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The early stage board deck is dead: how to run a meeting in 60 minutes

i served before One as a CEO Board Director and two as an Independent Board Director for startups. I believed in the leadership and products of those companies, but I resigned from both boards because I could not bear to sit in one more meeting.

Time is a fixed resource. As a Board Director, it is important to be helpful to the leadership team with the limited time we have – otherwise, attending meetings becomes pointless. With concise content, you can make board meetings more effective and leave room for productive conversation.

After we closed our Series A and a formal board of directors was established, my co-founders and I sent them this short letter:

Dear Board,

From the very beginning at TigerEye, we promised ourselves that we would use our experience to our advantage by making smarter decisions across all vectors every day. “What did we do that we never want to do again?” One thing we would never want to happen is a three-hour, very awkward, non-strategic board meeting. Here’s a memo we wrote instead of preparing the board deck. We hope this memo gives you the punchline on the business and how we’re thinking about the future, making the most of our time to allow for meaningful conversation.

with gratitude,

tracy and ralph

How we structure our 60 minute board meetings

The memos we share with our Board are typically three pages long and include legal formalities, such as approving the minutes of the last meeting and the stock option grant. This is boring stuff that should happen with lawyers in the room, so we try to get that out of the way at the outset.

Every board deck I’ve made and seen is over 80 pages long. I am not exaggerating.

Next, we review our financial position, because that’s how investors on the board of directors keep an eye on the world. Here is a snapshot of the business included in the financial update:

  • how much money is in the bank
  • number of runway months
  • Income
  • Development
  • customers

We discuss what we as a team have achieved in the last three months and what we are looking forward to in the next three months. Again, this is an open discussion where we push ourselves to discuss worst-case scenarios and how to mitigate risk against them.

These conversations typically revolve around a realistic check on the competitive market landscape, our direction as a company, current economic conditions and how much money we are spending and our ability to execute.

Today, TigerEye’s board meetings are one hour long. The short length has a lot to do with our size – we’re an early stage startup. But I still plan to keep it brief and productive, even as we grow. I’ve led and attended over a hundred hours of board meetings, and I never want to dread my own meeting again.

No more 80+ page board decks

Every board deck I’ve made and seen is over 80 pages long. I am not exaggerating.

The challenge with so much material is that the board gives us a limited amount of attention, and only so much information can be absorbed in one sitting. If this much information needs to be communicated, consider sending regular email updates or holding face-to-face meetings between meetings to keep participants updated.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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