Minimum Viable Board Member

Fred wrote a great post recently about the importance of doing the heavy lifting as an investor and board member. I wholeheartedly agree and it’s the biggest reason I got into the venture capital business. The boards that I’m on that are the most collaborative and afford numerous opportunities to do heavy lifting have been the most productive and rewarding. Similarly, the ones that are least collaborative - and therefore provide fewer opportunities to do heavy lifting - have been my least rewarding and least productive uses of time. While not a large enough data sample to be meaningful, the businesses with more collaborative boards / CEOs have outperformed the others.

Given the volume of newly minted VCs who have entered the industry in recent years, I thought it might be valuable to share some feedback on what I believe is not acceptable behavior from a board member. I've witnessed some unfortunate displays in board meetings over the past few years and each of the below cases are real life examples, more often than not from recognizable firms who have raised more than one fund:

  • Prioritize the meetings and do your best to attend the vast majority of them in person. There’s no substitute for sitting in the same room hashing it out together.
  • Don’t show up perpetually late to every meeting. It’s disruptive to other board members and most of all, the management team. Plan accordingly so that you arrive on time and are seated when the meeting begins.
  • If it’s the rare exception and you need to participate via telephone / video, carve out the full length of the meeting to be seated at a desk without distraction for you or the other meeting participants.
  • Do not dial in from a taxi. This includes while you’re en route to the board meeting running 40 mins late. This is distracting and disrespectful. Better to not attend.
  • Don’t leave the meeting early. If you’re there, stay to the end.
  • Do not under any circumstances ask the CEO if she can end the meeting 30 mins earlier than scheduled because you have somewhere to go after. <— This was one of the most oblivious and insensitive behaviors by a board member that I’ve witnessed.
  • Turn off your cell phones. Don’t check email. Pay attention.
  • Don’t grab the microphone at every opportunity to share a personal war story. It’s not about you.