Successful, fast-growing private companies often struggle with how to set up and operate a high-functioning board of directors. What tends to evolve is a group of well-intentioned people that meet every few months for a couple of days to learn about all the great things the company is doing instead of having a crisp discussion about how the company is performing relative to its board-approved plan and how it is progressing on that year’s strategic initiatives.
While it’s important for fast-growing successful privately-owned company corporate boards to have a diverse board of directors that includes outside directors who can provide an objective perspective and help ensure that the board is not dominated by family members, establish clear governance policies and procedures that outline the roles and responsibilities of board members, and have regular board meetings that are well-organized and focused on the company’s strategic goals, there are also some best practices that can help maximize the value of the board’s meeting time.
In this post, we will share some of these best practices and provide a template for an effective board agenda.
The Board Agenda
The board agenda is the key tool for ensuring that the board meeting is productive and efficient. The board chair should send out the agenda four to five days before the meeting with a request for any additions, deletions or corrections. The agenda should be clear, concise, and relevant, and should focus on the company’s performance relative to the board-approved plan, progress towards achieving strategic goals and objectives, and any urgent issues.
A well-formulated agenda should also follow these guidelines:
- Meetings should be three hours or less. Longer meetings tend to lose focus and energy, and shorter meetings may not allow enough time for meaningful discussion.
- No big decisions should be made on new items in the meeting in which they are first introduced. New items should be presented for information only, and then discussed and decided in the next meeting after board members have had time to review and reflect on them.
- Advance material should be made available about two days in advance of meeting for all topics. This allows board members to prepare for the meeting and avoid wasting time on presentations that could have been read beforehand.
- Allow some time before and / or after the meeting for personal interaction and socializing. This helps build trust and rapport among board members, which can improve communication and collaboration during the meeting.
- Record Action Items, Decisions, and Insights as they occur in the meeting. The CEO edits and distributes the record a day or two after meeting for review, comment, and the record.
The Board Agenda Template
Here is a board agenda template that follows the best practices mentioned above:
- 10-min: Call to order and administrative matters (approve minutes from last meeting, bylaw updates, etc.)
- 15-min: CEO overall summary report on the State of the Business
- 20-min: Discussion of financial performance relative to plan
- 20–40-min: updates and discussion on each of up to three of the most important strategic initiatives and / or committee reports.
- 10-20-min: Walk-on items
- 5-20-min: Discussion of topics for upcoming meetings
- 5-min: Adjourn and remind about next meeting date and location
This template provides a general framework for ensuring that the board meeting covers the most important topics in a timely and effective manner. Ir can be adapted to suit the specific needs and preferences of any board.
Setting up and running a high-functioning board of directors for fast-growing private companies can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding. By following some best practices for creating and executing a board agenda, boards can ensure that they are providing valuable guidance and oversight to the company, while also fostering a positive and productive relationship with the management team.
- A Practical Guide to Building and Running a High-Performing Board
- Creating a High-Performing Board of Directors for Private Companies
- How to Create an Effective Board for your Company
- How to Run a Board Meeting
- How Long is Too Short for a Meeting
About The Author
David Halwig, IntelliVen Co-Founder and President of Mid-Atlantic Region, provides strategic management consulting and advisory services to leaders whose organizations are at critical inflection points. David helps improve governance, leader development, strategic planning, and risk management. He also has substantial experience with merger and acquisition strategies, valuation, and transition approaches.