Lessons Learned from Preparing for Our First Board Meeting

As this post goes live, I’ll likely be starting our first Board Meeting. 

My first Board Meeting, too. I’ve attended, participated, and contributed to Board Meetings at several stops in my career but this will be the first Board Meeting I lead. 

We have talked a lot about building in public. As much as we want to talk about content marketing and B2B marketing in general, we also want to share our own entrepreneurial journey in hopes that it helps other entrepreneurs along the way. Even if it’s not helpful, we hope it’s an enjoyable peek behind the curtains. 

So, I’m currently leading my first Board Meeting. 

And that brings me to my first piece of advice. And really, it’s not my advice. This was advice shared with me from Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO of Casted, “Remember, it’s your meeting.” For a first-time CEO, it could be easy to be star struck by the people on your Board (trust me) or potentially, intimidated. As best as you can, remember it’s your meeting for you to lead. And really, it’s not her advice either.

She told me she learned that lesson from RJ Talyor, CEO of Pattern89. 

That brings me to my second piece of advice. 

Seek out other CEO’s and get advice from them. Every CEO had a first Board Meeting. There’s a punchline to be given here -- I won’t do it, though. 

And every CEO I’ve talked to loves sharing their own experiences, advice, and failures. I look forward to learning from our first meeting and doing the exact same a year or two from now. 

Thank you to Mitch Causey at DemandWell, Lindsay at Casted, RJ at Pattern89, and Scott Kraege at Techpoint for sharing their lessons with me.  I will pay it forward.  

In addition, I would recommend Matt Blumberg’s Startup CEO Book to any aspiring entrepreneur. There’s a lot of great board content in this read. 

I would feel silly sharing much of my own advice before the meeting itself. I can do that at a later date. After, you know, I’ve actually had the meeting and learned a lot. 

What I thought could be helpful to other Entrepreneurs going through this experience is sharing a little more about how we prepared. 

Our Process:
I don’t think there’s a definitive process for any of this. Different businesses and different Boards require different items. Here’s what we did:

  • 3 weeks out: prepared an outline of what to share (more on this later), and circulated it with our team and key stakeholders. 
  • 2 weeks out: gathered content for first draft and re-circulated with key stakeholders 
  • 1 week out: finalized the draft (yes, an oxymoron) and shared with the Board Members 

The Materials: 

In addition to sharing the presentation, we also shared a pre-read with our Board. Our meeting is on a Thursday, we sent these materials on the Friday before to give the group the weekend and several business days to review. 

The “ask” of these materials was that they review the “updates” section of the materials so that we could spend more time covering our challenges and action items as a group during the meeting. A very high-level of the Pre-Read is outlined below: 

  • Summary of Action Items from this letter (this is a nice TL;DR bullet point list) 
  • A Look Back at the First Quarter: I like sharing a more qualitative narrative of the business here. They will review plenty of quantitative information throughout this process. 
  • Wins: it’s nice to highlight these as part of your Q1 Narrative
  • Financial Updates: primarily focused on Q1 Results and Q2 Forecasting
  • Q2 Goals: Looking forward now
  • Board Meeting Prep: here I linked to the presentation and asked for them to review prior to the meeting
  • Action Items & Discussion Topics: A high-level overview of the challenges that I would like for them to give some forethought to
  • Conclusion: returning to the narrative and wrapping the letter 

In total, this was four pages. I’ve heard others always keep this to one page and I’ve seen others have 20+ pages. At this stage, four feels appropriate. 

The Presentation: 

This is the deck that we’ll go through on the day of the meeting. With this being our first meeting I have likely spent too much time with this deck. I have requested feedback from our Board on what they do and don’t like about this structure so we can have a repeatable template for future meetings. The template will make creating the deck more efficient and familiarize the audience with what they’re stepping into on a quarterly basis. 

Here’s the agenda that we have for our 2.5 hour meeting: 

  •  Business Updates: 45 minutes
  • Approvals & Financials
  • The Vision
  • The Team 
  • Product & Technology 
  • Pipeline 
  • Q1 Outcomes & Q2 Goals
  • Celebrate Wins: 15 minutes 
  • Action Items and Discussion Topics: 90 minutes
  • Recap & Accountability 
  • Executive Session

With this being our first meeting, we’ve likely over-indexed on the Business Updates but we want to set a strong foundation for the audience. 

And finally, the best advice I have is surround yourself with people that make your job easy. As I’ve written previously, we have a big vision and a great team pursuing it. This is my opportunity to brag about them. I look forward to it. 

If you’re interested in joining this team and pursuing the vision apply for our open roles: 

If you want to take me up on the advice of seeking others out, email me at jgandolf@thejuicehq.com

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