This is a guest post by Tim Huntley, EIR at The Startup Factory and the former CEO of Ganymede Software.
Last month, I received an advance copy of Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani’s book, Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors. The tl;dr review is: If you are an early stage entrepreneur, Startup Boards takes the mystery out of how and why you should build a world class board of directors. The advice in the book is practical and actionable and is based on Brad’s and Mahendra’s experience on dozens, if not hundreds, of boards.
As I have gotten more active in mentoring and investing, I have been surprised by how few entrepreneurs appreciate the value of an outside board of directors. When my friends and I left IBM in 1995 to start Ganymede Software, we actively recruited several successful entrepreneurs to join our board. We recognized that we had led a sheltered life inside of IBM, and we wanted help. But even though I appreciated our board, I had zero clue of how to run an effective board meeting. This book would have been invaluable and would have saved me several years of having to figure it out on my own.
The single biggest lesson I had to learn, one that is mentioned multiple times in this book, is to have a consistent board package and to send it out several days ahead of the meeting. By doing this, we were able to move from 80% of the discussion being in the rear view mirror and shift it to 80% strategy and things I needed help with.
Another lesson from the book, and one I am not sure I understood well as a CEO, is that the job of the board is to aid and assist the CEO. I tended to think of the board as a decision making group, but in reality there were very few items around strategy that required a formal vote. Rather, what I needed to do was to take their advice as input and test against all of the other data points I was gathering.
In addition to the logical progression of information in the book, it is rich in anecdotes from folks like Fred Wilson, Scott Weiss, Reid Hoffman, Matt Blumberg, Steve Blank, and others.
Please, if you are an early stage entrepreneur, add this book to your reading list, and reference it as you transition through the different phases of your startup. It will be money well spent.
Tim is the former CEO of Ganymede Software, a venture-backed start-up he co-founded in 1995 with three friends from IBM. After growing to 100 people and $13 million in revenue, Ganymede was acquired by Mission Critical/NetIQ in early 2000. Tim is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at The Startup Factory in Durham, North Carolina, and a board member of the Track and Field Athletes Association.