I recognize I rarely write about the nature of operating. At least, in an explicit form of language. What it means for myself, my co-founder relationship, Eternal at large.
This past Friday we had our monthly board meeting. Where we sat down and had our retrospective since the previous one, and what’s ahead for us. Board meetings at our stage are incredibly rare, but I’ve found them to be indispensable.
Put simply, they can act as meditations. A retuning as a founder/ceo. While creating space for a collective resonance alignment for the most invested parties.
For me the meditation always starts several days before the board meeting itself. When I’m preparing the deck. I typically set up a four song playlist that I have on repeat, and sit for a few hours getting the drudgery down (team updates, financials, etc.) while thinking about everything that happened the past month. I make my way through espresso number one and two.
In terms of the deck itself, I never get very far the first day. I’m always in awe of how much actually happened within the org during the time between meetings.
I’m a compulsive note-taker. It’s the only way I can keep track of time and all the moving pieces. What you come to recognize, when you take so many notes day-in-day-out, is the repetition.
This is what I mean when I talk about, “very few things actually matter.” You find it within the repeating notes. You can typically tell what people care about, because they bring it up constantly. The same is true for any organization. It’s more true, the earlier the team is.
Constructing the board deck, becomes an act of filling the set framework, with the repetitions of the past month. High level, there’s always 3 stories.
- This is something that’s been happening within the team that is X. (can be incredibly energizing, or a problem we are working through)
- This is what we’ve been deep in within the product, because we learned X.
- This is how our day-to-day is changing/not changing. (think of this as operating excellence, or retvrning to excellence)
Team — Product — Process
One of the core values we’ve come to embrace for board meetings, is not leaving anything behind a pretty gloss. There’s no way to get help like that.
So we make it a point to bring things out front. Analyzing why we missed a key ship date goal by two weeks. Where Luca and I aren’t seeing eye to eye. Why we are scrapping our public beta to rebuild.
If the board meeting conversation isn’t a working model of the current state of the company. That’s not a board meeting, I don’t know what the fuck that is. I hope I never experience it.
After day one of not making too much progress on the deck itself, I generally wake up the next morning with everything in my head. (super helpful, I know) And so the next day, or sometimes late evening. I’m able to sit down, and bang out the entire deck in a four hour haze. About an hour of that time is composed of me taking “breaks” staring glass-eyed at a corner or out a window. Another two espressos are taken in during this time.
I’ll give the deck to Luca, and this is where the second set of meditations can occur. Generally we are quite aligned, but there are plenty of times where we have to negotiate on what “reality” was. Having a shared reality with your co-founder, while sounds bizarre in expressing, is hyper critical. Because this shared reality will be how communication moves throughout the team. If a team is not sharing reality, you’ll have miss after miss after miss. Like a country… the central narrative is the glue for future optionality and achievement.
Most of the time though, sitting with Luca after crafting a board deck is a period of shared reflection. Essentially one-on-one time. I see and talk to Luca more than anyone else in my life, and this monthly moment is still some of the most refining conversation we tend to have.
We are blessed with incredible board members, truly thankful for the coaches that have guided and supported our wildest notions of what the present can look like (I’ve stopped thinking about things through the lens of “future” lately).
I like the term coaches for board members. That’s how I’ve come to appreciate them functionally. Absorbing the information download of our performance out on the field, and their ability to help refine our ~plays~.
And to bring it back to our values of having everything out front, your coaches can’t help your swing, if you’re not showing them every time you’re slicing it into the woods.
A couple days before the meeting, I’ll send the deck out with brief notes on flags. If there’s something big in the deck, you want to set the tone that you’ll be spending 50% of conversation time on one subject. Odds are, this was also 50% of your repeating headspace throughout the month. Again… the working model.
Your board members, ideally, have years of experience and scores of companies that have probably touched the exact issue. A reminder that you aren’t THAT unique can be grounding. And now they can give you at times the cheat codes, and at times just a nod of “this is normal, and it’s something every company goes through.”
Finally, we are at the table. It’s small, and intimate. We aren’t at the Gavin Belson board yet.
This is the final meditation. The collective one. I have very few notes to share here.
Slide by slide. Issue by issue. Win by win. It’s talking. It’s building understanding. It’s bringing out front what we are struggling with. It’s all very, very, human. Exhaustive, nurturing, and rewarding.
For me, it’s a body drain activity. Afterwards, I always need to lay down. The full month has been externalized, I’m not holding it within anymore… it’s across the shared body. And we leave with a new set of tools, ready to beget new challenges… cycles… repetitions.
From my vantage point across my founder friends, monthly board meetings at this stage are incredibly rare. If they are having formal board meetings at all.
But I think the growth of pre-seed/seed stage investors means that the entire class will have to move from the spray-pray, hands off approach to —> concentrated bets, high touch, deep mindshare.
I might be completely wrong about this. Something something, this is non-operational advice, except it is, except I’m not liable.
But what I would encourage is board meetings sooner than later in the company building process. The meditation in preparing to externalize the working model of your organization, has shown itself to be one of the most high impact design tools for progressing Eternal.
- As a founding team you build clarity around your own org and needs in pushing towards X.
- Your board members/investors are able to create an evolving film of what is happening within the company. Building trust, increasing their ability to add value, increasing their buy in into the next big milestone. Never underestimate the benefit of a tight board.
- This feeds directly back into the daily process of the team and impact on the product. The primary design founders are actually participating in… the building of the org itself.
Hopefully the cybernetic loop of impact is clear…
I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.
Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.