with this.

In any event, you, Brad, Jerry and Niel are one hell of a board. Sounds like fun to me!

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...