Becoming a CEO of your own company is a significant milestone — one that many business owners are unprepared for, despite their efforts to get there. In the food and beverage industry, the business aspect of running your own company can be challenging to deal with at first. Most entrepreneurs get into the industry because of their passion for food, not necessarily board meetings and crunching numbers.
But after you get funding, working with a board of directors will become one of your new tasks as the CEO. Knowing when to accept their input and when to push back comes with time and experience. However, if you’re having trouble now, or you are wondering how best to manage a board of directors, take a look at these tips:
Set Expectations and Define Roles
It will be up to you to set expectations, both for yourself and the board members. You should make it clear that the board of directors does not run an organization, even though their input will certainly be valued. It’s also something you should know as well — board members aren’t going to be involved in any operational or administrative issues. Their primary role is helping with the mission and strategy of the company.
Every CEO should work with their board, not against it, but that can sometimes happen if expectations aren’t set and the board members become overbearing. As the CEO, the final word is yours. While their different perspectives on the same issue should be carefully examined and assessed, all parties involved should be aware that the CEO makes the decisions.
Have a Good Strategy
Strategies will often reveal their flaws too late in the process of implementation unless they’ve been properly evaluated. No matter whether your board of directors is difficult or easy to work with, they will want to know your strategy, and it better be a good one.
What that means is that you should make it cohesive and truly commit to a single way of doing things, rather than trying to balance between two or more. When developing a strategy to present to the board, assess your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and start building from there.
To nip communication problems in the bud when dealing with the board of directors, you need to be proactive. Effective communication is one of the foundations of a good working relationship with the board, so keep them informed about the things they need to know.
Those include both minuscule and significant strategy changes that influence the execution of your overall plan, product launches, and other initiatives. The board is usually aware of the fact that plans are prone to changes, but they need to know why they’re changing before you commit to it. Agree with them about your plans and back-up options ahead of time, so that it’s easier to keep their involvement optimal.
Learn when to Email and when to Set a Meeting
Generally speaking, there is no need for a board meeting unless there is a complicated issue that you wish to discuss with the board. It’s perfectly acceptable to update the board via email if things are running smoothly and there is no bad news to report.
The frequency of the emails will depend on your preferences as those of the board. A short email once a week should be more than enough — or it can be bi-weekly or monthly. When presenting problems or opportunities to the board, make sure you’re also exploring the possible options of dealing with the issues or making the best possible use of the possibilities.
Schedule Meetings Well in Advance
CEOs lead busy lives, but so do board members. It’s a good practice for companies that are still in the early stages to have regular board meetings every few months. That way, both you and the board can prepare well in advance. Send them all materials well before the meeting, so they can have time to go through the decks and prepare their input.
Send this material a week before the meeting is optimal. This way, the metrics you’ll be discussing won’t be outdated, and the board will have enough time to evaluate them. A couple of weeks beforehand is the right time to notify the board of the agenda, usually consisting of less than six key topics.
Open Feedback Channels
It’s essential to open feedback channels to the board, but you should do so in a sensible way that won’t have you overwhelmed. Before or after board meetings is a good time to invite feedback from the board regarding the topics you’re discussing during the meeting. Make sure to set a time for open discussion and questions after the main agenda of the board meeting has been covered.
You can invite them to ask you questions, or ask them whether the topics you discussed fulfilled their expectations. Make sure also to give them time to discuss things in private – board members only. They can talk about the meeting amongst themselves and appoint one person to relay their feedback.
Being transparent and open with the board will go a long way in ensuring smooth sailing when it comes to your relationship with them. By sending them notices about important news and events, whether they’re positive or negative, you get them used to open discussion of all issues and enhance trust.
That way, they’ll start letting you decide when there is a need to exchange information and opinions and trust that you’re handling yourself well. When the CEO is transparent, there’s no room for the board to become intrusive or burdensome.
Key Takeaways Managing your own company is a challenge, and adjusting to the role of the CEO takes time. When it comes to dealing with the board of directors, you need to learn quickly, set expectations, and set the tone of your cooperation as early as possible. As a food entrepreneur turned CEO, you must decide how well you’re going to follow industry insights and adjust to your new role, including working with the board of directors.