We’ve crossed 3,000 posts and answers on SaaStr and I’ve yet to write one on How to Have a Great Board Meeting, or most other VC tropes. I will write that post, soon, however, just from a founder perspective. But I thought it might be useful to assemble a “Top 10” list of things that are relatively easy to do, that will make your investors and board happier. Even if your board is just a tax, even if your investors never help, your life will still be better and easier if they are happier.
So here’s my list of Top 10 Suggestions:
- Send out Monthly Investor Updates — 48 Hours After the Month Ends. This is your best hack. The key here is not to spend a ton of time on it. You should already know your MRR, cash burn, NPS, all your key metrics almost immediately after the month ends. So send it out! List your top few key metrics (MRR, growth, cash burn, NPS, etc). Do a full bullets on What Went Well, What Didn’t, and Where We Could Use Your Help. And make sure this Monthly Investor update isn’t a huge burden. It has to pass the 20 Minute Test. A quick, month-end update shouldn’t take longer than 15-20 minutes to assemble. Save that for board meetings, quarterly updates, etc.
- Get Board Meeting Materials Out 3 Days Before the Board Meeting. I know, board meetings again. But your best hack here is to get the materials out 3 days ahead of time. That instills huge confidence in your investors. The slides that don’t show up until the morning of the meeting? Confidence destroyer.
- Have Clarity on, and Share, your Zero Cash Date. You should know exactly when you are running out of money … and update that date every month or so. Share it, so everyone knows and can plan accordingly. More on that here.
- Have Your Team Present More, and You Less. All-hands meetings, board meetings, whenever. Yes, you are the CEO. But everyone hears from you all the time. Your investors and others will learn a lot more hearing about sales from your VP of Sales … not you. This also will make you appear to be a much stronger manager. Don’t try to talk over your weakest VPs and managers. Instead, backfill.
- Ask Your Investors How Happy They Are on a Scale of 1-10. At least, the ones you might want a second check from. You don’t have to do this every week. But learn your Investor NPS. If you ask for a firm number, you’ll get it. And importantly, it likely will be different than you think.
- Transparency is Key, But Stay Positive. I sort of made this mistake, as do many driven founders I work with. It’s easy to be self-critical. But if your growth is OK, make sure to have as many positives and negatives. Even investors need positive reinforcement. They need the truth, but both the good and the less-than-good.
- Invest More Time In The “Heavy Lifter”. VCs have this annoying term of “heavy lifter”, by which they mean the one investor or board member that does most of the “work”. As founders you can snicker at this, as if being an investor or board member is so much work. It isn’t, compared to a CEO. But that aside, usually one investor will be the one that helps you most recruit the team, recruit more capital, promote the company, be its biggest champion. Don’t take this for granted. Spend more time with her or him. She’s the one that will produce the most downstream benefits for you.
- Don’t Expect Another Check from Any of Them. Just assume none of your investors invest again. This will de-stress a lot of relationships right there.
- Most Importantly — Do Not Hide Bad News. This is the #1 mistake I see. Communication and updates tail off during tough times. That’s backwards. Professional investors are OK losing money. What stresses them out are surprises. Any bad news you have, they’ve already seen before in another start-up. Share it, and share it without judgment.
This checklist may seem somewhat obvious, but do all these things and your stress level with investors will be lower. And most importantly, you won’t have to look over your shoulder. Not knowing if you can trust your investors is stressful. Take that out of the equation, and you can focus that energy on more productive things. Like growing faster.