How we run board meetings at Seeking Alpha

Before the meeting

  1. Invite input — ask the board members before the meeting for their wish list of discussion topics for the meeting and board packet.
  2. Send out the board packet early — to allow everyone to read it in advance.
  3. No powerpoint in the board packet — because it isn’t conducive to rigorous analysis. Instead, I write a letter which references a comprehensive set of  time-series charts.
  4. Be transparent — share the board packet with the whole company before sending it to board members, and ask for comments. (We use Google docs.)

The meeting itself

  1. No dial-ins — because it kills the conversation. If someone can’t attend, I’ll call them the following week to update them.
  2. Don’t go through the board materials during the meeting — we assume everyone read them in advance.
  3. No texting or emailing during the meeting — so we provide a break for people to make calls or email.
  4. Never make decisions during the board meeting — group dynamics are unpredictable and an unreliable decision making mechanism.

6 thoughts on “How we run board meetings at Seeking Alpha

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    • Chang, I think the relationship between a board of directors and a CEO is the same as the relationship between any manager and their report: you need to empower the person to do their job, and to make decisions. The role of the manager (in this case the board) is to:
      — ensure you’ve got the right person in the role, and monitor them to ensure that hasn’t changed;
      — agree on goals and metrics, so the person has a clear definition of success;
      — provide perspective which the person doesn’t always have when they are in the thick of the job day to day;
      — help them think through challenges;
      — be supportive — be a good listener, and be sympathetic to the pressure of their job.

      None of these things entail decision making, other than the decision to fire someone if they are not right for the role.

      Very rarely, a major strategic issue comes up which requires the participation of other stakeholders in the decision. For example, if there’s an offer to acquire the company and the company is trying to decide whether or not to sell, the investors clearly have a direct stake in that decision.

      But even then, my guess is that group discussions aren’t very effective. The CEO should speak to every board member individually before the board meeting, and should try to know each person’s viewpoint before the meeting.

  3. Pingback: Don’t make decisions in board meetings | A Founder's Notebook

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