For a new founder, the initial board meeting can be daunting — so much is at stake and the first impressions are lasting ones. But preparing properly, whether that’s by holding a mock board meeting or knowing what not to discuss beforehand, will put you in the best position possible to gain confidence from your board and set yourself on a path to success.
Twelve entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share their top tips on how a founder can prepare for his or her first board meeting.
1. Do a mock board meeting with another startup founder or investor ally.
Too many times I’ve heard an entrepreneur tell me about the gap between the excitement of scoring a lead investor or new board member and the disappointment of the first board meeting. Don’t start off the relationship on the wrong foot — they’re your new boss, after all. To avoid this, I’ve seen more CEOs do a mock run with a more experienced CEO or investor with board experience just to set expectations.–Fan Bi,Blank Label
2. Send your board documents two weeks in advance.
The best board meetings are ones with discussion and debate. The worst are ones where you simply report the facts and figures of the business. Sending your updates in advance will force you to synthesize your perspective, and give the board the opportunity to ask basic questions in advance. That way you can take advantage of the rare opportunity of being face-to-face.–Aaron Schwartz, Modify Merch
3. Be confident.
First impressions are lasting. Make sure you come across as confident (not to be confused with cocky), professional and respectful. In small companies, people often evaluate management more than the idea or business itself. Leave them with no doubt that you’ll be successful.–Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net
4. Keep control of the meeting.
Board members get involved during a company’s early stages because they want to help the company grow. Be upfront and present the challenges they can help you overcome. This will keep you in control of the meeting. Otherwise, their desire to help may lead them to pick apart your successes. –Brian Smith, S Brian Smith Group
5. Reach out beforehand.
Make sure you contact everyone who will be attending shortly before the meeting. Try to get an idea of how they feel, what they want to discuss, and what they want to see on the agenda. Having all this information beforehand will allow you to craft stronger responses to any questions and to better satisfy anyone who came looking for something specific.–Adam Steele, The Magistrate
6. Know who will be at the table.
One of the keys to being prepared for a meeting is to know your audience. Take the time to research the people who will be in your board room meeting. Secondly, try to get a grasp of what’s important to each of them so that you can address their questions intelligently. Finally, be open to feedback and know when the best answer is, “I don’t know. I will look into that for you.”–Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
7. Prepare to discuss future growth.
Prepare a statement concerning future growth and why there is significant demand for the services or products. This is your initial board meeting; your members at this stage still aren’t fully convinced. They’ll appreciate hearing you outline your vision. Reference specific research, reports and applicable media articles–this will enable the board to gain a greater understanding of your mission.–Luigi Wewege, Vivier Group
8. Get expectations from your board.
Your board should know the upcoming board meeting will be their first. Inevitably, they’ve been through both great and boring meetings. Be sure to communicate beforehand, understand the key items to be discussed, and other formalities that may be required. With clear expectations, you should be able to over-deliver for your first board meeting!–Jeff Epstein, Ambassador
9. Build individual connections.
Connect with each of the board members individually to understand their interests and address their concerns individually, in advance. To the extent that there are issues or conflicts to address, the dynamic of a one-on-one connection is much more favorable to you than facing many board members at a single meeting.–Christopher Kelly, Convene
10. Be prepared for some resistance.
Just because you are the CEO doesn’t mean you won’t meet resistance on a new idea, compensation plan, etc. So, don’t be surprised if the board shoots down an idea you have been working on for a while but never talked to anyone about before the meeting. If you want to avoid this, make sure you talk to the board members before the meeting so that there aren’t any surprises. No board likes surprises.–Derek Capo,eFin
11. Don’t discuss difficulties right away.
Most entrepreneurs address difficult problems during the first board meeting. Instead, seek counsel outside of your first meeting. You have great people on your board, and you should absolutely seek their advice. However, the worst time to do so is during the first meeting–instead, you need to demonstrate that you’re the leader by articulating your plan to them.–Anthony Pezzotti, Knowzo.com
12. Know your numbers.
There’s nothing worse than going into your first board meeting and not knowing every detail of your business. I made this mistake with my first company and it hurt my credibility with everyone. It was something I had to gain back over the years. Know every aspect and number about your company. This will show them that you’re a confident leader who knows what’s going on with your company.–John Rampton,Due