What to include in an early stage business board meeting
Holding a board meeting can sometimes be regarded as a time consuming exercise and a distraction from the fun of developing new technology, working with clients and running the business. A lot of literature available can give the impression that a board meeting can be both an onerous and overly formal occasion.
A key reason for constructing a board is to have help alleviate the pressure, perhaps on a single owner manger and distribute responsibilities seeking a broad contribution from other Directors.
It's important to recognise that a board meeting differs from a management meeting as the board needs to focus on the governance of the business and not day to day activities or projects. This is very important and you may have to discuss matters that may well be uncomfortable, possibly even affecting your department.
As the business grows, it may well require submissions from each board member but in early stage a broad CEO report may suffice.
What follows are some key areas that should form part of the agenda, even in very early stage businesses:
1. Conflicts of interest
Provide an opportunity for all board members to voice any conflicts of interests for recording in the company minutes.
2. Financial matters
Discuss performance to date and the most recent management accounts. As a minimum you will require a P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow. A market / sales (or income) forecast and budgets are useful. It's important to ensure that the business is viable and the cash flow forecast is critical. In many technology companies, the board may consist of Engineers, scientists or similar. It's very important that all Board members understand key performance, cash flow and solvency ratios. If not, seek council before hand and be prepared to address any identified concerns.
3. Business objectives
Discuss the performance of the business in meeting agreed strategic objectives, such as within the business plan, Balance Scorecard or similar.
4. Risk Management
Assess the business risk register considering any new entrants and any change in levels. There are numerous examples of risk registers available online. The key is to keep this very high level to allow the board to discuss those risks that significantly impact the business such as reputation, cash, workforce H&S, IPR and legal matters etc.
In some more established organisations, a QHSE Manager may form part of the team. If not, ensure that the responsibility for HSE matters is delegated to a board member.
Discuss any encroaching legislation etc., any possible impact..
Ensure the business is adequately insured, considering any additional insurance requirements as the business grows. Just as important, make sure the board is made aware of what insurance isn't in place.
Any legal matters in progress such as those relating to claims, new alliances etc.
Discuss any new requirement for polices.
Make sure you have ample time to discuss irregular matters such as a new lease, key appointments and such like.
Have a board schedule for the year.
Ensure there is an agenda to keep matters on track.
Ensure that minutes are taken so that they form part of company records but also used for the next board meeting.
Ensure that board members are aware of their duties and responsibilities.
Avoid interruptions - let staff know that this is not a usual team, project or Management meeting.