What are board meetings like?

deas7's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | 245

For anyone that is on/attended board meetings, what are they like? I would assume there's probably some standard procedures (discussing financials/budget) with the rest of time focused on specific pressing issues currently facing the business. Can someone educate me? Also would be curious to the tone of it all, whether it's super dry or more conversational.

Comments (16)

Feb 7, 2019


Feb 7, 2019

In my experience, they run for maybe 4-6 hours with a working lunch in the middle.

Company prepares a deck that you run through but it's conversational and people jump in with questions.

You discuss recent performance, recent developments, big strategic issues facing the business. Board grills the management team on trends. There are often specific topics that the group is trying to grapple with, debate, and come to a consensus on. Sometimes there are things for the group to approve as well, like new locations, M&A, a budget, etc.

At the end of the meeting, there's usually a short private session where it's just CEO and none of his / her subordinates; the board will ask more sensitive questions at this point, often about personnel, succession planning, hiring / firing, etc.

    • 1
Feb 8, 2019

Been an agenda item at a board meeting. Had to present (as a vendor / partner) to a board regarding their entry into a new revenue line and our service offering (essentially we would be running that part of the business and sharing fees). Very much as described above. lasted about 2 hours in the middle of their meeting. 7 or 8 members in the room, 5 or 6 connected via video conference. We presented slide deck. They peppered us with questions. After we left they voted and the CEO gave us the positive news later. Pretty much an all day event for them. It took us several months to get on the agenda.

    • 1
Feb 8, 2019

Only thing I'd add to the above posts is that it varies company by company and the company size.

PE firms usually have a specific way they like to force their portfolio companies to run board meetings, which makes sense because it makes everything easier to systemize.

Venture capital firms do too but they're more flexible (usually), especially early stage VCs because they know it's not a good idea to bog down operators with a ton of bullshit that makes no sense to focus on relative to company size.

Most Helpful
Feb 8, 2019

It really depends... I take part to board meetings where an agenda is sent out by the company secretary and most of the time is extremely boring (e.g. all the compliance stuff in the quarterly meeting of the fund).

But I also attend board meetings where the discussion goes directly down to business, commenting last month management accounts, strategy, changes to be done in the company/pipeline/etc.

Some are really relaxed, others are more formal (think people calling by name vs. Mr X/Y/Z).

I'd say that in listed companies, funds or businesses that have gone through some serious trouble (read turnaround), the directors might want to play it safe to avoid issues (read save their ...s).

In my experience, except for board meetings where something important shall be discussed (e.g. new 3-years plan with incentives for the employees, approval of financials), it's often a matter of an hour or so. But I'm in the LMM field, where smaller size means smaller businesses, revenue streams, products, headcount, etc...

    • 3
Learn More

9 LBO Modeling Tests, 10+ hours of PE Cases and 2,447+ interview insights across 203 private equity funds. The WSO Private Equity Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to break into the competitive PE industry. Learn more.

Feb 8, 2019

everyone sits around and pretends that things are going well and the bad items are acts of God and out of mgmt.'s control.

    • 10
Feb 8, 2019

Or blame previous CEO/CFO, if changed up to 2 years ago.

    • 1
Feb 10, 2019

Oh man. This. I was in a board meeting for a portfolio company once where the business had lost its single largest customer (like ~35% of revenue, ~20% of EBITDA) and the CEO came into the meeting all cheery and upbeat and spun it into how great it was that 1) margins improved instantly, 2) servicing that customer was difficult compared to the others and more time-consuming and expensive, and 3) now there was open capacity in production that BD could use to target new accounts.

The partner was basically like "if it's so great to lose them, then I'd be pissed that you hadn't fired them already." The color drained from the CEO's face and we had a pretty somber discussion after that.

    • 3
Feb 8, 2019

You'll find that half of the port co.'s time is spent thinking about how to spin the numbers into something positive. Pay attention to what they over-emphasis and under-emphasis in their next reporting package. Ie: something stupid like employee turnover has reached an all-time low and spend 20 minutes patting themselves on the back and then they'll gloss over lower margins that month lol

That's a huge concentration risk eh?

Feb 8, 2019

duplicate - delete

Feb 11, 2019

For PE board meetings, generally more productive and conversational (as compared to public board meetings which are often much more procedural). The big difference is who is setting the agenda. In PE, CEO is almost never the chair, which means the CEO doesn't get to rig the agenda with dry stuff that will suck up all the time. The PE board chair will generally put the largest and most pressing issues on the agenda which will be discussed first in the presence of the CEO (most of the meeting) and often followed by an executive session where management is excused and the independent board members discuss further.

If it's a well-run board meeting, IMHO most of the topics will be handled very quickly (just confirmational topics so the board is put on notice of X/Y/Z) and that will leave the bulk of the time for the few deeper topics that need to be discussed and debated in detail.

Feb 12, 2019