March 19, 2015
User-Driven Product at Stack Overflow & Stack Exchange
In this Heavybit Speaker Series talk, Jeff offers lessons from his experience building Stack Overflow, Stack Exchange, and most recently, Di...
So, we needed a catchy title and we chose this one just to see if we could lure enough people down here to make this talk worthwhile.
Knowing a little bit about the size of companies that are at Heavybit, and the folks that I have interacted with in office hours and stuff like that, I'm pretty sure that most of you wouldn't qualify your boards, if you even have any, as broken. It's more about making sure that you don't get to a place where your board is broken or a governance process for your company that is not helping out. Which is part of what this talk is designed to do.
As Tom mentioned, I was the CEO of a company called Hyperic. The reason why that is relevant is because it was through the journey at Hyperic that I learned pretty much everything I know about corporate governance and boards. Specifically, I was tasked with running a board meeting before I had ever attended one. I suspect that that may be the case for a lot of you as you move from probably a more informal relationship with your seed stage investors into a formal relationship with professional investors, VCs and the like.
So, let's get right to it.
How many of you have boards? Okay, you guys â€” Meteor guys, right? Okay. Anyone else? Jessie has one. Jessie is familiar with it. Okay, excellent!
What is the purpose of a board meeting? And this is actually not meant to be a rhetorical question. I'm genuinely curious to see, and have you guys throw out one word answers for this. I'll give you the first one: I thought it was governance.
For an early stage company, what is the purpose for a board meeting? Jessie?
To give VCs updates on the deck.
No. Good try. I did ask for a one-word answer.
Not an answer. Anyone else?
Okay. Not either. Good try though.
Sales leads, hiring â€” all of these answers are all wrong. All great ideas. All very well-intentioned ideas. Actually, I wonder if anybody has actually attended a board meeting in a room like that. That room reminds me of Tron, the 1982 version of Tron, a very sort of 80s take on what a corporate board room actually looks like. Most of my board meetings lately take place in that board room right there, or in one upstairs if we don't annoy the third floor people too much.
The key purpose of a board meeting for an early stage company is something that's really important to understand. It's not the usual things. This isn't a reporting thing. There are elements of reporting, yes. It's not about governance even though there is a little bit of governance involved. It's not about firing the CEO, although again, that is also a part of what the board is enabled to do and one of their heavier and arguably more clumsier weapons.
We're going to explore this. I'm going to try to tell you all, from my own experience, how this played out for me, specifically, at Hyperic. How this has changed from those days into what I'm doing now. And how I'm running the board process for my new company Acompli.
The real purpose of a board meeting for an early stage company is â€” and I'm a very, very big fan of this kind of airplane analogy:
When you're building a small company, a technology company in particular, your first job is to assemble the plane and then take off. Then, the next job is to keep the thing flying basically.
Often, the state of that airplane is shoddy at best. In case you're curious, this is Mr. Cessna. I believe it is this fellow right here, and his team of "founders," as we would call them today, or "other crazy people" as they would have called them in 1922, or whenever this picture was actually taken.
The idea is early stage board meeting is what's going to help you turn this. . . into that. So that, for those of you who are not aviation geeks, is a 787 Dreamliner made by good old Boeing.
This is what we aspire to. This is why we're here at Heavybit. This is why we're at startups. We are here to start with a very shitty airplane that we barely can fly, whose engine is prone to breaking down, and with a team of not even mechanics just very, very eager people, to take flight, and then get to this. To get to a very shiny plane with high speed, long range, comfortable seating, etcetera.
I personally believe that the board process, if you will, is a key instrument in getting you here. What I mean by that is that it wasn't until I actually had the accountability of a Board of Directors staffed by professional investors, in my particular case at Hyperic, with folks from Excel and Benchmark â€” two excellent VC firms, as well as some outside directors, that I was thinking in 787 Dreamliner terms.
Before we actually raised money from VCs, we spent two years bootstrapping the company and during that time it was pretty much about survival. There was, by the way, no seed funding, no Heavybit. There were none of the things that we now have that can help companies navigate the very difficult, early process of idea to go-to-market to scale, etcetera. Those were not available.
We jumped right in from this sort of, "let's try to keep this plane flying" â€” and it was me and 4 other co-founders â€” into "oh my god, we have professional investors and that is awesome."
The first disconnect for me was these two investors, in particular, on my board, were always thinking in terms of 787 Dreamliners. When we came in, and this is a true story, and walked into the first or the second board meeting â€” it was probably the second one. Because the first board meeting, frankly, after an investment is made, for those of you who haven't gone through this yet, there's a lot of high-fiving and hugging and "Yeah! Let's go to dinner!" And all that kind of fun stuff.
It's after that first hug-it-out meeting that you get to the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately phase. You will likely stay in that phase for quite some time, if you're lucky, or you'll get fired.
Very early on with my two investors, we walk into this board meeting. We had set a financial plan for the company. We were already profitable. We had been doing somewhere in the vicinity of a million, a million two, in revenues. We were a healthy company, something that today I'd be killing for. I walk in victorious. It was quarter end and we're like, "Yes, great board meeting!"
I thought, okay, time to give them the report. Here's the plan. We said we were going to do, and I actually remember exactly what the number was â€” $325,000 was the bookings target for that particular quarter. This is in late 2006, Q3. I'm like, "Well, board members, welcome. I'm happy to report that we didn't do $325,000, we actually did $362,000! And so I'll pause right now so that you can all kiss my ass collectively and applaud our joyous overachievement of our number."
The silence was pretty painful. In fact, what I had done there, because again, my board members were looking for this, was I had taunted the beast. I had bragged about achieving a number that personally, as a crew of people who had been bootstrapping a company for two-and-a-half years and saw the first $750 check that came in to Hyperic. I celebrated that and literally it was like "10 bucks for you, 10 bucks for you, 10 bucks for you, 50 for the kitty," that kind of thing.
To go in there and get basically punched in the gut on account of having overachieved a number and have my investor, and I will for the purposes of this part, not name names, but assume it was one of the two investors in my company, say, "What was our number last year? How much money did we do last year?" Whatever he said, which I remember, but I won't bore you with it, basically trivialized the achievement the company had made the year before.
The year before there was no venture investment and literally we had taken this company, for those of you who don't know the story, from the Sequoia Capital trash heap, quite literally. This was a company that Sequoia had invested upwards of $32 million into, and we salvaged this product. Five engineers had bootstrapped it for two years and brought it from zero to over a million dollars in bookings. Through all kinds of unnatural and painful acts, most of which involved me on the phone calling every single lead and saying, "Hi, I'm Javier. How are you? And so you downloaded our product. What did you think?" and all that.
To hear somebody not only not react to our overachievement, but also go the extra step and suggest that what we had done up until that point was crap was really too much for my Puerto Rican-ness to be able to hear at the time.
So what did I do? My reaction was the wrong the reaction. I literally said, "You know what, dude? We did a million two before a single dollar from your firm showed up at this company, so you better think long and hard before you come and trivialize any work that we have done here." And while that in the moment felt right. I'm like, "That's right, dude!" It was not the right move and I will walk you through why that is today.
So in an effort to spare any of you who would be trapped into thinking that the board meeting is an opportunity for golf claps and pats on the back and attaboys and whatever else, no, no, no. It is about getting to this.
Audience: What was the one word answer?
What was the one word answer, sorry, to what?
Audience: You said what is the purpose of a board meeting?
The one word answer is inspiration. You have to know, and this is why we're here by the way, if you're building a company the traditional way â€” with sort of no outside capital, you go get a bank loan, you have investors that are not holding you accountable to deliver some kind of unreasonably large outcome â€” the rules are very different and much more practical. The goal is to stay in the game and grow the company.
If you're going down the Sand Hill Road and getting money from anybody whose address is on that street, or anywhere in that vicinity, they're looking for this. So why is that relevant to the story I just told you? Because while I was inspired, I had this idea of getting somebody to hold me accountable to higher achievement and higher results. And the reality was, I was like, "Okay, we have a plan. We set a financial plan that the board approved." As we start executing on it, at the time meeting those objectives, it was really surprising/annoying that in achieving that, I wasn't getting anything other than more questions.
It's about harnessing that inspiration to achieve something bigger, something that I was actually having trouble visualizing, that we wound up at the right answer.
We'll come back to that because that's a very good question.
While we're at that, let me give you a quick peek into the mind of a Venture Capitalist: Slices. Delicious pepperoni slices. They think of things in terms of slices. Your company, which by the way they refer to internally as a project, another example of something I found highly objectionable. To them, it's something they allocate a specific amount of time every week or every day. They allocate a specific amount of time to think about Hyperic or Acompli or Meteor or OnBeep, or any of the different companies that are in here.
It's up to you to figure out, assuming you're in that position as the CEO or as part of the management team, to direct where that time is spent. If you don't, well then all bets are off.
That's when you get the wandering mind of the hyperactive venture capitalist that's going to be emailing you at 2 AM at night, asking you random questions about different things they think you should be doing or people they think you should hire. Or, and this is a very special one that they enjoy tremendously, people they think you should fire.
So why is this important? Well it's important because the board process, not just the board meeting but the board process, your relationship, your ongoing interaction with the investor is your way of directing their time and their attention towards an outcome that will help the company. An outcome that serves that idea of you trying to achieve the 787 Dreamliner outcome. Not the "Hey, local band does okay" kind of outcome which is not what we want.
There are various strategies on how to achieve this, not the least of which is not to wait until the board meeting to start setting expectations and communicating with your board and specifically your institutional investors on what they should be helping you with and how they should be thinking about your company.
More story time. I will require a drink for this. What does a bad board meeting look like? In an effort to spare all of you the very unpleasant experience. Actually, before I tell my story, has anybody had a bad board meeting here? Jessie raises his hand quietly. Anyone else? All hugs and kisses so far? Okay, great. Well, luckily, we don't have board meetings everyday, although I have one on Thursday so I'm going to put all this shit into practice here pretty soon.
A bad board meeting starts with what I just described a minute ago. It starts with egos getting brought into the table and clashes over arguably petty things that are inconsequential and in the moment serve only to create conflict and discord and friction between the entrepreneur, the board, the executive team and the investors.
To put this in more concrete terms, that specific story I told where an investor with an arguably rougher hand than he should have, gave me the tough love that was necessary and was very much a part of me growing up as a first time CEO. That meeting ended very poorly. The whole rest of the meeting was shit. It was basically a series of frustrating remarks about me trying to reassert our level of achievement and our trajectory; and the venture investor now going out of his way to remind me that I had not delivered shit to him yet. Actually, that is true.
The reality was that we were still a tiny company, and for a guy who at the time was actively involved as the first investor in Facebook and a range of other very, very successful companies, to go and look at our quarterly number of 300-and-whatever and says, "Pffff." The really bizarre fact by the way, is in that particular case, I don't know that Facebook was even making money at the time. It's not even really about money as much as it is what are the goals and how are you going above and beyond to achieve them. A bad board meeting is something that should be avoided.
I had another bad board meeting during the course of the 2008 crisis. A meeting where basically, because of the very, very unusual and critical situation that was taking place across the globe, most investors essentially brought every single one of their portfolio companies in, to basically re-establish their right to continue to exist.
Look, it's just part of life. It was not a pleasant process, but it is part of going through this. And in that process, there was a series of mistakes that I made.
I let my personal ego and passion and sort of emotional entanglement with the company get in the way of managing a process that is designed, in the best case, to help you navigate uncharted waters and difficult situations.
Now the good news is I look back on every single one of the bad board meetings that I had, of which there are thankfully not many, and know that I learned something very, very concrete, which I will share with you as part of this presentation.
More importantly, I can also happily say that I can look back on every one of the ass kickings that I got from both my venture investors, as well as my outside directors, as well as the support that they gave me, even during times where there was a lot of very, very strange shit going on in the world, as a big reason why I chose to do it again.
There is actually a silver lining to all of this. The reason behind this talk is not to scare anybody here, but more to help you all potentially avoid making some of the mistakes that I made as a first time entrepreneur. Particularly, as one who had gone through an unusual journey in the course of actually getting to raising venture money and instead get to this place where you are at odds with what your investors want you to deliver.
So, what does a good board meeting actually look like?
Well, a good board meeting is one where hard questions are asked, not every question is answered, but where whatever the dialogue that takes place between the executive team and the board, leads the company to, at a minimum, uncover something very significant that remains unanswered, that will unlock additional growth or potential in the company.
That's all very unspecific, but I'll tell you some concrete examples when I get to the tips on how to actually run these meetings. The reality is a good board meeting is when you actually are able to ride the wave of investor expectations, outside pressures, internal management team turmoil, all the different things that all converge on this blessed occasion that happens, in most cases, every 6 to 8 weeks depending on where you are in your company's process, and you manage to not only have a great discussion, but everybody feels satisfied.
It's not because you went in there and ticked all the boxes and said, "Okay, well so the number was a million two and so we beat that. Great. We needed to hire a new VP of marketing. Got that. Great." It's not a checklist item. In fact, it's actually very the opposite of that. Those things are important, but you've got to get that shit done, not because you need to please the board but because that's what keeps you in business.
A good board meeting is one where you actually raised, or you came prepared to the meeting to talk about some material question or issue that the company is facing that stands between where you are today and achieving that sort of giant, awesome outcome or building that amazing company; and that the board feels satisfied that not only did you come prepared to address that topic, but that they participated in this process. This goes back to the pizza slice in the slide that I had 2 minutes ago.
Investors, professional investors, look at every investment they make as a project. One of the most useful things that I've learned in the experience I've had in raising money from very talented investors is for me Hyperic was like a company, something that was a huge part of me; I was all emotionally intertwined in the thing and my co-founders were as well, and it was like a very, very complicated thing. But, to my investors, it was a project.
The first time I heard them say that I was like, "How dare you refer to my thing, our thing, as a project! That sounds so trivial like as if you have others." They have others. If they're good anyway, they have others.
In fact, when I really understood this whole idea of a project it was: They want to help. The big lesson in terms of interacting and being able to raise capital successfully from professional investors is to enlist their help in a journey, in a project, and having work for them to do. Not because you're going to be handing them tasks, but because they want to get in this car with you. To go and figure out all the shit that you don't know at the A round, you won't know it at the B round. You may know it later when you're raising growth capital, that's a whole other ball game.
In an early stage company, the appeal to an investor is this idea that not every question is answered and that they might be able to not only contribute, but frankly be present at the time that those questions get answered. If you do things right, it is the board process and those kinds of interactions where they help raise your bar and raise your game.
To basically help get you to that place when you say, "You know what, I'm better because I had the chance to work with two fucking awesome guys, who very early on, checked my ego at the door."
They said, "You haven't done shit, dude. Great, you bootstrapped a company and you brought it to a great stage in revenue and you rescued this out of Sequoia's trash heap. Golf clap. That's what our series A money was for. From here on out, the clock gets reset." And the clock frankly, for those of you who are already on the revenue treadmill, gets reset every 90 days. It's basically what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, for good or for bad.
In any case, having a good board meeting is a situation where all of those things kind of fit together. Where, yes, you're reporting the right news, you're raising all the potential bad news elements that may need to be raised and talk through them. But it's one where there is true collaboration taking place between all the members of the board. It's not just the management team filing in there, going through their respective pieces and saying this is what we have to say, thanks a lot, that was great.
If you're having those kinds of board meetings, you're not getting the most out of your investors and likely, in my opinion, you're probably doing it wrong.
Now, let's get specific. Here's the part that some people may find somewhat objectionable. The first tip, and because I'm an engineer, or at least I fancy myself one, I like starting lists at zero, just to annoy the shit out of people.
No board packets. . . Ooooh, no board packets!
I thought, when I first started Hyperic and we had our first set of board meetings, there's a packet, there's a deck that you have to prepare, there's a whole set of things. You've got to send shit in advance, there's a mountain of paperwork, stuff that you've got to send. No. You know why not? Because chances are they won't read it. If they do read it, then why are they coming to the meeting?
If you send the deck and you go through the trouble of preparing a slide deck that doesn't require you and the rest of your management team to be present so that you can walk them through the content and have a discussion, then all you're doing is providing them a reporting framework and you might as well not even have the meeting. Just send them the shit and tell them if they have any questions, they should email you.
That, in my experience, was a recipe for disaster because A, it consumed a tremendous amount of cycles from the management team in advance of the meeting, and B, if anything, it led to investors coming â€” I'm using investors and directors here interchangeably so, please forgive me; this is not a universal truth of investors, it's more of a director thing â€” they arrive at the meeting with the gun cocked and ready to go because they're trained by necessity and by the nature of their job to find the pony.
What is Javier not telling me here? What is in this slide? What is in this particular PNL statement that is the thing that he doesn't want to talk about? What's broken here? There must be something broken here. If you go through the trouble of putting together this beautiful board packet that says, "No man, everything is awesome. Everything is going great."
They're going to be double-motivated to go find some stick to beat you over the head with. And believe me, if you're working with good people, they're going to be smart and they'll find it.
Very early on, I realized that whatever this packet bullshit that I was supposed to do in the 'grand owners' manual' of the venture-backed startup, wasn't working. In fact, it was out of a bad board meeting, that first one that I mentioned where this particular investor took me to task over how much money we had achieved, that in an effort to diffuse what was turning into a very, very toxic board environment, one of my other investors, a good friend of mine and one of the best investors in the Valley, suggested a different approach.
He said, "Javier, you don't understand. We're coming into that meeting and it's like everything's already been figured out and we're just sitting there and you're reporting shit to us. It's boring and it's not making us feel like we're taking part in the discussion."
What you should do is for every board meeting, have a question or some big issue in mind that is going to be the central topic of that board meeting and have that issue be something that is not an immediate issue. You don't have the topic be the VP of marketing search. No that's shit you've got to do.
The topic is something bigger, something that is a few steps ahead of from where you are today that is going to help you as a management team be more disciplined, to anticipate the things that you're going to have to do as you grow from being a shitty airplane that can barely fly into truly being something that's worth riding in for a transatlantic flight.
The way to do that is to start by, for every meeting, you identify 1 maybe 2 things, 2 major topics that are going to be the basis of discussion for the majority of the board meeting. Yes, there will be reporting and yes, we found the VP of marketing or we fired the head of sales or whatever. But this particular strategic and substantial topic should be something that the executive team, and the entire company, is prepared to present an opinion on or a plan on as part of the board meeting.
That second part is crucial. You don't go figure shit out in the board meeting. No, you go there with a big question or some material issue and then a way to solve it and a way then to enlist the board to provide feedback and either validate or shoot holes. You have the discussion. Maybe they think the idea is crap. That's fine.
The goal is, you've got to center all the energy and all the attention and all the discussion around something that's going to be meaningful.
It isn't going to be about mincing little tiny details of your financial plan or different aspects of how you're running your org, or whether or not when you send email it does or doesn't do the right thing.
In addition to having that question, what I chose to do was, I don't want to send a packet that you're not going to read. There are rare occasions where there are documents that require a concerted effort. You don't want to be sitting there reading stuff. You send 7 to 10 days prior to the board meeting this topic and an agenda that says "we will cover da-da-da reporting things, but the major topic of the board meeting is going to be the issue."
We're about to launch our company, so our goal is to discuss not the mechanics of the launch, but specifically the nature of our user acquisition process. Why? Because my goal for this board meeting that I have on Thursday is to have the investors and the board leave that meeting comfortable with the idea that we know the nature of how people are going to arrive at our doorstep, make their way through our website and the app store and all the other bullshit that's involved in getting people to download an app and then be at the other end delighted with the product that we have given them.
I want to have a discussion around that because there's a lot of different elements to that that are very, very important.
So what did I do? A few days ago, last week, I sent an email saying "Hey, this is the major topic. We will also cover product progress, etcetera. But what we really want to discuss is this. If there are any questions or any comments, or if you feel like we should be discussing something else, let me know. What comes back? Immediately, "Sounds great. That is a great agenda and by the way, are we going to cover this aspect of that user acquisition process? Are we going to discuss viral features in the product and see them in action?" Yes. This is now a little bit better.
On the day of the board meeting, going back to board packets, I don't print anything. I print the board minutes and I print actually one copy because they don't take it with them. Why don't I print anything? Because I want them looking at me and my management team and the deck that we're presenting. I don't want them leafing through shit while we're trying to have a discussion.
If you hand somebody a stack of agenda printed slides, do you know what they're going to do? I saw this a dozen times, (page flipping sound). Find the pony. I'm going to find the slide that has the bad news, I'm going to start asking you questions and start struggling to take you off the agenda.
The best investors and the best directors that I ever had the privilege of working with, they all do this.
What's the answer?
"Welcome to the board meeting. Glad to have you here. Do you guys need coffee? We make great coffee down here at Heavybit. Have some coffee. Do you want some Vitamin water or whatever this is? It's delicious. Now let's sit down and let's have this discussion." That's the first one.
Always wear a jacket. Or, for women CEOs and women who are running board meetings, dress in a way that is different from the way that you dress when you normally come to work. Why? Javier, that is really, really, really trite and stupid. No, it's not.
When I attend a board meeting for Acompli, just as it was true when I attended the board meeting for Hyperic, and other board meetings that I've been a part of, I am not Javier in the trenches, CEO. I am Javier the director of this company and also the CEO and I need to have some silly way of forcing myself for that day alone to be in a different place mentally.
And the simple fact of forcing myself to wear a jacket â€” you can rock the business mullet if you want. Business mullet, for those of you who don't know, is the jacket and the jeans. That's the party up top or party down below and business up top thing. I didn't come up with that term, somebody else did, but I like it.
You have to do something that's going to take you into a different mode and that's going to make you be present at that meeting in a different capacity than you would if you're simply there like, "Hey another day at Heavybit." No, I have a board meeting. That meeting, to me, is very important.
For those of you who will be here Thursday, I'll be wearing a jacket.
By the way, no one, not a single board member in my current company, in the past there were some, but of my investors â€” one of them wore shorts. He gets to wear shorts because he wrote me a big fat check. He can wear whatever the fuck he wants to wear. It's basically the honest truth. Me, I wear a jacket. Why? Because I'm running the meeting and I have to be in a certain place.
We came to a place in the days of Hyperic where there was such a thing about me wearing, at the time, a suit. Because it was a bigger company, it was a bigger deal. The board would play this game about whether I wore a tie or not to determine whether we had missed a number. I'm like you guys can keep guessing, whatever amusement you get from the silly fact of me wearing a jacket, I'm still wearing it and that's just part of what this is. So, it's important to me, I find that it would helpful for all of you.
No meetings on Friday. Why? Well, because in the event that you have a shitty board meeting, you're going to simmer on that for a whole weekend.
You and your executive team and arguably your directors and your investors are going to leave that meeting in a state of discontent and concern over your company. I guarantee you, and I speak from experience, that will be the shittiest weekend of your life.
Has that ever happened to anybody? Anybody had board meetings on Fridays? Other than Jessie. You're my boy, Blue.
Why not on Fridays? Because if there is a followup, if there is anything that needs to be discussed as a result of that meeting, it needs to be discussed either immediately after the meeting or the day after and no later. You, as the CEO, or as a member of the executive team or anybody involved in this process, do not have the luxury of letting board-level issues simmer over the course of anything more than 24 hours.
Why? Because, A, time slice mentality will get the best of you and then the investor is going to move away from that and then come back to it with a very different perspective and likely one that will not be to your advantage. And 2, because it's going to suck for you. I did this twice and I regretted both times and never again.
Do not meet at Quadrus, if your investor is at Quadrus, or at 3000 or at whichever one of those buildings they're at. You meet at the company. Why? Because you want your investors and your directors to walk the company, to see the faces of the employees that are working their asses off to make their investment worthwhile.
It is an incredibly grounding thing for a director who's coming in to have a difficult discussion with a board, potentially about having to do a RIF, a reduction in staffing, or to fire the CEO or to make any kind of difficult decision. It keeps everybody grounded on the idea that the company isn't just this project of which you only interact with only very select people on a very rare occasion. No, it has a logo, it has a bunch of people who work there, whose families are hoping that the thing turns out well. There are people involved.
It is very, very important that every one of those meetings take place on your turf. Under no circumstances, and I mean no circumstances, are there to be any board meetings that do not take place in your offices.
Jessie, have you done any board meetings outside your offices? Yes. Anybody else? Meteor guys, do you always meet at your offices? Yes. So, very, very important to keep things local to the company.
The last slide before we do a little open Q & A. I'm happy to elaborate on any of the stories.
There isn't a recipe. One of my biggest mistakes early on when I was a first time entrepreneur and CEO was presuming that there was an owners' manual.
The engineer in me thought that there was for all these routine or otherwise governance-related tasks of running a company, a right way of doing things. That, "Oh yeah, my attorney said that I have to prepare a board packet and he gave me some samples of what the structure and the template of a board deck is. So I've got to fill this shit out and I've got to send it." Or any number of other examples of situations where "there's a way to do this. "The reality is there isn't.
There are generally accepted things that you have to do because it is your fiduciary obligation as the executive of a company and as the board member that some of you may be. But in reality, the process that you should be following is the one that works for your company. It's very important, so I've given you here some tips on how I approach it.
You don't just show up at your next meeting and say, "By the way, you guys, no more board packets," and blah, blah, blah and you implement some sweeping change in a process without getting buy in. You have to not sell this, but basically get everybody on board and explain why you'd like to follow a different process.
The Jedi mind trick, if you will, in all of this, is to think from their perspective. This is a project. It's not even necessarily a company depending on how early you are in this.
So in order for the project and their participation to be enjoyable, productive, useful and worth doing, you are proposing a change to the process you've been following whereby you're no longer tying up your management team for two weeks to try to put up a board deck. Instead you would rather have the management team tied up trying to come up with a plan of attack and some kind of answer to some material question that's going to be the central topic of the board meeting.
A subtle difference, but a very, very material one relative to how the board meetings will go after you change from:
"Let me go and drown you in reports and other sort of mundane items"
"Let's get into the sausage making of building out this business and enlist your help. You're a product person or you're an operations person, let's have you bring the best of what you have to offer, because frankly, if it's about poking holes in spreadsheets and shitty slides, there's ample lists of people that we can enlist for that."
With that, thank you. I hope this is helpful to any of you. I actually wrote a blog post on this that is in essence this same story, but with less pictures, which I'm happy to send. Now I'd love to take questions on the record, off the record. I think this is all good, so, please. Thank you.