A common denominator of successful companies is sound governance. At some early stage in a growing company’s life, putting a board of directors together and agreeing to governance principles is a key success factor. MVF wrote a blog post last October on why establishing a board is critical, and how good governance provides real value to entrepreneurs.  

The art of forming and maintaining a board (or, as the case may be, participating as a board member) is nuanced and worthy of a thoughtful approach. At a high level, this newsletter includes four general themes to keep in mind.

Before we get to that, note that these themes (and this very blog post) are inspired by Verrill Dana’s Summer Director Series, four invaluable panel events in the month of July that we highly recommend attending; a great way to productively spend a beautiful summer evening in Maine. We’ll certainly be participating, and we look forward to seeing many of you there.

1. Establish best practices

Board success is more than just getting the right people into one room. Establishing best practices and standards is essential for good governance. Equally important is eschewing unnecessary protocols that slow down or distract from the critical issues. Generally, the content of board meetings is dictated by the chairman in the form of the meeting agenda. Sending out the draft agenda a week before the scheduled board meeting, and incorporating feedback, is a great way to get the most out of your time together.

For a rich conversation about establishing best practices for corporate boards, mark your calendar for the July 11 Verrill Dana session with Bruce Blessington.

BRUCE BLESSINGTON is an accomplished lecturer and consultant on board management and leadership, with more than 50 years of public, private and non-profit experience. Bruce was CEO of Ferraris Group plc, a publicly-traded medical device firm and former Chairman of Flight Landata, a specialty defense contractor. He is a Trustee of the USS Constitution Museum, and chairs both its Audit and Compensation Committees.

2. Maintain a productive relationship between Executives and Directors

If board best practices are important, the most crucial subset of best practices is the communication protocol between executives and directors. Like most relationships, this one thrives on honest, transparent, two-way exchange. Inevitably, information is asymmetrical; executives live, eat and breathe the daily pulses of their businesses, while directors may only be skimming the surface on many issues. Therefore, boards need to be creative in how information is dispersed, both during and between formal meetings in order to maintain good decision-making.

For a rich conversation about enabling productive relationships between Executives and Directors, mark your calendar for the July 18 Verrill Dana session with Betsy Atkins.

BETSY ATKINS is a 3-time CEO, serial entrepreneur and founder of venture capital firm Baja Corporation. She currently serves on public company boards: Wynn Resorts, SL Green Realty, and Covetrus. She is also a member on the board of Volvo Cars (private). In all, Betsy has served on over 30 boards and been through 13 IPOs.  

3. Foster a culture of inclusion 

At no time in recent memory have companies had so much to gain (and indeed, also to lose) by the culture they create. In the #MeToo era, norms of all types, and not just gender, are evolving through shifting demographics, politics and the omnipresent influence of social media. At a company level, workplace diversity and inclusion is a key cultural consideration for any Board.

For a rich conversation about Boards and company culture, mark your calendar for the July 25 Verrill Dana session with Betsy Peters:

BETSY PETERS is currently Product Strategist, Practice Intelligence at IDEXX Labs. She is the former CEO of an ed-tech startup funded by the Gates Foundation, Board Chair at CourseStorm (a Maine startup) and a founding member of MaineCanDo.com, a network of professionals focused on deterring sexual harassment through awareness & collective action. 

4. Avoid common pitfalls

Schadenfreude – thepleasure derived by someone from another’s misfortune. Corporate tales of disaster are often a good way to learn what NOT to do. Boards can avoid the pitfalls without experiencing the pain by learning from the mistakes of others.  

For a rich conversation about common board mishaps, (and perhaps a little dose of schadenfreude), mark your calendar for the July 31 session with Jim Grien:

JIM GRIEN is President and CEO of TM Capital, an investment bank with offices in New York City, Atlanta and Boston. Before joining TM Capital in 2001, Jim was Head of Corporate Finance at Prudential Securities. Over his career, Jim has completed M&A and Financing transactions valued at more than $20 billion and has served on numerous public and private company boards of directors. 

Boards are ultimately comprised of people, with all of the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of human behavior. Keeping apace in a world of increasing complexity while staying grounded and committed to an adaptable process is a balancing act. Whether one is new to the boardroom or a veteran, governance can never be mastered. But continued learning can maximize one’s impact, and the Verrill Dana series will be an excellent opportunity to do just that.

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