8 Lessons on Board Management with Ted Blosser, CEO & Co-Founder, WorkRamp
November 30, 2023
Learning Tips Straight to Your Inbox
Board management is crucial in an organization’s decision-making process and overall success. In our first-ever monologue-style episode of the LEARN podcast, WorkRamp’s CEO and Co-Founder, Ted Blosser, shares the lessons he learned while building and scaling a company.
Discover Ted’s eight tips for building professional relationships and running successful, purpose-driven board meetings.
In this post:
1. Practice good board management hygiene
The way you run your board meetings is a reflection of how you run your business. Send the right message to board members, but practice proper hygiene. This includes setting clear expectations, practicing effective communication, and being well-prepared for board meetings.
“If you have sloppy hygiene, [your board members] probably think you’re running the company in a sloppy way,” Ted says. “Making sure your hygiene is good with the board extends all the way to things like follow-up emails and board consents. You want to have good board hygiene because it’s a reflection on how they think you run the company on a day-to-day basis because that’s your primary interaction point.”
Ted recommends sending board decks 2 to 3 days before a meeting to allow members to review and add comments or questions. This consistency allows the board to have more thoughtful discussions. Presenting well-organized and visually appealing slides also enhances the overall meeting experience.
2. Conduct mid-quarter board syncs
A board should meet more than once a quarter. In fact, Ted recommends holding board syncs after the first two months of the quarter to update members on key topics, risks, and wins.
“You kind of know how your results are going to turn out, and you have a board meeting that first week of the third month,” Ted says. “You want to do this because the board doesn’t want to be presented with surprises. They want to know things early and often, and the mid-quarter sync is a great way to get in front of any issues or things you want to bring up in the next board meeting.”
These syncs allow you to gather feedback, align with board members, and reduce the likelihood of end-of-quarter surprises. Ted recommends scheduling these meetings during the first week of month three to ensure two months’ worth of information is available.
3. Build relationships outside the boardroom
Maintaining strong relationships with members is crucial for effective board management. Ted emphasizes the importance of meeting with each member or a smaller group every two months.
“It’s critical to align on a personal basis outside of the boardroom,” Ted says. “You can get to know them on a personal level, learn about their family and friends, what drives them, what motivates them.
“The one thing you learn at the board level is that everyone has slightly different motivations, and you need to ensure you understand those motivations. Also, you need to make sure that they understand your motivations, and it’s hard to get that across in the boardroom setting. So I highly recommend building these relationships outside the boardroom.”
Arranging these meetings may take extra time, but it helps everyone work together more effectively. Strong relationships facilitate smooth board dynamics and extend beyond the boardroom, aiding networking and potential future collaborations.
4. Bring strong opinions but remain open to discussions
Having strong opinions is important when presenting to the board. Rather than seeking answers, it’s essential to present proposed solutions confidently. Board members may have limited context on a particular topic, and strong opinions lead to more fruitful discussions and guidance. However, allowing room for debate and potentially adjusting the course based on input is essential.
“There’s a phrase my Co-Founder uses that he’s borrowed, I think, from the Amazon leadership, but he calls it have strong opinions, but loosely held,” Ted says. “[The board] doesn’t know as much about the business as you do. So it’s hard for them to give opinions on things, whereas you live and breathe what’s happening in your business.
“Let’s say it’s a problem that you see, you should say, ‘Hey, I have a solution to this problem. This is why I think it’s a good solution, but can you challenge me on other ways to think about this?’ And so again, if they want to challenge you based on their past experiences or the data you’re presenting to them.”
Ted recommends going into the meeting with a strong opinion but not being stubborn about other ideas or solutions. You must be able to take the data and principles and be ready to potentially change your mind.
5. Choose your board members wisely
When selecting board members, it’s crucial to remember that this can be a long-term professional relationship.
“This is a lifelong marriage,” Ted says. “You want to make sure that the people you fundraise from, or even the independents, for example, that you bring into your board, that you choose them wisely. Not only that, but you want to also plan out your board composition over time. You want to think one to two steps ahead.”
Ted shares the three different types of seats that make up a board:
- Common seats. People who represent the company, like employees.
- Preferred seats. Venture capitalists or people putting money into the company
- Independents. People you bring onto the board that are neither common nor preferred.
6. Take compensation seriously
Ted reflects on mistakes he made early on in the series A and B phases, where he took a lackadaisical approach to compensation.
“When I wanted to look at our annual comp for our executives, I just kind of lobbed over an email, and I said, ‘Hey, here’s the comp I think we should do,’ and I got a rubber stamp via email, we didn’t have a live discussion about it,” he says. “When we got to series C and got a new board member, he pulled me aside and said, ‘You need to take compensation way more seriously. This is one of the highest leverage points a board has to change and adjust behavior within a company.'”
After this feedback, Ted and the board set out a whole section about executive comp and ran through different models and scenarios. They solicited feedback and aligned on the best compensation structure.
“As you get to larger boards and become a public company, you have a full comp committee that focuses on this,” Ted says. “But don’t skimp on that in the early days.”
7. Have wingman or wingwoman
A dedicated individual, such as a VP of finance or chief of staff, to assist in board management tasks allows leaders to focus on the strategic narrative and relationships.
“In our series A and series B, I did everything for board management; I was creating the deck, getting all the data from Salesforce and our BI system, and I created the deck from scratch and worked, enslaved away getting everything put together for the board meeting,” Ted says. “What was happening was I was focusing on the slides and the data, and I wasn’t focusing on the narrative or raising up one level to understand, ‘Hey, what do I want to accomplish in the board meeting?'”
A wingman or wingwoman can take on some tactical work of managing the board. This allows you to focus on the narrative and the personal relationships within the board as you head into the meeting.
8. The executive team is a reflection of yourself to the board
You need a strong executive team to positively impact the perception of leadership within the board.
“One thing I didn’t realize is [the board] monitors and evaluates the executive team,” Ted says. “It’s a reflection of who you are as a leader. Just like in a sports team, the players on the court or field reflect the GM picking the players.
“No matter if they do well or poorly, it will reflect back to the GM. And so it’s a really important analogy to think about that. The executive team you’re hiring needs to be the best executive team you can have.”
Managing a board effectively directly impacts an organization’s success. These eight lessons from Ted offer valuable insights into achieving board alignment, fostering strong relationships, and making informed decisions.
By following these best practices, organizations can confidently navigate board dynamics and drive sustainable growth.
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Maile TimonContent Strategist, WorkRamp
Maile Timon is WorkRamp’s Content Strategist. She has over 10 years of experience in content marketing and SEO and has written for several publications and industries, including B2B, marketing, lifestyle, health, and more. When she’s not writing or developing content strategies, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her family.
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