Bored of Directors (Continued)

There’s a reason that so many directors are bored. They aren’t showing up. It’s really hard to be engaged in a meeting when you are hanging out in your office listening in on a phone to a meeting happening 1000s of miles away.

I got into the venture business in the mid-80s. I was 26 years old and had no idea what a board meeting was. But I was lucky to be learning the business at the heels of someone who knew exactly what a board meeting was. His name is Milton Pappas and he is still working in the venture capital business.

I hadn’t been in the venture business for more than a month when Milton grabbed me and said, “I’d like you to come to a board meeting with me.” I was excited.

We didn’t call in, we got on a plane and went.

But it wasn’t a day trip even though the company was in Boston and we were in NY.

We left around 4pm and got up to Boston in time for the Board dinner. That was where the interesting stuff happened. We got into the business, talked about what was working and what was not. We talked about who was getting it done and who was not. The whole Board was there. We drank a couple bottles of wine, had great converstations, and got into the business.

After the dinner broke up, the management went home but the directors retired to the bar for a nightcap. The conversation moved back and forth between the business and other stuff. These guys were friends. They knew each other and enjoyed each other.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast with all the other non-management directors. Each of us had slept on the dinner conversations. We went back over it and got on the same page. By the time we got into the car to head to the company the board was together and knew what they wanted to get done at the meeting.

The meeting itself was pretty anticlimatic. The management made a presentation. The board listened. Then management made some recommendations. The board pushed back on some things. They played it well. They were united and made good points. Management listened. Everyone left on the same page.

It’s hard to pull off meetings like this anymore. Everyone is too busy to do face to face meetings. Nobody wants to burn a day and a half for a board meeting.

But it’s too bad. Because I believe the old way is the right way to do a meeting. Startup business face critical issues every month. An experienced board can really help make the right decisions. But a two hour meeting won’t get it done.

So if you are bored, get on a plane and go to the meeting. It make a huge difference.