The cost of board meeting crunch

Surfboard team

Published on Jul 28, 2023

For one full week every quarter, work piles up, stress spikes, and teams burn countless hours scrambling to prep for their board meetings.

This phenomena isn’t unusual. It happens at companies of all sizes and stages. In all industries. And all levels of maturity. In fact, in all the conversations we’ve had with founders, board meeting crunch is one of the most commonly mentioned sources of stress.

If something is so dreaded and so universal, you have to wonder—why continue to do it?

It’s just the way we do things

The truth is: board practices are almost as ingrained as they are outdated.

If you ask teams why they approach board meetings the way they do, you’ll probably hear lots of answers like “we’ve always done it this way” or “that’s what we’ve seen other boards do.”

For the most part, people don’t think twice about how to work with their board.

It’s almost a given that you meet with your board four times a year.

And you probably have little-to-no interaction with your board outside of that.

Before meetings, you wrack your brain to remember everything you accomplished over the last quarter and retroactively collect data.

You compile some of that data into a report you send in advance, and jam the rest into a slide deck that you’ll read through point-by-point during the meeting.

This workflow is almost universal, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that both CEOs and board members tend to find meetings frustrating and low value. Even worse, this approach can come at a huge cost to your company.

Wasted time is wasted opportunity

Board meeting prep isn’t just stressful, it’s incredibly time consuming. Teams often burn an entire week just compiling data and making slides. In the meantime, work on key objectives either slows down or stops altogether.

During the meetings themselves, a huge amount of time is wasted covering past status updates, which—aside from accomplishing the bare minimum of keeping everyone on the same page—doesn’t add any real value to your company.

Even the cadence of board meetings is inefficient; if your board is only focused on your business four weeks out of the year, they can’t possibly make informed decisions over time.

Taken as a whole, these practices create massive inefficiencies. They waste time, burn money, and destroy momentum.

And while bigger, more established companies might be able to float the waste, companies with limited resources simply can’t afford to. Rethinking your approach to board meetings can literally make or break your company.

So how can you do it differently?

Stop doing things you don’t have to do

There’s no rule that says you have to have a slide deck, for example. Take a step back, ask yourself honestly if something is adding value, and if there isn’t a good reason to do it, don’t.

Consider where spending time actually creates value

Board meetings are your opportunity to tap into your most valuable resource. Use that time to dig into important discussions, make strategic decisions, and get aligned on your vision and priorities.

Ask yourself: What do I need input on? How can I use my board’s expertise to accelerate my company’s growth? What ideas, issues, or goals need the most attention?

At the very least, we recommend allocating your meeting time for discussions instead of updates (updates can and should be shared asynchronously, in real time). But the sky is the limit here. Get creative and don’t just follow the bad habits other people have created.

Embrace collaboration

If you can, stop treating your board like a group of people you have to report to four times a year. Your board should be working for you and collaborating with you. Ask them for help on specific tasks. Delegate some of the work. Embrace asynchronous communication and find ways to leverage your board’s expertise on an ongoing basis.

You don’t run your company four times a year, so why run your board that way?

Say goodbye to board meeting crunch

Surfboard is designed to help you save time, communicate better, and grow faster. By automating workflows and enabling asynchronous collaboration, Surfboard makes it easier to build momentum and drive continuous progress, so you never have to crunch again.

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