Building board best practices as a first-time founder

Surfboard team

Published on Aug 9, 2023

When Oana Manolache, founder and CEO of, first started working with a board, she did what most first-time founders do: followed what the blogs said. But it didn't take her long to realize that run-of-the-mill articles didn’t hold the answers she was looking for.

Since then, she hasn’t been afraid to throw conventional wisdom out the window and build her own best practices based on her company’s actual needs. And her creative approach to board management has transformed a painful process into an immensely valuable one.

Here are 5 lessons we learned from our conversation with Oana:

1. Boards can be valuable assets for first-time founders

While many people avoid having a board at seed, it can actually be a powerful resource, especially for first-time founders. Your board can help support you as you learn how to be a founder and build a business. It doesn’t have to be anything formal—even just casual brainstorming can be valuable. And any of the processes you put in place now will help you build a foundation of what it means to manage a board as you grow.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of a good prep process

Nobody wants to sit in a meeting for hours and hours. But if you try to cram everything into your meetings, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Instead, invest more time in meeting prep. Send materials 1-2 weeks in advance and give people time to ask questions. This gives you time to clarify any important points before the meeting, so you can get to high-priority discussions faster day-of. If the idea of investing more time in meeting prep sounds impossible, think about what tasks you can cut. Ditching slide decks literally cut Sequel’s prep time in half (they use Surfboard now, which we obviously think is great option).

3. Follow-up is just as important as the meeting itself

Ideas and intentions only get you so far—you have to identify clear action items and follow through on your plans if you want to see progress. Make sure everyone knows what your action items are and follow up individually with people who can help with specific tasks. It can also be helpful to block time on your calendar specifically for post-meeting follow up so you don’t have to worry about squeezing it in.

4. Stop reporting, start driving the conversation

Your numbers are what they are, so stop worrying about how to report them. Instead, think about how you can drive the conversation to your advantage. If your numbers aren’t where you wish they were, consider why. What areas of the business need some extra attention? Where can you benefit from insight or advice from your board? If done well, these conversations will lead to better numbers next quarter.

5. Choose what works for you and forget the rest

At the end of the day, you have to find the format that’s best for you. While replicating what others do can be a good jumping off point, no solution is one-size-fits-all. Start paying attention to the things that frustrate you. Why are they frustrating? What would make it better? Don’t be afraid to experiment and iterate until you find something that works. Failure is part of the process!

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